Sunday 24 February 2019


I am indebted to David Rosenberg, the author of the online 'Rebel Notes', for the thrust of this post. He has taught me much. Here is a link to a post he published at the end of last year on the roots of anti-Semitism - press here.

He begins with some personal biography that establishes his Jewish family background and his credentials as a lifetime fighter against racism - and his capacity to change his ideas as he reflects on issues:

'I want to start with some personal biography. My grandparents came to Britain as Jewish child immigrants from Poland and Ukraine in the early 1900s. I grew up in an economically struggling Jewish family in inner London that gradually became more comfortable.

My extended family were mostly Labour voters, plus some communist-supporting relatives. My family were traditional; not very religious, not actively Zionist. They had no family in Israel, but sympathised with Israel at a general level.

I became involved in socialist politics and antifascist activism when I was around 16 years old. My first demonstration was against the National Front, a group formed in Britain in 1967 by convinced Nazis who recruited a wider layer of supporters from all classes by condemning black immigration and promoting British nationalism.'

Battle of Cable Street - 1936 - the Jewish community fight back against the fascists

David Rosenberg continues: 
'I went to that demonstration with several Jewish friends from a Zionist youth group. I had illusions then about Israel/Palestine that I discarded long ago. Perhaps only one or two of 

those Jewish friends I attended the demonstration with would define themselves as Zionist now. People can be persuaded to rethink by convincing arguments and evidence. Today though, many leftists are better at condemning and proclaiming than persuading.'

The movement against immigration that David Rosenberg and others were challenging

David Rosenberg's online description:
'David Rosenberg is an educator, writer, and tour guide of London’s radical history. He is a lifelong rebel and socialist.' 
That's our man - my contemporary . Here he is, in the Spring of 2018, responding to a critic who has made the point that many Jews no longer feel that the Labour Party is their natural political home:
'Antisemitism has roots in all classes of British society – and in a party of 600,000 members Labour no doubt has some members who hold some antisemitic views. They need to be challenged if they express them. And I see the Labour Party doing that. But I've also looked into many of the incidents that are alleged and it is much easier to find the accusations but much harder to find the evidence to back up those allegations. Some Labour members object to strong pro-Palestinian views. but every government, Including Israel's, should be open to criticism.'

The Labour Party has a proud history of being an anti-racist party - Labour Party members fought against Mosley's anti-Semitic fascists in the 'Battle of Cable Street' in the east-end of London in 1936.

'I am more worried about the growth of old-fashioned nazi-style antisemitism in central and Eastern Europe today. I know from conversations that Jeremy Corbyn absolutely shares those worries. His counterparts in the Tory Party clearly do not. In the European Parliament they are allied with the parties whose policies are fuelling rather than challenging those movements. Only yesterday Boris Johnson [then the UK Foreign Secretary] was tweeting his congratulations to Prime Minister Orban re-elected in Hungary after an openly antisemitic and anti migrant campaign.' 

Saturday 16 February 2019 - "Lukov March" - far-right activists gather in Sofia, capital of Bulgaria - anti-Semitism surfacing in Europe 

Move on to mid-February, a week ago, and far-right activists from France, Germany, Italy Poland, Spain and Sweden gathered in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia. They did so for the annual "Lukov March" which marks the assassination of a leading pro-Nazi Bulgarian by two anti-fascist partisans in 1943. A Bulgarian counter-demonstration was held and its members reported that marching alongside openly Nazi parties there were participants from IMRO - the Bulgarian National Movement, who are part of the United Patriots alliance that is part of the Bulgarian government. Let David Rosenberg take up the story:
  'More significantly for anti-racists and anti-fascists in Britain, IMRO are members of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group of the European Parliament that is dominated by Britain’s Conservative Party and the Polish Law and Justice Party – a party that has antagonised Jews within and beyond Poland with its Holocaust revisionism and outlawing of narratives that suggest there was collaboration by some Poles with the Nazis as they exterminated Jews. The Bulgarian IMRO have helped to mobilise for the Lukov march, alongside other ultra-nationalists and open antisemites, for several years running, yet they were welcomed into the Conservative Party’s European-group in 2014 by David Cameron.'
Theresa May has followed in the same fashion as David Cameron. David Rosenberg continues:
 'Since Theresa May became leader in 2016, she has not questioned the participation of IMRO in the Conservatives’ Euro group, but has the gall to throw cheap accusations at the Labour Party, with regard to antisemitism, despite the Labour Party’s long record of involvement in anti-racist and anti-fascist causes.
The number of far-right and openly Nazi groups participating in the Sofia march last weekend (some of whom are banned in their own countries) is testimony to the alarming growth of Islamophobic, anti-Roma and antisemitic forces across Europe. All of them were boosted by Donald Trump’s election in America, and they benefit too from Trump’s former advisor, Steve Bannon’s, growing operations in Europe.'

The Anti-Nazi League was one response from the British left in the 1970s to the threat of racism 

'Statistics from surveys across Europe have shown a rise in antisemitic incidents ranging from physical threats and violent assaults, daubings of synagogues and cemeteries, to verbal abuse and incitement on social media. In pretty much every country concern about this is expressed first and foremost towards the governing party in each country. They are the people with the power to take action internally against far right groups, to promote educational work, and exert a positive influence on the national atmosphere towards one that promotes respect for minorities.
It is absolutely astounding that in Britain, where antisemitic incidents have been growing year on year recently under the watch of a Tory government, infamous for the hostile environment it has operated towards migrants and refugees, aided and abetted by the pro-Tory press, that undoubtedly boost the rhetoric of Far Right ideologues, that the fire has been misdirected away from the Tory Party and towards the Labour Party. It was misdirected there again yesterday, as one of the excuses for their door-slamming exercise by the Independent 7 who have splintered from the Labour Party.
They began to plan their departures in 2015 when Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader, a democratic decision that they refused to accept then, and again in 2016 when he was emphatically elected again by the membership. And while they were busy denouncing the party that they have just left as "institutionally racist and anti-Semitic" at their somewhat shambolic launch, one of their number, Angela Smith, made a disgraceful racist comment. Equally disgracefully, the figure among the 7 who has made the biggest noise around antisemitism (Luciana Berger), has not even commented on her colleagues’ remark, which was broadcast live yesterday.'  

The Independent 7 plus one with three former Tory MPs who have also joined the set - photographed three days ago

I am delighted I have established a blog-post platform that I can use to spread the informed and considered words and analysis of David Rosenberg. As  a member of the Labour Party who left in Tony Blair's time and re-joined when Jeremy Corbyn became leader, I am intrigued by the notion that I belong to a party that has become anti-Semitic. I have never encountered it myself; nor have others I know who have held their membership for much longer. What I have heard - and what I have uttered myself - are comments and analysis that want a two-state solution to the Israeli/Palestinian issue in the Middle-East, that support the Palestinian case for fair treatment and are critical of actions of the Israeli government and particular Israeli settlers. 
Quite simply, it is wrong to use the fact that anti-Semitism is on the increase in our fractured and unstable times as a weapon against the leadership and members of a political party that has now identified itself with a socialism fit for the 21st century - a position that seems to have left a number of Labour MPs very uncomfortable.   
I will finish by citing the following statistics that David Rosenberg has researched and published - they are difficult to find in a mainstream media that seems to have a predilection for making the most of anti-Corbyn stories. Power and wealth and influence are prone to defend their vested interests when threatened by the prospect of a socialist government. Welcome to the class war!  
'That is not to say there are no [anti-Semitic) incidents connected with Labour Party members. There have been many allegations, though 40% of the incidents reported to the Labour Party since April last year, for which Labour members were being blamed, were found to have nothing to do with any Labour Party members, and in a further 20% of cases the investigations found no evidence of a case to answer. In the remaining 40% of cases, mostly to do with social media comments, including hyperbolic comments about the Israeli government and military’s racist and repressive actions, there have been a range of sanctions and 12 members were expelled.'
My conclusion: twelve members out of half a million plus do not constitute an anti-Semitic party.  

Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party on the campaign trail in 2017

David Rosenberg continues: 
'Such hyperbolic comments, sometimes mixed in with antisemitic tropes, are undoubtedly hurtful and need to be exposed and challenged. They also taint rather than help the Palestinian cause they allegedly support, but can anyone seriously suggest that such social media comments compare in any way with the Tory Party’s openly hostile policies towards the Windrush generation and a range of migrants and refugees, that have seen them lose their livelihoods, become destitute and face forcible deportation? Or can unpleasant social media posts really compare with the Tory Party’s verifiable links and collaboration since 2014 with a party that has participated with neo-Nazis  marching in Sofia not just last weekend but for several years in a row. We need to call out antisemitism wherever it appears, but we also need some perspective about where the real boost to the antisemites, racists and fascists in Britain and the wider world is coming from in 2019.'
Indeed. And who was the Home Secretary responsible for those policies hostile towards the Windrush generation? Theresa May. 

The Windrush Generation scandal is one that the Conservative Party in government has apologised for and pledged compensation - such travesties of justice happen in worlds of casual racism even if they are no longer institutionally racist.  

I grew up in a working-class/lower-middle class world saturated in casual anti-Semitism and racism. My experiences will have been shared by most of my social class. My wife, Louise, came from a social class a few rungs higher and she reports similar experiences of anti-Semitism and racism. In some ways, for the first thirty years of my adult life, these prejudices may have become less virulent - but in the last two decades matters have worsened, especially since the global financial crisis of 2008. The scapegoat has always been thrust forward at a time of economic uncertainty. It follows that we need to keep a clear head and see matters as they truly are - not as others wish us to see them.   

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this important. thought provoking ... post.