Yesterday I put up a piece commenting on a post from Mike over at Vox Political, which reported that Greater Manchester Black and Minority Ethnic Caucus had released a statement supporting Jackie Walker and condemning her dismissal by the steering committee from the post of Vice-Chair of Momentum. I am pleased to say that Mike has put up another piece today, reporting that another group of Mrs Walker’s supporters have also publicly shown their backing for her. A group of Jewish supporters and members of Momentum have had a letter published in the Groaniad, refuting the latest allegations of anti-Semitism against her.
This makes it clear that they believe Mrs Walker was right to reject the definition of anti-Semitism used by the organisers of the Holocaust Memorial Day training event. Despite their assertion that this is the standard definition of anti-Semitism, it is no such thing, as it was scrapped by the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency because it also considered criticism of Israel to be anti-Semitic.
The letter also queries why her own question why the genocides of other peoples can’t also be included in Holocaust Memorial Day is also anti-Semitic. They state that it has always been a principle of the Zionists that the Holocaust was unique to the Jews, and quote the professor of Holocaust Studies at Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Yehuda Bauer, that the Nazis intended to exterminate only the Jews.
The letter concludes
Jackie’s arguments were made in good faith. They may be right or they may be wrong. What they are not is antisemitic. The decision of Momentum’s steering committee and its chair Jon Lansman to remove Jackie Walker as vice-chair is a betrayal of the trust of thousands of Momentum members. Momentum’s grassroots members overwhelmingly support Jackie.
The letter is signed by a mixture of academics and ordinary people. They include two professors and several doctors. Looking down the names I recognised some as people, who have commented on Mike’s blog giving him their support after he attacked the anti-Semitism smears aimed at Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters.
Mike notes in his comments on the letter that David Schneider, whose definition of anti-Semitism he used to dismiss the accusation against Mrs Walker, has stated that individually her statement aren’t anti-Semitic. However, he feels they are taken collectively. Mike remarks that while Mr Schneider deserves credit for his hilariously funny Twitter account, he is only one voice and there are many others, who disagree. Like the signatories of this letter.
Proper Discussion of Jews and the Slave Trade Not Anti-Semitic
Mike’s right. Both the signatories of the letter, and Jackie Walker herself, have an excellent knowledge of the Holocaust and Jewish history, including their participation in the slave trade as one of the European slaving empires’ many junior partners. She has been accused of taking her remarks on Jewish responsibility for the slave trade from Louis Farrakhan, who has been justly attacked for anti-Semitism. Mike has commented that he’s seen no proof she has, and frankly, neither have I. Yesterday Mike put up a piece about Mrs Walker’s own defence and explanation of her remarks on Jewish participation in the slave trade. Mrs Walker cited both respected sources on the slave trade and the history of imperialism. She also made it plain that she when she talked about the participation of some Jews in the slave trade, she was speaking herself as a Jew. This is very far from the attitude of the genuine anti-Semites, Louis Farrakhan and White Nazis, who make Jews solely responsible for the slave trade.
Hugh Thomas also mentions two Jewish slavers in his classic The Slave Trade, which examines the transatlantic slave trade from its origins in the late 15th century to its end in the late 19th. He also notes, contra the genuine anti-Semites, that they were the only two in Anglophone North America. My point here is that Mrs Walker has not said anything that other historians of the slave trade have not also said, as is evident from her own statement. And they, like her, are also not afraid of discussing the subject, because the real historical fact is that while some Jews participated in the slave trade, they were not the only or even the main participants. Thus, the genuine historians aren’t afraid to discuss the role some Jews played in the slave trade, as history itself shows the falsity of the claims made by the anti-Semites.
Slave Trade Increasingly Acknowledged in Official History of Other Communities
Over the past couple of decades, there has been a movement to make those peoples and communities that were involved in the slave trade be more open about their involvement, commemorate its victims, and memorialise it as part of their official, public history. Liverpool has a gallery on the slave trade in its Museum. So too has Bristol in the M Shed museum on the city’s harbourside. And back in the 1990s the City Museum and Art Gallery hosted an exhibition, A Respectable Trade, which narrated the history of the City’s involvement in the slave trade. This was staged at the same time as a TV drama of the same and on the same subject, adapted from a book by Philippa Gregory, was also being screened on the Beeb on Sunday evenings. Bristol and Liverpool were two of the three major cities that profited from the trade, the third being London. I’ve also spoken to artists researching the slave trade, who told me that they were also given generous assistance by the museums of many of the smaller towns, which were only in the trade for a few years or so before being forced out by the major profiteers.
And it isn’t only in Britain that towns involved in the trade are confronting their past. Nantes in France was also a major centre of the French slave trade. This town has also put on its own exhibition on its part in the history of the trade, called L’Annees du Memoir. This is a clever pun. If I understand properly, l’annee can means ‘year’, and also ‘link’, referring to those of the chains which bound the slaves. It seems to me that that if Jackie Walker, as a Jew, is discussing the role of her people in the slave trade, then she is being no more biased or hostile against her people, than other people are communities are in confronting, debating and memorialising their involvement in this horrific trade.
The Holocaust and Similar Genocides
As for Yehuda Bauer’s statement that the Jews were the only people Hitler intended to exterminate, this isn’t quite the case. The Nazis also targeted the Gypsies as well, and historians have also shown that before Hitler began the genocide of the Jews, he tried out the technology on the disabled during the infamous Aktion T4 ‘euthanasia’ campaign. There is also a link to previous 20th century genocides. Hitler was persuaded that he could murder the Jews with impunity because of the failure of the Allies to react to defend the Armenians when they were slaughtered by the Ottoman Turks. Furthermore, in 1905 the German Empire had attempted to exterminate an African people, the Herero, when they rose up against German imperial authority in Africa. I’ve read that the German imperial authorities attempted to justify their genocide of this people with the social Darwinism later used to justify the Holocaust and the enforced sterilisation of the disabled. I’ve also seen it claimed that some of the personnel involved were also the same. I can’t comment on whether these claims are right or wrong, as I don’t know much about the genocide. This undoubtedly did happen, but I’ve only ever seen claims about a direct connection to the Holocaust made by the right. It might be true, or it might be rubbish, like the claim by one Conservative that the First World War was also caused by the Germans holding social Darwinism as an official policy, which is rubbish.
And I was taught at school that as well as six million Jews, about five and a half million other people, of various nationalities and political and religious beliefs perished in the concentration camps. These included prisoners from the Slavonic peoples of eastern Europe, who were worked to death as slave labourers. They may not have been targeted for absolute extermination, like the Jews and Gypsies, but they were seen, like those two peoples, as untermenschen, ‘subhumans’, who lives were less than ‘aryans’. You can come across some truly horrific accounts of Nazi massacres of gentile Poles during the occupation of Poland, for example. One BBC programme on this described how a Nazi thug tore a baby from its mother’s arms and, after trying to beat the little mite to death, finally shot it. Whole Polish towns were torn down and their inhabitants forced out in order to prepare that part of Poland for German colonisation, and the Nazis also massacred an entire village, Lidice, in Czechoslovakia. The Holocaust was part of a general programme of mass murder across occupied Europe. This does not detract from the horrific nature of the Holocaust, as they were specifically targeted for extermination in a way that many others weren’t. But that does not mean that the Jews were the only victims. Indeed, it’s in Hitler’s Table Talk where the Fuhrer makes a point about Nazi policy being to stop the Slavs from breeding too much by saying that they should send them contraceptives.
Jackie Walker and Others Smeared as Anti-Semites by Israel Lobby
I’ve stated before that Jackie Walker and the others, who’ve been smeared as anti-Semites, are no such thing. Walker’s only crime, in the eyes of the organisers, was to be a critic of Israel. As were so many of the others. She has been accused through the cynical misrepresentation of an discussion she was having about a complex topic on Facebook with people, who knew exactly what she was talking about, and the context in which they were made. This is the Israel lobby trying to stifle entirely reasonable debate about the nature of genocide and the uniqueness of the Holocaust, to further their own imperialism and persecution of the Palestinians. Free speech, honest debate, and a genuinely open questioning of the past is too precious to allow these bullies to win. I look forward hopefully to seeing more messages of support for Jackie Walker and the other victims of these disgraceful slurs in the future. I hope that Momentum’s steering committee will reconsider their decision, and reinstate her as vice-chair.
Tags: 'A Respectable Trade', 'Hitler's Table Talk', 'L'Annees du Memoir', 'Momentum', 'The Slave Trade', Adolf Hitler, Aktion T4, anti-semitism, Anti-Semitism Smears, Armenian Massacres, BBC, Bristol, City Museum, Concentration Camps, David Schneider, Facebook, Fundamental Rights Agency, Genocide, Greater Manchest Black and Minority Ethnic Caucus, Gypsies, Hebrew University, Herero, Holocaust, Hugh Thomas, Imperialism, Israel Lobby, Jackie Walker, Jeremy Corbyn, Jerusalem, Jews, Jon Lansman, Lidice, Liverpool, Louis Farrakhan, Museums, Nantes, Ottoman Empire, Palestinians, Philippa Gregory, Poles, Slavs, Social Darwinism, The Guardian, Vox Political, World War I, Yehuda Bauer, Zionism