Posts Tagged ‘Rob Ferguson’

Rob Ferguson on Anti-Semitism against Left-Wing Jews

August 9, 2021

Last month the noxious Blairite MP Neil Coyle put up a tweet calling for the expulsion of Jewish Voice for Labour, an organisation of left-wing Jews, which supported Jeremy Corbyn and his socialist policies. Unlike the Jewish Labour Movement, the right-wing ultra-Zionist outfit, formerly called Paole Zion, JVL members had to be both Jewish and members of the Labour party, although non-Jews could be associate members. JLM members don’t have to be either, and at one point it seems that 60 per cent of their members weren’t actually Jewish. But Jewish Voice for Labour have terrified the Labour leadership and the Conservative political and media establishment by supporting a return to the Labour policies that would have empowered this country’s great working people and criticising Israel and its murderous persecution of the Palestinians. As a result, the woefully misnamed Jewish Labour Movement is somehow hailed as the true voice of the party’s Jews and given the responsibility for providing anti-Semitism training to prospective party workers and politicians. Jewish Voice for Labour, on the other hand, are continually being denounced by the Blairite witch-hunters like Coyle as ‘Communists’ and anti-Semites. This is despite the fact that they are decent, self-respecting Jews, many of whom have suffered real anti-Semitic abuse and assault.

In response to Coyle’s tweet, JVL have put up a couple of pieces on their website by David Rosenberg and Rob Ferguson respectively, noting that anti-Semitism has historically taken the form of a specific fear of left-wing Jews. In his piece, Ferguson notes that even the British publisher of the infamous Tsarist forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, distinguished between good, loyal British Jews and the Jewish Communist, anarchist and socialist radicals he was convinced were working to destroy Britain. It was a view also shared by Winston Churchill. Ferguson’s piece is well-worth reading, and so I’m including it here, as edited by JVL for publication on their site.

The Labour Party and Jews: the return of antisemitic animosity

A couple of days ago, David Rosenberg posted a comment on the call by Neil Coyle MP that Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) be added to the list of proscribed organisations (just agreed by the NEC as I write). David observed that Coyle was effectively calling for the expulsion of hundreds of Jews from the party and called out Coyle’s antisemitism.

David incurred responses on Facebook and Twitter from some on the left, insisting he was mistaken – that JVL was only being targeted because they were left wing, not because they were Jews. They are wrong. In demanding the expulsion of specifically left-wing Jews, Coyle is manifesting a form of antisemitism with a long pedigree, including within the Labour Party itself.

The half-decade long weaponisation of the charge of antisemitism against the left in particular and the promotion of the “new antisemitism” narrative in general, has dangerously degraded how antisemitism is understood. (And I do mean dangerously).

David’s critics misunderstand, or choose to ignore, a core dynamic of historic and contemporary antisemitism. Hatred of left-wing Jews has always acted as a key driver of antisemitic ideology. This is not simply one other element of antisemitic prejudice. Working-class movements constitute the primary foe of fascists, and far right reactionary movements. This bestows an instrumental significance to the hatred and demonisation of the left-wing Jew.

This prejudice does not arise in isolation. It is not, as is commonly conveyed, simply a bizarre manifestation of Nazi ideology. [Paul Hanebrink has written usefully on this]. The Nazis and others built on a commonly held prejudice against Jewish revolutionaries and socialists that encompassed wide layers of Europe’s ruling classes, including in Britain.

It is true that Nazi ideology explicitly cast “Judeo-Bolshevism” as in essence a racial characteristic; the dominant antisemitism of the western European establishment however tended to make an important distinction between “loyal”, “patriotic”, “national” Jews and socialists, anarchists and revolutionaries. David points to the example of Churchill’s vicious antisemitic tract of 1921 Zionism versus Bolshevism which precisely draws this distinction.

However, Churchill was expressing a very common view. Even the virulent antisemite, HA Gwynne, editor of the “Morning Post” and publisher of the Tsarist forgery, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, made this distinction, writing: “A certain section of the Jews in the world are engaged in a mighty attempt to destroy the established rule in many countries and, to bring this world into communistic brotherhood”. Gwynne then continued, “But it would be downright wicked to ascribe to Jewry as a whole this mad and dangerous policy” arguing this would be “hideous antisemitism” and that fault lay not with “honest, patriotic Jews” but with “the revolutionaries of their race.”

These prejudices were reflected in some sections of the Labour movement including on the right of the Labour Party and even some elements of the trade unions, particularly during the first world war. This resurfaced on the Labour right in east London in the wake of Communist Phil Piratin’s victory in 1945 in Mile End; Stepney’s Labour leader, JC Lawder, declared that the Communists had won “in that part of the borough where people of alien origin predominate and where regard for the hoary institutions of British traditionalism is weak”.

A vile undercurrent of animosity towards left-wing, internationalist Jews is now re-emerging on the Labour right. Coyle’s call to expel Jewish members who criticise or oppose Israel is simply an explicit reflection of a deeper phenomenon. The right’s support for Jews is not unconditional. It rests on “loyalty” to the British state and imperialist interests. It is not a defence of Jews as Jews. Behind it stirs an old antisemitic animosity to left-wing Jews.

It is an animosity facilitated by the witch hunt, the conflation of Jewish identity with Zionism, and an IHRA definition that has hollowed out the meaning of antisemitism. It is in this context that Labour right-wingers like Coyle, are left free to express their vehement loathing of the Jewish left. I for one have been shocked at the virulence with which this has been expressed, not just by right wing “commentators” outside Labour, but inside the party.

In the early decades of the twentieth century liberal Jewry across Europe insisted that “Bolshevik” Jews were not real Jews. Right-wing Zionists have today picked up the baton.

Then as now, far from shielding Jews from antisemitism, this can only fuel it. It offers the far right antisemite legitimacy … and a sheild; if the Labour Party casts radical, left-wing Jews as antisemites … who are they to argue? And contempt for left-wing Jews never ends there…”

See: https://www.jewishvoiceforlabour.org.uk/article/a-call-for-jvls-expulsion/

A few days ago Mike published an extract from the Morning Star reporting that, according to Jewish Voice for Labour, Starmer’s purge of alleged anti-Semites has resulted in the expulsion of hundreds of left-wing Jews from the party. Jews are being disproportionately affected, demonstrating that this is in itself an anti-Semitic attack on left-wing Jews in the party. As David Rosenberg has argued, and Rob Ferguson’s article shows particularly clearly, this is absolutely correct.

Jewish Voice for Labour and left-wing Jews in the party, people like Tony Greenstein, Jackie Walker, Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, Martin Odoni and so many others, are decent people. They are not anti-Semites. The real anti-Semites are those on the right, using the age-old fear of Communist Jews to terrify the public with stupid, vicious conspiracy theories to justify their own anti-Jewish persecution.