For the Many

For the past few days, my conscience and I have been engaged in a wrestling match.  The infamous poem by Martin Niemoller has been echoing through the chambers of my mind.

First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me

With less than 48 hours to go before the United Kingdom elects a new Prime Minister, we are sitting at a crossroads not seen since the 1930s.  I will leave anti-extremist activist Maajid Nawaz to set the scene:

It is a thought that had occurred to me previously.  In a time when people are struggling why not promise the world?  It allows you to gloss over the murkier details of your own plans.  And that is the saddest of realities that have brought me to this moment.

As I watch many friends and acquaintances fall in the love with the idea of receiving free stuff in lieu of their morals, it hastens me to wonder why.  Countless times I have asked myself whether it is only me that believes that Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party are anti-Semitic?  Surely the fact that in the twelve years since the Equality and Human Rights Commission was formed, only two political parties have ever been investigated for racism – Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party and the BNP. That speaks volumes.  But that’s just a report, right?  Well, what about this collection of 125 anti-semitic examples of elected Labour officials?  But that’s just a few (125) bad apples. Where is the actual evidence?  Well, here it is, in a painstakingly researched article by Sara Gibbs.  But it’s just you, nobody else thinks that.  Aside from John LeCarre, Fay Weldon, Joanna Lumley, William Boyd, Simon Callow, Antony Beevor, Sathnam Sanghera, Janina Ramirez, Trevor Phillips, Jimmy Wales, Suzannah Lipscomb, Tom Holland, Frederick Forsyth, Peter Frankopan, Ghanem Nuseibeh, Dan Snow, Fiyaz Mughal, Tony Parsons, Dan Jones, Maajid Nawaz, Oz Katerji, Nick Hewer, Ed Husain, and Terry Jervis.

So why does it matter to me?  Personally.  It is a question so elemental it should not need to be asked.  It is 2019 and we have reached the point where over half of the Jewish people in the UK, approximately 120,000 human beings, are seriously considering leaving the country, depending on Thursday’s vote.  It would be the largest exodus from our shores since King Edward I’s Edict of Expulsion in 1290.  From a human perspective, it is vile that in the present day so many people would feel unsafe amongst us.  The second reason is that I have lived in a society where anti-Semitism was omnipresent.  I spent a decade in Poland where inexplicable hatred and assignments of blame to Jews was commonplace.  The seething resentment often manifested itself in acts of aggression and sometimes violence for the simple reason that when the governing party was of an anti-Semitic mind, it affected social behaviours as it raised the barrier of common decency which used to prevent people from acting in such repulsive ways.  And finally, and most personally,  I am of Jewish ancestry.  Somewhere down the lines of time, it is possible that my ancestors had to flee.  Perhaps they lived in fear.  Perhaps they too were marginalized, hated, persecuted just for the mere fact of what they believed in.  Had things turned out differently, it could quite easily have been me.

Anti-Semitism does not begin with violence.  It begins with words.  Isolation.  Marginalization.  Gradually the norms of society change, and the gates that keep us safe from the worst of the world disappear.  It can become violence.  It can become assault.  It can become murder.  If some of us do not choose to stand guard at these gates we run the risk of making the very same mistakes that we claim to have learned from.  I am not asking you to vote Conservative.  I am asking you not to vote Labour. A vote for Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party is a vote that says that the hatred of the Jewish race is fine by you.

I’ll leave you with a final thought from some people who know a little more than me about anti-Semitism.  Thanks for reading.

 

How to be Racist

It seems near on impossible to flick through any social media site without finding continued references to racism.  The common factor between the vast majority of such posts is that are almost all completely, and absolutely wrong.  It is striking that a word that used to have such potency has been overused and obfuscated to the point that it has been rendered meaningless.

The simplest and clearest definition of racism is thus:

prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.

Please note the last word in that definition.  […] based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.  In recent times we have had the scandal of Boris and the Burka where former foreign minister and London Mayor, Boris Johnson suggested that women that wear the burka look like letter boxes.  I have seen countless accusations that these remarks are racist.  First and foremost it is worth considering that Islam is a religion and not a race.  Thus we have a more accurate term that at a push, if you wish to reason that there is a heinous motive behind the comment, may well fit better.

dislike of or prejudice against Islam or Muslims, especially as a political force.

For islamophobia to be accurate it is necessary to demonstrate that Boris Johnson has a dislike of Muslims which is not implausible.

Similarly there have been countless accusations of racism against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party.  These claims fall down for the very same reason.  Judaism is a religion and not a race, despite what Halachic Law states.  Accepting the noxious idea that dipping your head in water changes your ethnicity would be the equivalent of acknowledging Jihadi as a race.

One of the biggest of the antisemitic rows within the Labour Party is the adoption of IHRA guidelines that most civilised countries have adopted to define what antisemitism is.  One of the key issues is that Labour have removed a line that warns against ‘claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour’.  antisemitism is defined in the dictionary as:

hostility to or prejudice against Jews.

This is where lines begin to blur.  Stating that the existence of Israel is a racist endeavour does not make any sense as simply the idea alone does not express any form of superiority, Judaism isn’t a race, Israeli is a nationality and the statement is just plain stupid.  However, it is absolutely antisemitic as it demonstrates clear hostility towards the notion of a Jewish state.

The common thread between islamophobia and antisemitism is a single word – prejudice:

preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.

The truth is that not only that the vast majority of opinions we encounter online and in real life are blatantly prejudicial.  In the Boris example the snippets from his article that have been shared online are from an article entitled ‘Denmark has got it wrong.  Yes, the burka is oppressive and ridiculous – but that’s still no reason to ban it’.  Thus the quotes that are being banded about in the press demonstrate dislike but it is hard to argue prejudice, nonetheless, it is a clear example of islamophobia.  The notion that the existence of Israel is a racist endeavour demonstrates a blatant hostility and subsequently can be defined as antisemitic.  The fact is that arguing that either of the aforementioned examples are racist is unequivocally, unquestionably, inarguably, absolute bollocks.

Funnily enough there is a word that comfortably describes people who falsely accuse others of racism without throughly considering the meaning of their words, whose actions, indignation, and feigned offense, is actually driven by their own ignorance as opposed to actual fact.  It is a word more closely associated with racists, homophobes, extremists, the pious, the holy, and the damn right vile.

bigot
ˈbɪɡət/
noun
a person who is intolerant towards those holding different opinions.