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Richard Mellor

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Anti-Semitism: Tories and British Media Slander Corbyn and the Labor Party

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Jeremy Corbyn

 From Roger Silverman in London

Anti-semitism is an age-old  phenomenon, and once again it is in the air - but this time as a weapon  of slander against the left, by the Tories, the billionaire media, the  BBC, the Guardian, and above all the Blairite faction now dislodged from  the Labour leadership but clinging on to control of the parliamentary  LP. It is a disgusting lie - and it's time we said so.

In the  wake of the failure of past smear campaigns to brand Jeremy Corbyn as  simultaneously a pacifist and a terrorist sympathiser and a Stalinist  agent, somehow all at the same time, the current hysteria is only the  latest and most bizarre tactic by the Tories and those same "New Labour"  MPs who tried so hard to remove him in the past. It's a new version of  the fake "Zinioviev letter" in 1923, or of Churchill's accusations in  1945 that Labour was going to establish a Gestapo police state.
It  is the Tory party that is riddled with racism through and through, from  the 1905 Aliens Act that blocked Jewish emigration from the East  European pogroms, to the Right Club that was founded by a Tory MP in the  1930s to "expose the activities of organised Jewry". And according to  the book Whitehall And The Jews, 1933-1948, British immigration policy  throughout that period "was designed to keep out large numbers of  European Jews - perhaps ten times as many as it let in."

We all  know the Tories' record of racism: Enoch Powell's descriptions of  "wide-grinning picaninnies" and blood-curdling warnings of "rivers of  blood"; Boris Johnson's repetition of the same vile word in his  description of "picaninnies with their water-melon smiles"; the outright  racist treatment of the Windrush generation that is still continuing  today.

As for anti-semitism, it was the Daily Express which  carried the infamous headline "JEWS DECLARE WAR ON GERMANY" and the  Daily Mail which screamed "HURRAH FOR THE BLACKSHIRTS" in the 1930s.

And what about that great fighter against fascism Churchill?

Churchill praised Hitler: "I have always said that if Great Britain  were defeated in war I hoped we should find a Hitler to lead us back to  our rightful position among the nations."
Similarly, he told  Mussolini: "If I had been an Italian, I am sure I should have been  whole-heartedly with you from the start to finish in your triumphant  struggle against the bestial appetites and passions of Leninism."

Even if we discount one particularly revolting anti-Semitic quote which  he later disowned, Churchill did ascribe the wave of revolution  sweeping Europe after the First World War to a Jewish conspiracy?

?The part played in the creation of Bolshevism and in the actual  bringing about of the Russian Revolution by these international and for  the most part atheistic Jews... With the notable exception of Lenin, the  majority of the leading figures are Jews. Moreover, the principal  inspiration and driving power comes from Jewish leaders ... The same  evil prominence was obtained by Jews in (Hungary and Germany, especially  Bavaria)? Although in all these countries there are many non-Jews every  whit as bad as the worst of the Jewish revolutionaries, the part played  by the latter in proportion to their numbers in the population is  astonishing? This movement among the Jews is not new? Karl Marx?  Trotsky, Bela Kun (Hungary), Rosa Luxembourg (Germany), and Emma Goldman  (United States)... this worldwide conspiracy for the overthrow of  civilisation??

The prominence of Jewish activists in the  revolutionary movement is for me a matter of pride. But OK, that was  then; what about now?

It was the Mail, again, which made a thinly  veiled anti-Semitic attack on Ed Miliband, calling his father "The man  who hated Britain? refugee? Marxist?" (no one could mistake the  innuendo), while the Sun published an unflattering picture of Ed  Miliband eating a bacon sandwich, something which again was universally  recognised as another anti-Semitic jibe.

It's time to fight back  against the unscrupulous lies of the establishment and to defend with  pride Labour's - and specifically Jeremy Corbyn's - consistent record of  resistance to racism in all its forms.


I know  something about anti-semitism. My grandparents were penniless refugees  from pogroms in the Tsarist Russian empire, driven from their homes by  riots, slaughter, arson. My paternal grandfather arrived together with  his brother in Liverpool en route to America, and then had to toss a  coin to decide which of them crossed the Atlantic; he lost, and had to  eke out a living as a pauper pedlar. As for my maternal grandfather:  once he'd arrived in Britain, he was killed in his '20s in the fury of  racist hatred, the victim of an anti-Semitic murder.

My father  Sydney Silverman was a left Labour MP for 33 years until his death, and a  courageous campaigner for socialism. My one disagreement with him is  his conversion to Zionism during the years of Nazi rule. In 1940 he was  elected chair of the British section of the World Jewish Congress. In  this capacity he was among the first to warn the world about Hitler's  "final solution of the Jewish question" and to mount a desperate  worldwide campaign to save European Jewry from genocide. Three days  after my birth, he visited the newly liberated Buchenwald and Belsen  Nazi concentration camps as a member of a parliamentary delegation. A  fellow member committed suicide soon afterwards.

In my early  teens, as well as a member of the Young Socialists I was also a member  of Hashomer Hatzair, a socialist Zionist youth organisation; an honoured  previous member had been Mordechai Anielewicz, who had led the heroic  doomed uprising in the Warsaw ghetto in 1943. I joined the Labour Party  at the age of 15 and have been a member all my life, with the exception  of the long "New Labour" years. I have encountered occasional  manifestations of anti-Semitism in my life, but only once from a left  activist - and never within the Labour Party.

The  Jews throughout the Russian empire and central Europe enjoyed a rich  cultural and political life, speaking their language (Yiddish), building  their own welfare and youth organisations, cultivating their unique  kletzmer music, staging concerts, theatre dramas, publishing newspapers,  and organising their own mass socialist party the Bund, an autonomous  party allied to the social-democratic parties of Russia and Eastern  Europe.

In the early years of the twentieth century there were  many idealistic young people who emigrated to Palestine to build a new  life free from ghetto misery and deprivation. Among these early Jewish  settlers were many communist militants who successfully fought the  Zionists and united Arab and Jewish workers in common struggle. One of  these was a hero of the twentieth century Leopold Trepper, who later  organised the clandestine Russian spy ring the Red Orchestra right under  Hitler's nose in Nazi Germany. He was eventually arrested and tortured  by the Gestapo, and later, like so many others, rewarded by Stalin with  ten years in a Soviet labour camp. In the 1920s Trepper (at that time he  too was a member of Hashomer Hatzair) emigrated from Poland to  Palestine and founded a joint Arab/Jewish trade union Ichad (Unity). 

Zionism was originally little more than a fringe sect. It was only  under the shadow of the swastika that it gained support as an expression  of mass despair, a forlorn quest for a mirage promising escape from  generations of age-old persecution. Israel was founded after the  holocaust by victims fleeing the holocaust and the concentration camps.  In that sense, Zionism was an outgrowth of the holocaust. It has  subsequently proved a deadly trap and a tragic failure. Settlement in  Palestine has not after all offered the Jews lasting security; Jews are  no safer in Israel today than in Europe and America.

Still, it is necessary to understand how this phenomenon materialised.  The Bund had been wiped out in the gas chambers, and for the survivors  the prospects of rebuilding a thriving Jewish culture in Europe seemed  hopeless.

I don't agree with my father's stance at that time but  I understand it. He was later to fiercely oppose the Israeli  participation in the Suez war in 1956, and died in 1968 outraged at the  Israeli occupation of the West Bank after the 1967 war. But after the  2nd world war, he made an impassioned plea on behalf of the survivors of  the concentration camps. There were 250,000 former concentration camp  inmates still rotting in displaced person's camps, many of them  threatening mass suicide after years of incarceration. Just like today's  migrants crossing the Mediterranean, Jews desperately seeking escape  from the threat of annihilation boarded refugee boats illegally crossing  to Palestine. Both during and after the war, they came under direct  military attack from British warships. It is estimated that out of a  total of 142 voyages, over half were intercepted by British patrols;  more than 1,600 were drowned at sea; about 50,000 ended up in internment  camps; and only a few thousand actually entered Palestine.

To  understand the plight of the holocaust survivors and the appeal of  Palestine, listen to this explanation by a camp survivor, quoted in a  speech my father made in 1946 ?
"There are thousands more like me  and my story is the story of my entire generation as Jews? I am 28, and  I have never eaten bread I have earned with my own hands. This shirt I  wear was given me by the Red Cross; this coat I wear came from the  partisans; this sweater? from my sisters in Palestine.

My uncle in the  United States sent me a dollar bill and J bought these boots I wear.   During the war I was in the Ghetto. Later on I joined the partisans and I  was called 'the Jew'? As the war was over I returned to my town. Of  7,000 Jews, two small children remained? (Pulling out a battered  photograph from his pocket)? "This is all that remains of my family. One  went to the war, was taken prisoner and killed by the Germans, all the  rest were slaughtered by Poles. I do not even know their graves? Here is  a photograph of my mother and father. Both were killed by the SS? This  is a photo of my school class. All who went to Palestine ? six of them ?  survived. All who remained in Poland ? 33 ? are dead? My sisters in  Palestine write, 'We want to see you'. This is my story and it is the  story of thousands, thousands more."


It was  British imperialism which had created the false diversion of a Jewish  homeland in Palestine. Just as it later cultivated Wahabism and  fanatical Islamic fundamentalism to divide and rule in the Arab world,  with all the deadly consequences we see today, it also created the  monster of Zionism. With the Balfour Declaration in 1917 during the  First World War when the Ottoman Empire had crumbled, it had  deliberately cultivated Zionism as a cunning strategic weapon to protect  the oilfields against the Arab revolution. It could see the benefits of  establishing a Jewish state as an outpost, to exploit Palestine?s  strategic location and protect its control at that time of Egypt, the  Suez canal and the route to India by creating, in the words of the first  British military governor of Jerusalem, ?a loyal Jewish Ulster?.

That phrase explains it all. In the Middle East as in all the  territories administered by the British Empire, a calculated policy of  "divide-and-rule" was set in motion to promote communal conflict. We  still see the bloody consequences of this heritage of "British  civilisation" in ethnic conflicts in all these regions today - in  Northern Ireland, the Indian sub-continent, Sri Lanka, Cyprus,  Palestine? In the Middle East, Israel was later politically exploited by  US imperialism to establish a dependent client-state enclave within the  oil-rich Middle East as a bulwark against the Arab revolution.
The constant wars, the occupation of the West Bank, the blockade on  Gaza, the colonial resettlements, and the current ongoing massacre of  unarmed demonstrators in Gaza are monstrous crimes. But they are not  unique. When people make glib and facile comparisons with the Nazis, I  don't necessarily ascribe their views to anti-Semitism, but I do  consider them provocative and grossly misplaced. There is a difference  between brutal colonial military repression - a practice of all regional  capitalist super-powers, including British imperialism - and deliberate  systematic racist genocidal extermination.

The current  atrocities in Gaza are every bit as horrific as the bloodbath in  Sharpeville in South Africa in 1960, or in Amritsar in 1919, when  British troops mowed down more than 1,000 peaceful demonstrators; and  the barbaric treatment of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails is  almost as monstrous as the tortures and mutilations committed by the  British in the Kenya death camps. There is no need to invoke the Nazis:  it's enough to brand the Israeli state as being as bloodthirsty as the  British.

I feel solidarity, as all  socialists should, with victims of racism and oppression - with the past  Jewish victims of Nazi genocide and equally with the current  Palestinian victims of Zionism. I understand why a "back to Africa"  movement developed among black people in the USA; why Muslims in British  India yearned for a homeland of their own within the sub-continent; and  why Jewish holocaust survivors were desperately seeking a homeland of  their own.

But I'm opposed, as should all socialists, to any  state being based on or defined by ethnicity or religion: an "Israel for  the Jews" any more than a "Britain for the British". That's why I was  active in the anti-apartheid movement. I also sympathise with indigenous  people whose land is colonised by outsiders, whatever their own history  of oppression.

But history can?t be unwritten. I don?t call for  the expulsion of the descendants of migrant settlers in the USA,  Canada, South America or Australia, and I don?t call for the abolition  of Pakistan - most of whom likewise were also originally fleeing from  despair and persecution back home. Terrible and genocidal crimes were  committed against the indigenous populations of all these countries, and  similar crimes are being inflicted today against the Palestinians.  Generations have grown up in Israel in the last seventy years, and they  have no other home. What I condemn is Israel's identity as a  racially-designated state in which non-Jews face discrimination and  which acts as a regional military occupation power.

The task of  socialists is to combat all attempts to pit workers of different  nationalities or historical backgrounds into fratricidal conflict, and  to campaign for the common interests of all workers, uniting them in a  common struggle for a new society. We should call for a common homeland  of all communities in a harmonious socialist federation of the Middle  East.

As a socialist, I will always fight against ethnic exclusionism, whether "Britain for the British" or "Israel for the Jews?"
As a socialist, I'm in favour of everyone living wherever they like: whether it's Syrians in Britain or Jews in Israel?
And as a socialist, I support unity: a socialist federation of the  Middle East, a socialist federation of the Indian sub-continent, a  socialist federation of Europe.
Source: Anti-Semitism: Tories and British Media Slander Corbyn and the Labor Party