Sunday, April 01, 2018

Does The Left Have A Jewish Problem ?

A problem which I am seeking to pay attention to is whether anti-semitism has become a matter of significance within the Labour Party, especially with (and around) the election of Jeremy Corbyn as our leader. It is a matter I hope to return to in the future.

Within the last 18 months or so, I read Dave Rich's book "The Left's Jewish Problem : Jeremy Corbyn and Anti-Semitism". I made some notes of it at the time and slipped the following comment inside the copy I hold - now slightly tweaked. Did I say anything of significance or just get hold of the wrong end of this slippery stick?

In criticizing Dave Rich's book, I need to point out that I never voted for Jeremy Corbyn for leader - making a positive abstention in the second vote. And amongst a number of reservations I had about Jeremy was his rather uncritical links with Hamas. Although I now feel that Jeremy has adjusted his stance in numbers of the areas of my concern and I would certainly not favour a further leadership contest at this stage, nor a gang-of-four type split. When confronted by two extreme viewpoints, it can sometimes be helpful to seek to transcend these by working for a synthesis - which is more than a surrender or a compromise. This can be done (in this case) without people being involved in a sell-out of their basic values.
The Left's Jewish Problem: Jeremy Corbyn, Israel and Anti-Semitism

"One page 236 of his book, Dave Rich states that the "left is divided between those who identify with Jewish aspirations for nationhood and oppose anti-Semitism as part of their anti-racism, and those who oppose Israel and Zionism for exactly the same reason". This conclusion is typical  of his wider approach, where he argues for the first position.

Yet don't many of us fall into alternative positions - not just one of these two extremes? Including those of us who were highly sympathetic to the needs of Jewish people to share a safe and common homeland (especially given our knowledge of the Holocaust), yet also have concerns about the problematic impact which the establishment of Israel had for many Arabs throughout Israel and Palestine. The resulting conflict between, say, Hamas and Israel being something many of us are keen to help to transcend via, say, a two-state solution. Just as many of us have been associated with moves to peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland/the Irish Republic, we have the same approach in relation to Israel/Palestine. 

The fact that many of us have feelings of concern about the treatment of Aborigines in the formation of Australia and of Indians in the formation of the USA, does not mean that we feel that these nations should not be fully recognized in international law. Yet we can also still currently criticize moves made by such nations on whole hosts of current matters.

In the first words to the Forward of his book, David Rich indicates that his work is based upon a PhD which he has recently acquired. I have not come across a full link to his thesis, but I would be keen to access it. For I find it hard to believe that he would gain a Doctorate based on the one-sided analysis of his book - as readable and as itemised as it is. For academics usually insist on the dialectics of debate within a thesis, before awards are granted. (Although I admit I have never attempted one). Surely, this is necessary even when one goes on to draw conclusions in an academic analysis which finally come down solidly on one side. Academics (and the rest of us) also need to put their opponent's cases at its most plausible, if they then wish to cap it. In his book Dave Rich does not really attempt this. Yet as John Stuart Mill pointed out, a person who only knows their own side of the case knows little of that."  

For the Commons' Debate related to this issue on 17 April   - Click here.


Boffy said...

The example of Australia and the US, and the treatment of their indigenous peoples is a valid one, in the context of arguing that the state of Israel, now having existed for 70 years, has as much right to exist as these other states. However, there is a difference that is also significant. Neither the US nor Australia, nor Canada and other such examples seek to extend the sphere of their territory by further such expansion. Israel not only does exhibit such an ambition, but even as we speak is actively pursuing it, with the continued expansion of settlements on the West Bank, the claiming of the whole of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, and so on.

Nor does the US, Canada, or Australia limit immigration to, and on a privileged basis to the original European settlers that colonised those countries - though Donald Trump would probably like to achieve such a move. Yet, Israel does do that, and also denies the right of the indigenous Palestinian peoples to return to the land that was taken from them in that colonisation. Although Native Americans and Australian aboriginals are provided with reservations, they are not prevented from living off reservation, in the way the Palestinian refugees are forced to live in permanent refugee camps outside Israel.

Some argue that it is possible to argue against these specific policies of the current Israeli government without arguing against Zionism itself, but in reality it is not, because the polices are not accidental, they flow directly from the very heart of the nationalistic, and colonialist nature of Zionism as an ideology, and from its establishment of Israel, not as a normal kind of bourgeois-democratic state, but as a confessional state, where there is no separation of state and church/religion, as there is in the US, Australia and so on, but which the two things are inextricably linked.

In reality, Zionism is a major contributor to anti-Semitism, precisely because of this link, which inextricably ties Jews to the actions of the Israeli State, whose actions are not accidentally reactionary, but inevitably reactionary due to the reactionary nature of Zionism as a nationalistic and colonialist ideology. Similarly, a major element of fighting anti-Semitism is to fight that link that has been created by Zionists that equates anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism, and thereby makes all Jews responsible for the actions of the Israeli State, in a way that we would not accept for any other state.

Harry Barnes said...

Thank you for you comments Boffy. I accept the reality that Isreal exists - as with many other problematic nations. Even if its establishment,its current claimed borders and its blockages on the great bulk of settlers other than Jewish people are all problematic matters and need to be reformed. In a world full of genuine refugees and would-be refugees and irrespective of their religious or racial backgrounds, all nations which can provide security should take their share of peaceful people who are genuinely fleeing, from whatever their backgrounds. Then treat these as equal citizens. This clearly applies to Isreal.

I first joined the Labour Party over 60 years ago. Initially in the Easington Constituency then for almost 50 years in North East Derbyshire. I was also the Labour MP for the later area for 18 years and for a period shared a small office at Westminster with Ken Livingstone. Perhaps I have failed to pursue the Isreal-Palestine issue sufficiently myself, but I have not come across people expressing anti-Jewish sentiments within the Labour Party. Yet middle-east issues were by no means absent from my agenda as I undertook my National Service in Iraq in 1955-56 which closed with the Suez crisis. Then whilst I was an MP the invasion of Iraq took place, with my solid opposition.

In the Commons, I spent a great deal of time on matters concerning the island of Ireland pressing for avenues of peace and reconciliation to overcome the serious divisions existing between elements of their Catholic and Protestant communities. The same position needs to be adopted in the Middle East between Jews and Palestinians.

Looking at your own blog, we share something of a similar background. I became a full-time adult student also at 24. At Ruskin College I studied Economics and Politics. I then moved on to Hull University to study Philosophy and Politics.

Boffy said...


I'm not as old as you, but old enough now to see that being younger than anyone else is an increasing advantage! I joined the LP in 1974. A friend of mine, Jim Barrow, studied as a mature student at Ruskin, before studying International Relations at Keele.

In 1987, I came to North East Derbyshire as a candidate for a shortlisting meeting for the European Parliament, against George Stevenson. As I've written on my blog a few years ago, I think its a great disaster that European countries got dragged into military campaigns for regime change in the Middle East and North Africa, at a time then when the EU had been drawing in the area as a periphery to the EU, in a similar way to what had done with the countries of central Europe, and the Balkans. The best hope would have been for a much greater economic development of Middle East and North Africa, as part of that process,and the creation of an economic zone, and trading area, which was starting to happen rapidly,and would have facilitated the development of a stronger labour movement,and social democracy. Instead western liberal hubris in trying to overthrow regimes, in the expectation that liberal democratic regimes would magically spring from nowhere to replace them, has simply led to economic and social collapse, chaos,division, and masses of refugees.

As my friend Phil has said recently on his blog, its also what stems from professional parliamentarians thinking that the world of politics revolves only around what happens in their hallowed chambers, with the mass of the population only having walk on parts every so often.

Harry Barnes said...

A small first step towards a better democracy would be for the Commons to re-establlsh its Political and Constitutional Select Committee which from 2010 to 2015 did some valuable work under its Chair Graham Allen - who is no longer an MP. It was quickly ditched by Cameron. Then the Electoral Commission should be given a shake-up and the boundaries of its work extended - and its make-up democratised.

We also need a Constitutional Convention as argued for by Labour under Miliband - to develop much wider public involvement in shaping improvements. In the meantime Labour should itself be into these issues, but unfortunately it let it drop during its recent front bench resuffles.

We should adopt a written constitution removing the use of royal prerogative powers, which might now be used by the Prime Minister to add to the bombing chaos in Syria. Such a constitution should require acceptance via a referendum which should then itself re-strict the further use of referendums to amendments to its provisions. The constiution showing clear avenues the public can use to make such amendments.

The written constitution we could be asked to endorse could provide for a federal structure within the UK, with identical federal powers for Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and regions in England. The boundaries of England's Regions hopefully being determined by practical economic links. It is due to is relative size that England needs Federal Regions.

We need a democratic bicameral parliament, but with the lower house retaining ulitimate controls on any unresolved differences. GDH Cole's old call for (a) a chamber of consumers and (b) one of producers, could be worked on. But with the Chamber dealing with producers providing avenues for the unemployed, the retired and those looking after homes, families and the infirm.

I favour a universal franchise for all people settled in this country, whatever their country of origin. Votes at 16 are practically helpful, so initial registration can be undertaken via the education system and people can then be traced more easily in the future for further registration purposes. Civic education from 14 or so, should be given a key role in the education system and this can lead young people into better understanding the relevance of politics to their lives – it should, of course, be a questioning education and not indoctrination.

We need a more proportionate electoral system, but need to square this with having MPs who should arise from near the areas they represent and be expected to serve the needs of their own constituents. This mixed proportionate/constituency arrangement is a difficult circle to square. The electoral systems in Germany and the Republic of Ireland can show something of the way forward.

See “The Last Prime Minister: Being Honest About the UK Presidency” by the above Graham Allen (2001). Don’t be put off by the fact that the picture on the back shows him shaking hands with Blair. For as an MP it was Graham’s initiative which stopped Blair going to war against Iraq by only using royal prerogative powers and this at least gave the Commons a (manipulated) vote on the matter. We need to try to stop Teresa May re-estabishing the use of this royal power. Even if Graham had only helped make a small gain.

North East Derbyshire was part of the Sheffield Euro Constituency in the 1987 era and George Stevenson seems to have been the MEP for Stafforshire East at that time.

Ernie Jacques said...

Anyone who thinks Jeremy Corbyn is anti-Semitic or that the Labour Party is crawling with racists is in La-La-Land or has a Tory agenda.

So, it's OK for Labours' Parliamentary malcontents and some Jewish groups to conspire with the Murdoch and right wing an onslaught of slander against Jeremy Corby and Labour Party members. But free speech by those who oppose the war crimes and genocide of the Israeli state, is off limits.

Don't cave in to the Murdock press, political bullies and those who defend the status quo and who hate free-speech and one-member-one-vote democracy Jeremy. You will never be able to placate big-money and establishment apologists. Bloody hypocrites

Harry Barnes said...

Hi Ernie : Although it is taking much more time than I had hoped, I intend to fully return to this issue. It is a really important matter to seek to get resolved. The things that are getting in my road are (a) a set of health problems,(b) we are pushing on behalf of our new left-wing Labour Parliamentary candidate, (c) sorting out just who is doing what in the Labour Party at the moment on the anti-semitic issue with seemingly some 80 members facing charges, then (d) I have just come across details about the death of Michael Martin who was a Speaker in the Commons during my period. I happen to owe him a number of major personal debts and need to express these. Then even Wikepedia state that Kier Hardie referred to the "hooked-nosed Rothchilds", so perhaps Hardie will be postumately expelled from his former Labour Party membership ! But then the ILP web-site seems to be asleep at the moment or it could come to his defence.

Harry Barnes said...

Hi Ernie : I do not know whether you will see this, but thank you for your link to the following item recently on the ILP web-site. It adds matters for serious consideration -