The Left’s Jewish Problem: Jeremy Corbyn, Israel and Anti-Semitism

EVENT TRANSCRIPT: The Left’s Jewish Problem: Jeremy Corbyn, Israel and Anti-Semitism

DATE: 8 November 2018, 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm

VENUE: The Henry Jackson Society, Millbank Tower, London

London, SW1A 0AA United Kingdom

SPEAKER: Dave Rich




EMMA FOX: Welcome everyone, thank you all for coming. On behalf of the Henry Jackson Society, we are absolutely delighted to have Dave Rich here to talk about his new book. Dave is head of policy at the Community Security Trust, a body that advices on all issues antizionism, anti-Semitism and political extremism. Dave is associate research fellow at Birbeck University Piers Institute of the study of anti-Semitism where he completed his PhD and his expertise ranges from hate crime to Islamist extremism and manifestations of anti-Semitism at civil and institutional level. He has written extensively on the history of the British left and anti-Semitism, culminating in the 2016 book The Left’s Jewish Problem: Jeremy Corbyn, Israel and anti-Semitism. The book covers rise of the new left- the class struggle which was replaced by the 1960s politics of identity, the causes of race sexuality peace and environment replacing the old class struggle politics- the shifted narrative of Palestinian activism, the influence of Soviet anti-Semitic propaganda- the alliance between grassroots far left activists and Islamists, the rise of Corbyn and institutional anti-Semitism- how Jewish councils, student and community groups were treated on an individual and collective level and the responses or lack thereof regarding the complaints of racism. Originally published in 2016, when these issues were brought to national attention, Dave has updated the book in light of recent allegations and controversies. So with that, I think I will hand over to Dave.

DAVE RICH: Thank you- and thank you everyone for coming here this evening. One of the things about talking about the issue of anti-Semitism in the labour party is that the talk changes every day because different things happen literally every day to add to our understanding of the problem. I will begin by describing today’s latest episode…umm – Momentum the kind of activist group that organised for Jeremy Corbyn to win the labour leadership and campaigns for him. Momentum put out a video today about anti-Semitism on the left…this is how it looks like…it is a problem and you should try and deal with it. I think this is directed at their m embers- this is progress. I don’t think a year ago, Momentum would have done this – I am not aware of the Labour party having done anything like this over the last three years. So this is progress, so I started watching this video this afternoon and its starts –with a young Jewish woman, a member of Momentum who has campaigned for Corbyn talking about the kind of anti-Semitic language and anti-Semitic attitudes that’s he has encountered in the labour party on the left. So far so good. But as the video went on, she said several things that were revealing much more about anti-Semitism in the labour party than I think labour intended not in the way they intended either. I will explain what I mean. She says how she gets challenged for what her views are about Israel as soon as people find out that she is Jewish. That is a problem. She went on to say, I have never even been to Israel and I boycott Israeli goods- so why are they asking me these questions. So immediately you this kind of good Jew bad Jew vision. I understand why momentum put this in but the idea that you should not be anti-Semitic to Jews who boycott Israeli good- they are good Jews- that is not really helpful. She then went on to say combatting anti-Semitism must not be used to silence Palestinians. Now I don’t know anyone who combats anti-Semitism to silence Palestinians- people combat anti-Semitism to combat anti-Semitism. These two things should not be opposite. She then went on to say that white British people need to be very careful about not using anti-Semitic language but Palestinians have the right to define their oppression in whatever words they see fit. In other words, if a Palestine denies the holocaust or claims that Rothschild runs the world, that’s not anti-Semitic. But if a white British person does, they do. Now again, I kind of understand why they are doing it. Now you have the situation where there is good Jew bad Jews, and good anti-Semites and bad anti-Semites. I don’t think this is really going to work. Umm, the climax of the video was in order to tackle anti-Semitism, you should listen to what Jewish people are saying and do really what you can to tackle this problem- just like Jeremy does. Right? She was not being ironic- why? Because she is Jewish. If she is Jewish, she obviously doesn’t do irony.

(everyone laughs)

DAVE RICH: We laugh about that right? But I have noticed since August, the easiest way to get a laugh out of Jewish audience is to make a joke about Jews and irony. Right? And everyone gets it- I have even heard that joke made in a shiver house. Right? And it works- it’s a thing now- it’s a meme. Its attached to Jeremy Corbyn for so many Jewish people in this country. I think this is one the things that we look at when we see why has the problem got so bad because it did not need to be this bad. Even when Jeremy Corbyn became the leader, there were things that he could have done in the last three years. He could have dealt with the problem so that it would have become much smaller – not allowed it to become as big as it has become. There are people- there have been disciplinarians, there have been speeches- most of them made it worse. It didn’t need to get that bad, but it has become worse in the last three years. One indication of how bad it has got- that three years ago, or four years ago when people talked about anti-Semitism in the labour party when I came to this room two years ago to talk about this subject, generally speaking, everyone said that nobody is saying Jeremy is anti-sematic, but he doesn’t understand it, he doesn’t recognise it, he doesn’t see it, he doesn’t know how to deal with it. He got the benefit of doubt two years ago from everyone, I don’t think he gets that benefit anymore. I think too many things have happened for Jeremy Corbyn personally for him to get there- we can list them all and we all know them. You know, there was the mural on the wall on the east end of London of rich Jewish bankers making money off the backs of the oppressed- the dark skinned oppressed as the mural was done- there was a whole lot of conspiracy imagery around it and Jeremy Corbyn objected to the fact that it was going to be painted over. Even though everyone in politics in town agreed that it was anti-Semitic/ even (inaudible)- even he recognised straight away that it was anti-Semitic. But Jeremy Corbyn apparently did not- there was the wreath. The laying of the wreath- at this memorial or that memorial and that he didn’t lay that. But the week it actually happened, he had written that he had actually laid it- so it was the evasion and the constant changing of the story. There is the irony comment, and the campaign to change the name of the Holocaust memorial day- I don’t think it gets much worse. With conspiracy theories- he wrote in the Morning star about the selltement building- Once again, the Israeli tail (inaudible) the US dog- it’s a straightforward conspiracy theory. He was on Press TV- On Iranian TV saying that hand of Israel is behind Jihadist terrorism in Egypt and he said it while he is interviewing a convicted Hamas terrorist meanwhile. And everyotime this happens we get told that there is a mistake- we get told that he didn’t know, he didn’t mean it that day. Of course he doesn’t support these views. Well, is it just a series of unfortunate mistakes- I have my doubts. One thing this reminds me of is David Irwin… Not many comparisons have been made between Jeremy Corbyn and David Irwing- but here is one. When David Irving sued Deborah (inaudible), if you remember in 200- she was accused of being holocaust denier, the defence team went through all his historical works, all his books and they pointed out dozens of examples of where he has misquoted or quoted out of context- just historiographical errors that any honest historian could make. But they pointed out that every single one of David Irving’s mistake went in one way. If they are honest mistakes, some should go one way, and some another. And the same with Jeremy Corbyn, but you never see Jeremy Corbyn accidentally sharing a platform with someone who wants to build more Israeli settlements on the West Bank. Right? It doesn’t happen. He doesn’t make mistakes other than to mistakenly sit alongside support/endorse/collaborate with holocaust deniers/anti-Semites/terrorist or their supporter. Umm, it got to the point where- one point in the summer- story after story after story. The latest one was that he was the UK convenor of a Malaysian organisation that had backed the French holocaust denier Roger Garady when he was on trial in France for holocaust denier- and they put out a statement in his support. It did not have Corbyn’s name on it- but he ran the UK end of this organisation. I (inaudible) of journalists – what do you think of this? It was a Friday afternoon, it was the end of a long tiring week and I said look he must be the unluckiest anti-racist in history that this keeps happening to him.

(everyone laughs)

DAVE RICH: And I was not being ironic- but I was being sarcastic. We can do sarcasm. But look it’s not bad luck, its pattern of behaviour reflects the way he thinks, and it reflects his politics. But I think it’s a mistake to pin this down to one man- on Jeremy Corbyn. He reflects ideas and attitudes about Jews and Zionism and Israel and anti Semitism, importantly which we are going to (inaudible) the Left for decades. We can go beyond decades- we can go back into early Marxist arguments about whether the Jews are really an authentic people- real people. This goes back to 19th Century ideas of the Jewish Question that status of Jews in European societies was problematic and could explain lots of things going on in society. A lot of Marxists kind of accepted this logic- of course they rejected anti-Semitism- but they accepted the idea that the status of Jews was problematic. And their answer was Marxism. Right, in the wonderful communist Utopia, there will be no need to be Jewish anymore. So, they have their own theory of how to get rid of Jews, Judaism and Jewishness in different ways. If we go back in history- really this starts in the 50s and the 60s, with the rise of firstly, soviet anti-Semitism with anti-Semitic purges in the soviet bloc in the 1950s. It became a flood really of anti-Semitic propaganda from the Soviet Union in the 1950s and 1960s. Any of you who were involved in the Soviet Jury Campaigns that time would know about the status of Hews under communism at that time. Jeremy Corbyn was part of the late 1960s student left- the left that rioted outside the American embassy during the Vietnam War, ran the campaign against apartheid, campaign against nuclear weapons- the left that was less interested in holocaust and anti-fascism and much more motivated by Empire and anti-colonialism. The left for whom the framework of how to understand the world is this idea that there are the powerful and the powerless- that there are the oppressors and the oppressed and everyone- every country, every organisation, every activist, every community can be treated as a homogenous block that belongs to one camp or another. Israel after 1957, and Zionism and Jews around the world that support it fall into their section of the powerful and the oppressors in this kind of left wing view and this is why its …this explains why Jeremy Corbyn has so much trouble with one half of one sentence in the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism. This was a row that rumbled down all summer- the working definition of anti-Semitism has lots and lots of clauses and examples that describe how anti-Semitism can manifest. The Labour party did everything it could to avoid adopting it in full unamended- and the reason why and I know it’s the reason why because (inaudible) no one told me it was the reason why when I met him earlier this year- it’s because of the line that it is anti-Semitic to claim that the state of Israel is a racist endeavour. Now, a lot of people think and opponents of the IHRA definition argue that they want to be able to say that Israel has racist policies. Well, that clause does not stop them from saying that. They want to be able to say that Israel discriminates against Palestinians- well that definition doesn’t stop them from saying that. They even want to be able to say that the creation of Israel and the dispossession of Palestinians had a discriminatory outcome for Palestinians- it does not even stop them from saying that. What that clause insists on, what that definition insists on – that the idea of Zionism, the idea of the creation of a Jewish homeland, the creation of a Jewish national self-determination is not a racist idea and to call it a racist idea is anti-Semitic. And this is the sticking point because for people from Jeremy Corbyn’s party- that part of the left now runs the Labour Party. Israel, Zionism was not an authentic expression of Jewish national liberation and it was not an authentic legitimate response to anti-Semitism. What it was a part of a western colonial plot- the creation of Israel was part of the West’s drive in the 19th and 20th century to dominate the world, to colonise its land, to dispossess its people and to steal its wealth and to deny actual, authentic people their right to self-determination. And colonialism- in this way of thinking- was only ever a racist endeavour. So if Zionism, if Israel was part of this western colonial drive0, then of course Zionism was a racist endeavour- in this way of thinking. That is the reason why that was a sticking point and it comes down to what is Israel and what is Zionism- for the radical left it is- what is it for so many Jews around the world. Now, this idea that the creation of Israel was a part of this big plot was a kind of a conspiracy theory- there are much more blatant conspiracy theories that come into play. Repeatedly we see Zionism described in radical left’s circles and Facebook groups and social media as a huge power network that controls politicians here in Westminster and Washington, that controls the banks that were behind ISIS, that were behind 9/11- I mean we see this repeatedly. David Ike, has a whole section of his life showing conspiracy theories of David Ike- I know it’s a bit of a figure of a fun but it can sign up (inaudible) to thousands and has huge following on the internet. He has a whole section of his life showing what he calls the Rothschild’s Zionist and what he does is just pick up as many Jews as he can find in governments around the world and calling them Rothschild’s Zionists. This is …the reason why it resonates…the reason why it works is I think we are living in the time now where conspiracy theories have become central to a lot of our politics and this is not just about anti-Semitism and it’s not just about the labour party- there are lots of political parties, people, movements on left and right in different countries who explain the world and explain its problems to their followers in terms of a tiny, incredibly powerful elite that has all the wealth, all the power and they make all the decisions- they are the reason why you people are not happy and they are the things standing in the way of your perfect future. Right? and this happens on all sides. So for some people it’s the bankers, for some it’s the EU, for some it’s the metropolitan liberal elite, for some people it’s the Jews- for some people it’s all those things and they are all basically Zionists. We see this in when you have on the left conspiracy theories about the Rothschilds, and on the right you have it about George Soros- but it is the same way of thinking. What really struck me about this – when Jeremy Corbyn was standing for Labour Leader in 2015, first time around, 28% of Corbyn voters said they believe the world is run by secret (inaudible). Next year 2016- next leadership contest, when Corbyn is up against Owen Smith, 55% of those Labour members who supported him said that MI5 was working to undermine him. The most staggering of all- 35% of labour members supporting Corbyn in that leadership election two years ago believed that some labour MPs had been secretly planted in the party by the conservatives to undermine the Labour left- more than third of Corbyn supporters in the Labour party. That’s how conspiracy theories shape how so many people view these things and some of these things are quite ridiculous. Right? There was a conspiracy theory that went around on news night on BBC- they had a big background in one programme where Jeremy Corbyn wearing his usual cap- there was a conspiracy theory that went around that they had doctored the outline of the cap to make it look more Russian- this was a story about his response to the Salisbury poisoning. That’s absurd- but huge numbers of Corbyn supporters believed it and umm…one of his fans on Twitter…he came up with this conspiracy. If you scratch not far deeper under the surface, you realise they are also spreading conspiracy theories about Rotschilds and Zionist and all the usual anti-Semitic stuff. It’s a way of thinking and all conspiracy theories in the end lead you back to anti-Semitism- one way or another that’s where they end up. Umm, but for a lot of people on the left, there is an inability to recognise anti-Semitism. And this is because of a very narrow understanding of what racism is – for them racism is about white people who have all the power and all the money oppressing people of colour- in this country, and in the west, but also globally. You know…a lot of this is quite valid. It’s about minority communities not having access to the best jobs, the best universities, good housing- it’s about differential rates of education, imprisonment stop and search and all of that. These are very valid things, but for some people that is all racism is. Now anti-Semitism does not operate like that. Anti- Semitism is not about excluding Jews from society- it’s about portraying Jews as all powerful. It’s about blaming Jews for everything that goes wrong because that is seen as a hidden hand not as the floods of immigrants taking jobs and so on. Umm, and this comes back to what I said in that Momentum video- this idea that it is white British people who have mid their language but nobody else. We all saw last week- two weeks ago the horrific shooting in the synagogue in Pittsburgh where a neo Nazem ordered 11 Jews. And this the kind of anti-Semitism these people on the left absolutely recognise and genuinely oppose. But 11 is a significant number because in the last 12 years, 11 French Jews have been murdered in France in anti-Semitic murders. None of them by white French people, none of them by neo Nazis- that kind of anti-Semitism just gets missed by people from this part of the left. They don’t see it as anti-Semitism in the same way- that is why when Jeremy Corbyn looked at the mural for him it is inconceivable that these rich white bankers around the table could be victims of racism because they are rich, they are powerful and racism is about power. So, he just could not see it and it made sense to him- for him that is how the world works. Now, these are the kind of historical structural reasons why the party has got anti-Semitism problems. But I think there are other reasons- that are a bit more in media, and are a bit more personal- moral is why is it that there are so many people with anti-Semitic issues that think that the labour party is the party for them? I don’t think anyone in the leadership of the party is asking this question- because4 this is the heart of the question to ask. Almost every day, certainly every week someone is exposed on twitter or on Facebook of having a lost history on social media of anti-Semitic comments. Whether it is denying the holocaust…conspiracy theories… Comparing Israel to Nazi Germany that in the vilest terms- you get it all. And so many of these people will be the ones saying “I have joined the labour party” “really happy to be supporting Jeremy Corbyn”. Now, I am not saying that most people in the Labour party are anti-Semitic…it’s not the case, far from it. I am also not seeing that all the people who support Jeremy Corbyn are anti-Semitic- not the case. But, there seems to be a lot of people with anti-Semitic views who look at Labour and Jeremy Corbyn and think- that is the one for me. I think that people in the leadership of the party really need to be asking themselves what they are doing wrong to attract these people. And they are not really asking these questions- and they are not really…there is very little reflection. I think (inaudible) form the party is that this is about people who have got views that are unwelcome, who are (inaudible) into the party and we need to usher them out of the door. Or there are people who really care about Palestine and don’t quite know the right language to express their views and we just need to educate them. Of course what actually happens is that when so many of these people get reported to the Labour party for their disciplinary process what actually happens most of the time is nothing. There is a story that came out a couple of weeks ago that police were investigating a file of anti-Semitism cases in the labour party, which had reached the levels of hate crimes. And these were comments made by people that included death threats to Jewish Labour MPs- and the labour party, having had their stuff reported to them had done nothing. It had not shown this to a lawyer hired (inaudible)…sow the Jewish community that we will get on top of this- they did not report anything to the police, the even did not report these to the Jewish MPs against whom the death threats were made. This was two years after Jo Cox was murdered. So, there is a complete failure of the disciplinary process. Umm, part of my research for the book, I had the pleaser of reading the entire transcript of Ken Livingstone’s disciplinary hearing. It was a farce. He was an absolute farce. You had two incredibly capable, incredibly smart, very well known (inaudible) arguing the whole thing out in front of a panel of people who did not have a clue really- who could not follow some of the arguments I think. (inaudible) was so sympathetic to Livingstone…he even started making his arguments for him at one point. And, Ken Livingstone took the whole thing so seriously that every time a witness came to these stand or different people in the room introduced themselves to the witness- Ken Livingstone…instead of saying “Hello, my name is Ken Livingstone” he said, “Hello, my name is Boris Johnson, the international War Criminal”. That is how seriously he took it- maybe he knew that even if he got found guilty as he did, they were not going to kick him out. Umm, of other things that went on in that disciplinary hearing, he had five character witnesses- all members of the tiny Jewish Anti-Zionist group that supports Corbyn- Jewish voice for labour, Free Speech for Israel- these kinds of small groups. They all gave evidence for him and some of this evidence was anti-Semitic. One of them said we need much more freedom of speech than what we are currently having on the subject of Israel and the Jews.  I think that is anti-Semitic. No one in the room challenged it. Another one (inaudible) said that Zionist movement has successfully occupied the minds of the Jews since the holocaust claiming that Israeli PM Netanyahu was delighted about the terrorist attacks in Paris in January 2015- Charlie Hebdo and the Kosher Supermarket. He said Jews have to take responsibility for Israel being a racist endeavour. Right? No one challenged it. To my mind, that’s an anti-Semitic statement given in an antisemitism disciplinary hearing for the labour party. This is an indication of how poor the process is. Now you add all these things up, you add up the history, the terrible leadership or lack of leadership or counterproductive leadership, you add up the failing disciplinary process, these systemic ways of thinking, bear in mind that when people in the labour party complain about anti-Semitism, they are – quite often- the ones that suffer. It’s easier to make anti sematic remarks than to complain about it- just this week, two labour council members in Peterborough after a year of complain about anti-Semitism have resigned because they can’t put up with that anymore. Not only did they get no support in their local party or from the national party, but when they reported it to the national party, they tried to kill the whole issues and took the side of the person they were reporting. You add all this up and you notice that nothing is allowed to get in they of the project. The project to take full control of the labour party and turn it into a Carbonyte hard left party. You add all this up, and I think what you are left with is pretty strong evidence of an institutional culture that is anti-Semitic. In the party. It’s about more than just the individual views, it’s about the culture. When people talk about institutional racism and institutional anti-Semitism, the thing people always return to is the (inaudible) report. (inaudible). The report defined institutional racism as something that could be detected in processes, attitudes and behaviours of an organisation which amounts to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping. The word unwitting is important- this is not about people being consciously anti-Semitic. This is about set ways of thinking. This is not just about racist assumptions and stereotypes, it’s also the inability and refusal to see racism as it is present. How many times have we heard that it is all a smear! It is possible and is very common for individual members to not be racist but for the organisation to still discriminate because it is about the culture – it’s about the informal culture rather than the formal policies. It persists because of the failure of the organisation to adequately recognise its existence and causes. I think what we lack is the leadership, self-reflection and the asking of hard questions- and the genuine open and honest engagement with the Jewish community and to hear what they are saying about this problem. I think until we get this, the problem is not going to go away. Thank you

(everyone claps)

EMMA FOX: We are going to open the floor for questions so if I could just get a show of hands in the start. Yeah, your sir.


QUESTION: Thank you for your excellent talk, I will ask two questions please. Firstly, since the founding (inaudible) in 1760, (inaudible) members of Jewish community to not to support the Labour Party? Secondly, would you hesitate in calling the anti-Zionist conference on conference on racism in 2001 been an effective catalyst in Labour anti-Semitism?


QUESTION: There are three million Muslims in this country- or more. 35% of the respondents from the Muslim community who participated in a survey were anti-Semitic. Why should labour care about 250000 Jews when there are these people who could vote them in? Secondly, my biggest worry when I listen to the BBC and the rest, it seems to be (inaudible) with tweaking the news that shows that Israel killers (inaudible) tens of times. I know and I have been to the enough of the Kurds, Yazidis, Assyrians- all say the same thing that is – there is no racism in Israel. Look at the other countries in that region- find a Jew. That is all I want to say.


QUESTION: Hi (inedible) I am a former Labour party member. I am a Zionist (inaudible). Every time, I think (inaudible) it gets worse. Really, the question is there any good news? (inaudible) What more can we do? What more can be done? Is there anything that grab hold of?


DAVE RICH: Okay should (inaudible) tell the Jewish community not to vote Labour? I think not. I will tell you why. (inaudible) has been going on since 1760 and the Jewish community has got centuries of roots in this country. I think there are certain principles that we should not necessarily abandon because we are reacting to something like this. One of that things is that communal leadership should be based on issues and on values rather on instruction. I think back to rally outside Parliament in March, it was organised by the board and the council and I think it captured the mood, captured the moment- I think the message was very clear and powerful. I thought it was also empowering for the community. That approach in the long run will be more effective. The conference was hugely important event in the development of this kind of modern left wing anti-Zionism and its connection to anti-Semitism. IN terms of the reviving of the Zionism equals racism slogan. It was first adopted by the UN in 1977, and then dropped in 1991 and this conference revived it’s a mobilising formula, call to action. The issue of anti-Semitism in the Muslim community here- I have no doubt that there are people in Labour hierarch who think that that is the way to operate politically. Put to one side whether they are right to think that, whether there are votes- whether you can count Muslims as a homogenous voting blocs. I am not sure you can. But I am sure there are people in Labour who think that cynically. Any good news? Yes, there is.  I think there are many people around the country who nowadays who see anti-Semitism as a problem that even a year ago- or even six months ago. I think if you look at what the labour party feels obliged to say, and what Momentum feels obliged to do now compared to a year ago- it has shifted. I have seen polling that shows that across the country people are aware of this issue. Even if they don’t understand what anti-Semitism is or they have never met a Jew in their life, they understand it’s a problem in the Labour and Labour has not dealt with it and Jeremy Corbyn has performed very badly. So, we have a lot more allies and understanding- in all of this, Let’s remember we have a string Jewish community here, and communal life- there are lots of great things about Jewish life in this country. Let us not forget that that is all there because the problems are getting worse.

QUESTION: (inaudible) wrote a column in the Jewish chronicle two or so months ago in which…the gist was that by creating such a hoo-ha about anti-Semitism, we have created more anti-Semitism. He generally seems to be someone who talks sense but I was (inaudible) on the article

QUESTION: (inaudible) in 201 went to the annual commemoration of the anti-fascist forces who fought against Franco in Spain’s civil war. During his speech, he actually referred to ad reminded people of the Palestinians. What troubled me about this was the 10% of the international brigade was Jewish- 90% presumably not Muslim- but Christian. And, I read 800 Jews from Palestine were members of the international brigade that fought against fascism. What he was basically doing by reminding people to remember the Palestinians was to rewrite the history books. Now rewriting the history books is one if the main characteristics of fascism? Is Labour being affected by Fascism and is there a threat to democracy in the UK?

QUESTION: Can I congratulate Dr Rich on his presentation but tempt him to take the long view which is that long before Zionism the labour movement was institutionally anti-Semitic? IN that, it grew up in the 19th century out of a certain view on capitalism. Where had capitalism and industrialisation come from? You can read the ramblings of the 19th century radical, William Combat- you can w=read the newspapers of the Chartice Movement – Jews and Stockjobbers- You can read resolutions of the trade union congress in the 1890s demanding an end to alien that is Jewish immigration. It had nothing to do with Zionism. It grew out of a view of the origins of a menacing, intrusive evil capitalist system. I would suggest Dr Rich that taking a long view gives us a much better understand of why the labour party was so receptive to a renewed anti-Semitism based as he said?

DAVE RICH: Okay, so the column. He wrote that by protesting against this we have actually created more anti Semitism. Now, he is a brilliant writer and a very sympathetic writer- I understand exactly why is saying this. Firstly, the idea that the Jewish communal leadetship in days of social media can control the discourse that comes of the Jewish community in the ways that make a generation or two ago is fanciful. So even if these councils had not done the things they had done, there would still be a huge away of activity and calling the party anti-Semitic coming out of the Jewish community. Secondly, I think has it created anti-Semitism or has it just covered latent attitudes that were there is another point? I think one thing that really has happened that that people who really cared about Jews and anti-Semitism before in the labour party feel that they have to take a position on this because anti-Semitism in now a political position in Labour. After the shooting in Pittsburgh, there were lots of local Labour party branches across the country that discussed and passed motions of solidarity with Jews and condemned the shooting. We know that at least two local party branches that refused to pass motions of solidarity not because they have sympathies with the neo Nazis but because the entire issue of anti-Semitism in labour is not about anti-Semitism it’s about political positioning. No, I don’t thing labour is enthralled to fascism- we are dealing with a different kind of a problem. We are dealing with a more traditional left wing kind of anti-Semitism. This old issue of left’s anti-Semitism is a really important point and I am going to defend myself and say that it is in the book. But you know this Momentum video I mentioned earlier, one of the things she talks about is history of anti-Semitism in Britain. She mentions that Britain’s first ever immigration control was the Aliens Act of 1905 that was designed to keep out Jews. It was passed by the Conservative government, so she blames it on the right. What Momentum do not say in that video is that at least for a decade- possibly two- before the passage of act, the trade unions campaigned for immigration control against the Jews. This is a part of the huge and varied history of left wing thinking about Jews. It is huge and varied- there are lots of traditions on the left that genuinely oppose anti-Semitism. In the history of the left, this is possibly the stronger tradition. But the left has always had its own left wing forms of anti-Semitism that are an authentic of the left wing thinking. Too often we see on the left, a complete amnesia – refusal to recognise and deal with this history and part of this is connected to the Spanish Civil War. Now, Jeremy Corbyn has an article in the Jewish Chronicle about cable street. One of the last remaining veterans of Cable Street died this week and Corbyn knew him. Of course, the left wing narrative of Cable Street is that it was the communist, the socialists, the trade unionist and the Jews? One of things that gets missed out of this is that a lot of these communists and socialists and trade unionist were Jewish and a lot of them were also Zionists. That good and bad Jew distinction of the good communists Jews who went to fight in the Spanish Civil War and the bad Zionist Jews who went to fight in Palestine is a completely false division. Quite often it was the same people. So the left not only has a lack of understanding and amnesia about anti-Semitism, but also about its own history as well.

EMMA FOX: I am so sorry we are going to have to leave it here, but thank you so much. Dave will be signing copies of his book so feel free to come and ask questions.

(everyone claps)


Lost your password?

Not a member? Please click here