It is the end of September and Brighton are once again hosting a Labour Party conference. I have been to a conference once before, two years ago and had endured a pretty uncomfortable experience.
The conference in 2017 was the moment that I realised the problem of antisemitism in the party was spreading to the mainstream and that it would continue to do so for as long as Corbyn’s faithful could maintain their vice grip of the party mechanisms.
The conference in 2019 provides the evidence that confirms the Labour Party is lost.
The Labour Party conference 2019
Day one of the conference is finished and it is difficult to know which aspect of the suffocating atmosphere to focus on. There are plenty of journalists here – all reporting on what they see – but it is far too easy to become overly obsessed with individual incidents.
There was a poster that gained a lot of attention in the morning. A blatantly antisemitic Latuff cartoon was standing proudly outside the conference venue. This is a simple and easily exposed incident. The cartoon has Bibi in a plane called ‘the lobby’ firing missiles of ‘defamation’ at a Jeremy Corbyn who is only trying to stand up for Palestinian rights. The entire antisemitism crisis becomes nothing more than a vicious smear campaign directed from Jerusalem.
Then there were the flyers from the group ‘Labour Against Zionist Islamophobic Racism’ (Lazir) which depicted their ‘laser’ destroying a Jewish Labour Movement membership card. The flyer went on to ask for help to ‘rid the party’ of the JLM. Hardly a difficult message to decipher.
A disease that has spread
These incidents, as bad as they are, can all too easily be dismissed as the work of individual troublemakers. Small minority groups that have nothing to do with the party at all. A Labour spokesperson can stand up, distance the party from the antisemitic messaging, and everyone can carry on as if nothing too threatening is taking place.
This simply disguises the truth.
How is it possible that 15 months after the publication of the report into Palestine Live, Elleanne Green can walk proudly into Labour fringe events? Think about it. Any of the active campaigners against antisemitism would be unwelcome at the JVL event, I would never have been allowed inside, but they are happy to hug those like Elleanne Green. Green is a friend.
Miko Peled and Tom Suarez can both speak at an event which we know in advance will be well attended. Suarez in particular, with his distortion of events in the run up to the holocaust pushes a particularly vile false narrative. Being worse than Miko Peled is no easy task. That event is on Tuesday.
There were two major anti-Israel events taking place on Sunday evening. The first an event by Jewish Voice for Labour, the second by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. The PSC is another movement riddled with hard-core antisemitism, yet shadow cabinet members are willing to take part in their events. Hardly surprising considering a large percentage of Labour members were once again walking around Brighton with PSC lanyards around their necks.
The JVL and PSC events were spaced just a few hundred meters apart. One finished as the other started. Joseph Cohen from the Israel Advocacy Movement set up camp between the two. Myself along with Simon Cobbs from Sussex Friends of Israel joined him.
Joseph and the table
Joseph did what he does best. He set up a table, with a sign asking for people to change his mind:
What happened in the two hours we were stopped, alongside a sign suggesting the Labour Party has a problem with anti-Jewish racism, can tell you everything you need to know about the level of anti-Jewish racism in the party.
What if we were not Jews?
This is the first question. What if Joseph was not a visibly Orthodox Jew, but rather a black man, sitting at a table complaining about anti-black racism. Or a Muslim man from Bangladesh? What about a woman complaining about misogyny?
How would you view the situation if he / she was met with hostility? As people walked past and cursed or derided the person at the table wouldn’t they clearly be classed as insensitive, vile or racist? What on earth has happened to the Labour Party that a person who even seeks a discussion about anti-Jewish racism is met with such hostility?
Open hostility at the conference
And there was plenty of hostility. Not from one or two, but from hundreds of people. There were some who engaged, but it was almost exclusively from a position of open derision. Treating Joseph as a game they could easily play and win. These Labour activists simply know that the accusations of antisemitism are a con . People from the party of ‘anti-racism’, people who understand nothing about Jews, Jewishness or Zionism are confronting an orthodox Jewish man just to beat him in an argument and show him up for the ‘fraud’ that he is.
Joseph tweeted his thanks to a few that came up to give him support. I counted about ten. This is the true state of the Labour Party. That Jewish people are left being abused by the hundreds – having this abuse ignored, questioned or belittled by the majority – whilst just a handful remain ethically sound enough to openly reject the racists.
The conversations took place.
Is anti-Zionism antisemitism?
This is the one catch-all defence of the antisemite. It is simple – they ask you why you have defined being an anti-nationalist or universalist as anti -Jewish racism, extremely comfortable with how they have legitimised their antisemitism to themselves. I know this argument well, it is often used by those who come to argue with me on my blog.
How can Mecca have a ‘Muslim only’ policy without anyone saying a word? Why is Lebanon, a nation that has been busy abusing Palestinians for three generations, never attacked for doing so. Why are there no lanyards supporting Kurdish independence or calling for the end to the occupation of Cyprus? Where are the 100,000 on the street to oppose the devastation in Syria or Yemen?
Whichever way you look at the Israeli conflict, it is a minor spat. So if Israel is the only thing on your agenda. If Zionism is they only movement of national liberation that you attack, if you are treating Israel as you treat no other nation, then you clearly have a problem. ‘Palestinian solidarity’? – If you cannot see the hypocritical absurdity of decrying Zionism from a position of anti-nationalism whilst waving a Palestinian flag and forcefully pushing the idea of independent Palestinian statehood, then you are comfortable in a place beyond all logical reason.
I know a Jew
Of all the responses you can hear, this is the most dangerous of all. It is the great enabler. The absolute myth that the Jewish community is split.
The Jewish community is not split. There is a small minority of Jewish people who have – for the most part – simply weaponised their identity. Those amongst the members of JVL who are actually Jewish know that they are a tiny minority. They are perfectly entitled to their own opinion, but they are not entitled to deliberately hide behind, use and abuse – a gross distortion of the truth.
This ‘I know a Jew’ virus, has unleashed racism. Deep down human beings are pack animals. The love of the ‘us’ but the dislike of ‘the other’ is an inherent human quality. As a species, human reason has done much to put this to one side. But where human beings have the opportunity to legitimately enjoy this part of our psyche we embrace it with total abandonment. Just look to the football terraces – see what we say about those from the ‘other side’.
‘I know a Jew’ – the myth of the split community – has allowed for this one racism to flourish. The illusion of the ‘Zionist’ identity as completely separate from the ‘Jew’ has created a special place which legitimises antisemitism. The Labour Party have officially promoted and propagated this myth to its members. ‘Many Jews oppose Zionism’ is said by them all. ‘Many Jews oppose Zionism’ is the single statement that took the party of anti-racism and dragged it straight into the sewer.
Anti-Zionism has become the acceptable racism. Even as a nationality, Israelis can be cursed like nobody today would dare to curse another nationality such as German or French because they know such abuse would be seen as racist. Just as being a Jew doesn’t fit comfortably into the box of either religion or race, so too Zionism has been turned into an exceptional national struggle. Zionism was changed from a movement of national liberation into just an ‘ideology’. Once this occurs you can do what you like with it. You can even claim it is ‘racist’, internally legitimising your attack on all that follow it.
The followed and the follower
Ignorance was everywhere. These people who wear the lanyards and hate the ‘zionists’, gave ridiculous answers to every question that was raised. Yet even amongst the ignorance we faced, there were subtle differences that separated these people into types.
Some had nothing beyond empty ‘keyword answers’. Know-nothings who have comfortably given themselves over to supporting Palestinians the way they would a football team. The Zionists who support the other team are therefore legitimately open for a torrent of vile and incoherent abuse. These type of discussions are depressingly similar. Where every decision that goes against you is down to nothing more than an ‘off day’ or a blind and biased referee.
They’ve simply joined a cult and learnt as much as necessary to comfortably wear the teams colours.
Then there were those who have more vigorously rationalised their anti-Jewish racism. When confronted with a ‘left field’ question, they could formulate an answer. You could taste the flavour of conspiracy in every response they gave. When questioned about the EHRC, and whether a total condemnation from the commission would shift them, the EHRC simply joined a list of groups conspiring against them. It was all about the rich and powerful manipulating the events of the world.
The end for Labour
The sheer weight of the hostility was like nothing I have ever experienced. Not even at a pro-Hezbollah rally and far beyond the conference of 2017. There is no way back from this. You cannot just remove Corbyn and move on. Too many members of the Labour Party have fully embraced and internally legitimised the logic behind a foul racism. There are far too many in the party who have bought into the split community myth and swallowed the virus whole. They have broken down the walls.
They have even dangerously associated ‘national survival’ and the ‘creation of a new society’ with the need to rid the party and country of ‘Zionist power’. It gets no more insidious than this.
These people can NEVER, not EVER be given the power to turn these thoughts into policies. It will take a generation to undo this damage. So much hate. And this was just day one.
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