Ignorance and antisemitism – from Reggie Yates to Kelechi Okafor

As someone who deals with the world of antisemitism frequently, I attack ideas and groups far more than I do individuals. My fight isn’t against people, and if through education, someone who harbours antisemitic views, can be shown the ‘racism’ inherent in their world vision – if we can adjust the lens they view through – then that person is no longer part of the world of antisemitism. Our fight has to be one of ideas – fighting a disease that feeds on ignorance.

Reggie Yates

Last month, in a podcast about ‘Grime Artists’ – (I hope that writes as if I know what I am talking about – because I don’t have a clue)- BBC ‘star’ Reggie Yates made a comment about a ‘fat Jewish guy from North West London’. He swiftly apologised for the remark, describing it as ‘flippant’. I don’t know him, but if he is a good guy, if it is a one-off mistake, then he apologised and we should leave it.

Since then, he has stood down from hosting the Christmas Top of the Pops episodes- which is a shame. It is probably a ‘big gig’, and his career is being tainted.

This isn’t just about antisemitism. In my mind, nobody deserves to have their life path changed because of a single comment. The world we live in is so full of minefields, with its tendency to seek political correctness in every corner, that today institutions are forever running scared of a social media backlash.

In our fight against antisemitism – and there are many hard-core antisemites to be fought – the battle shouldn’t be about vindictiveness, or revenge, for every comment that is made. It is far better to identify those that can be educated – or are even unaware of the problematic nature of specific tropes – deal with them – and swiftly move on to those that really wish us harm. It isn’t as if there is a shortage of those targets.

Kelechi Okafor

And then there is Kelechi Okafor. Kelechi is someone who defines her role as ‘anti-racist’. Okafor also made a podcast (available here), and began to discuss the comments made by Yates. Like me, Okafor seemed to be upset that Yates had left the Top of the Pops gig. However, Okafor’s podcast swiftly descends into an antisemitic rant, dealing with the ‘power’ of the Jewish community:

‘I don’t think what Reggie Yates said is problematic. He is saying the truth. And it just goes to show the power of a specific community, that he can make a comment like that and everyone’s like ‘woh – no’- pull him off Top of the Pops. Why? Aren’t these Jewish managers not from North West London? I just want to know where the fallacy is, where did he make a statement that is not true. … black people in the entertainment industry have been short-changed so much by the kind of people that Reggie Yates describes’ – why are we not saying it as a form of truth?’

She even had time to complain about Holocaust Memorial Day, reference Harvey Weinstein, tie it back to Jewish power, and then throw a Shylock reference in for good measure.

Even ignoring the antisemitic content, her podcast was deeply unsettling on a number of levels. There was this comment:

‘and yes, stereotypes are based on an element of truth’

This doesn’t just reinforce her own antisemitic comment. It is a horrific statement for an anti-racist campaigner to make. What if someone said this about people who are black? In fact her attitude towards those who make or have made racist comments is also unforgiving and deeply personal. For her it seems it is all about the man and not the message:

‘I have a huge problem with people apologising for things that they meant to do. Like, a lot of times, a lot of non-black people making flagrant remarks about blackness and about black people and five minutes later, one publicist has convinced them to re-post this apology or regurgitate this well manicured apology. And I just think it sucks. At the end of the day – if you said it, you said it with your entire esophagus, you said it with your entire trachea, you said YES, this is my view and this is what I meant to say. Why are you retracting it? Say it with all of your chest, say it with all of your torso, if you mean to say it – say it. I am still going to cast you out, I am still going to think you are a terrible human being, but at least you said what you meant’

This view suggests racism is inherent, cannot be educated against or addressed. It stands against everything I believe, and any anti-racist should oppose the underlying person-as-racist message it contains. Don’t people sometimes make mistakes – can’t we put knowledge in place of ignorance? Can’t we educate?

The Jewish Chronicle

After hearing the podcast, and as someone who respected Okafor’s anti-racist position, Jewish Chronicle Social Affairs reporter Rosa Doherty had contacted Okafor privately, perhaps to simply ‘educate’ with a quiet word. Even pointing out in the email that she was not approaching her as a reporter looking for a story.

Okafor’s response was swift. She turned to Twitter and publicly went on the attack, asking what the Jewish Chronicle does to tackle ‘anti-blackness’:

Kelechi Okafor

Putting aside her ignorance of Jewish activity in civil rights movements, her response is ridiculous. What the Jewish Chronicle does or does not do, isn’t an excuse for her own racist comments.

As the story began to gain circulation online, someone left a bad review of her business at a review site. (I am not linking it here, because I do not stand with personal attacks, nor seek to enable them).  Okafor’s response:

Reggie Yates, Kelechi Okafor

Here she is hiding behind the issue of anti-blackness, as if somehow, Rosa’s attempt to contact Kelechi over antisemitic remarks is all about anti-black racism.  This isn’t a new strategy- on her Facebook profile, she recently related a story over an argument that developed between herself and a theatre. This an extract:

Notice how the incident had to be ‘because she was black’. It couldn’t be that the man was having a bad day or is aggressive by nature, nor that he is simply a nasty man. It has to have a racist motive. So too her response to the entire podcast episode. Her response to my tweet on the issue was simple:

This type of ignorance is difficult to deal with, because it comes inbuilt with a ‘don’t apologise’ mechanism, is self-justifying, and reinforces the very world vision that creates it. Okafor probably thinks she is under attack now by ‘Jewish power’, for speaking the truth about ‘Jewish power’. In reality Okafor is at a crossroads. She needs to decide whether she is really standing up against racism, or whether she is comfortable being a racist herself.


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27 thoughts on “Ignorance and antisemitism – from Reggie Yates to Kelechi Okafor

  1. The relationship between Jews and Blacks goes back a long way. The Jews who owned slaves had to flee, along with their slaves to the Caribbean which is why so many Jamaicans have Jewish names like Cohen and Levy.. A legacy of the Spanish Inquisition.

    Then in the 20th century inot America it was Jews who happily employed Blacks without prejudice. Without Jews, there would be no rock-n-roll, no blues, no Lionel Hampton, no Chess Records and therefore no music as we know it. All thanks to the fat suburban Jew.

  2. One thing she got right was not engaging with the Jewish Chronicle, surely as racist a rag as is published in the UK. No good can ever come of it. If only certain others would wise up in this respect.

    1. A product of BLM and so called intersectionalism . Throw in a little Nation of Islam /Farrakhan for light reading and voila an antiracist antisemite

      1. This is your big chance Harv. I don’t have the remotest clue what intersectionalism means. It is your honour to educate me.

        Oh and if you can throw in an account of what BLM means that would be an added bonus.
        Imagine it . Tesco Harvey. He thinks therefore he is.

        I doubt you will ever get a better chance than this. Go for it Harv

    2. Oh come on Bellers. You’re telling us you don’t subscribe to the Macclesfield and Congleton Bugle (Proud Patron; Princess Michael of Kent)? This weekend’s colour supplement is crammed full of great ideas on getting the most out of your slaves during the holiday season, a festive quiz for all the family called “Name that Colony”, and a feature from former local MP Ann Winterton showing 10 ways to decorate the village ducking stool. It’s a hoot and believe me when I say that they can’t get close to this stuff over at the JC.

  3. Whatever the why’s and wherefor’s of the podcast the way Kelechi has dealt with it since has been an object lesson.. The message is that folks don’t have to answer to self appointees that they are not answerable to. Kelechi is not answerable to the Jewish Chronicle or David Collier, despite the pervasive sense of entitlement. The sense of frustration and impotence of the JC and David is a clear illustration of the effectiveness of this attitude. If only more people, not least Jeremy Corbyn, would wise up on this.

    But interestingly I am wondering what category David puts Jonathan Hoffman, Harvey Garfield, Sharon Klaff et al. Are they hopeless cases or suitable cases for re- education ?

    1. I think she deleted the podcast tweet – didn’t she? And perhaps the other tweets. Not sure – she blocked me. I have no sense of frustration at all – nor am I interested in your deflection. If you cannot differentiate between Jonathan, Harvey, Sharon et al, then you are not playing the same game as I am.

        1. Indeed – I differentiate, see people as individuals, with their own personal perspectives and drivers. I am even able to dissect the differences between true haters – and discuss the ideologies that separate them. You seem to enjoy tying people together and treating them as one, even without evidentiary support. So I agree it is obvious.

        2. and as for the ‘care less’ – you clearly do – because your comment was the one who referenced her response. As if she hadn’t budged. Clearly she seems to have moved.

          1. No my comment was in praise of her not answering to people she is not answerable to. If she has moved then she is entitled to do that. I don’t know if she has bcause I don’t know where she was, where she is and what motivated her to move if indeed she has.

  4. David
    Once again and in the interests of this blog , I suggest you clean out the Augean stables and get rid of the detritus fouling up the site. They add nothing and only detract from an otherwise excellent blog . Free speech and engaging different sides of the divide is important but it’s not the case here. Instead you have several trolls determined to distract and deflect with personal insults and irrelevancies in order to undermine the blog . Our opponents have no such conflict of interest . They simply block or edit comments to fit with their venal narrative .
    Get rid of these bottom feeders and it will only enhance your otherwise excellent blog . Failing that , I suggest other commenters simply ignore and don’t respond to the provocation .

    1. I agree that David’s work deserves honest an sincere readership and response from1 whichever position contributors occupy on the spectrum. Unhappily sites like this are an inevitable magnet for the sock puppets and David takes a very tolerant view of them. Frankly he has a point. As long as we only have ineffectual amateurs like those that opt into these threads it spares the site from real hostiles.

    2. Harvey – seriously – just ignore those you wish to ignore. I get everything you are saying, but hand on heart, even if I ignore my desire to provide an open platform, these people do provide a service or two. Comment traffic is one. But also – you’ll note, that it was Stephen (pretty certain) who commented first on my mention of Naomi’s partner – weeks before it was distorted and picked up by Winstanley at Electronic Intifada. I write with my own bias and from my global perspective. You and I share many understandings, and if I rely solely on pro-Israelis, my arguments and writings are not put through the type of editorial scrutiny I want them to have. Stephen, far more than those like Mike, is sharp and knows the terrain. I know that the other side heavily monitors my site, and in some ways, having sharks looking for items to jump on, can and has provided benefit. Just don’t bite when he baits.

    3. I agree. The swivel-eyed Bellamy adds nothing to this or any other debate (other than ignorance and toxic bigotry, of course).

  5. In terms of Ms Okafor, hers is not an uncommon position or response. She is a slur – seeker as many at the extremes of any argument are; people who define themselves by their activism and become duty bound to respond to every directed comment in an uncompromising and well-rehearsed way. Every remark is interpreted, nuanced and skewed to support the agenda with nil leeway. No benefit of the doubt is ever offered nor can it be for that thwarts the main purpose. No test of reasonableness is ever applied as this is regarded as giving an inch and everyone knows where that leads. Neither she nor Bellers nor any troll here has any interest in the issues or acting for positive outcomes. They simply exploit the freedom of the ether and the goodwill of the host to prosecute their own narrow agendas. They all share a vanity in the self-gratification of their activism and the self-publication that social media promotes. Ironically, I suspect much of this is actually disingenuous as even cursory investigation reveals more self-serving agendas lurking. Bellers has his personal grudges writ large on his blog. Ms Okafor has her performance art projects, even that idiot Gabriel something-or-other had some hilarious satirical blog to promote. Wimps.

  6. David – Your support of Bellamy’s conduct is not helpful. 1.) You provide another platform for him to peddle his nonsense – there are plenty of platforms out there for him to do so, this does not need to be one of them; 2) He deliberately baits you and other responders in order to take the discussion off topic; 3) If you, David, are debating with Bellamy, you are wasting time when it could be spent more productively; 4) He includes live hyperlinks to his website to siphon off visitors to his vile site. (It also benefits his website to have a link from a high traffic website like this one as Google ranks his website higher in search results because of these links.); 5.) I appreciate that his garbage retorts are own goals, and that there is value in keeping him here because he is the ‘comedy turn’ , but it gets boring and predictable very quickly and does not help us explore the issues in your actual posts.

    1. Norm – the support of the concept of a free speech platform does not = support for anyone’s conduct.

      1. We have seen many people respond to my posts on this site. Atzmon’s cronies have been here. I have had threats of violence from PSC supporting thugs. Tony has paid a visit or two and numerous other strange creatures have come from different parts of the anti-Zionist spectrum. This place is different, and it is a difference I take pride in. At heart – I absolutely oppose a denial of platform. I also believe some of the impact I have is due to this difference. You know who would be happier than you if I simply banned anti-Zionists from the page? they would. They would love me to be a racist, anti-Muslim, Palestinian hating, voice denying, fascist. It is why they try to paint me this way. It isn’t who I am. I cannot accept the argument that because Stephen has other outlets, that is a reason to deny him a voice here. The day I begin to fear their arguments, is the day I start to question my own positions.

      2. Yes, he does. And it is up to the people here not to bite.

      3. You’ll note I only really spend time arguing, when a decent argument is placed in front of me. I also reject the ‘productivity argument’. I only know what I know, because of years of of intense sparring with people who think I am wrong. I have no interest in existing in an echo chamber, where the only ‘pull factor’ of disagreement, is to the far right of the Israeli political spectrum. In addition, I really do not spend much of my time arguing with Stephen here.

      4. A valid point, and one I have considered. What I can confirm is that the traffic to his site from here is negligible. Tony also does it. I have mentioned it to him before, but again, I lean towards a non-editing policy. I do however accept this as a valid argument.

      5. I wish people wouldn’t bite the way they do. If people only discussed the material, this wouldn’t be a problem.

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