By Saul Freeman
It’s been a foul week. Another week when UK Jews (and our real friends/comrades) have to endure the spectacle of the lid being lifted on a broiling mess of hate that of course we have been aware of for some time.
Now of course in one sense, Jews and our allies who stand for progressive, democratic values may welcome the lid being lifted. “We told you there was a real problem and it now appears that some of you seem to have been listening. It’s taken a while, but hey you’ve finally begun to get it”. Andrew Marr seems to have been listening (worth watching him staring incredulously at Diane Abbott whilst she dissembled wildly) and how could that not feel reassuring? “It’s on the BBC. Andrew Marr pointing out the historical roots of the Left’s anti-Semitism. We’re not out there on our own anymore.”
Perhaps a few others and I could ease off on feeling that this is a burden we have to carry. Perhaps we could claim a little bit of our lives back from the obligation to expose the moral corruption of significant parts of the Left.
That can only be good.
But in many ways this has also been the worst week. The sight of Left wingers with their hands in the filth of Nazi history trying to find a nugget of gold that will justify what they and Ken believe to be the “facts” about the Jews, Zionism and Hitler has been truly nauseating. When challenged, the defenders of Ken turn around, with their hands and faces dripping with the slurry of revisionist and extreme Trotskyist anti-Zionist historical tracts, and howl in outrage at any suggestion that they are on the wrong end of history. I was (laughably) threatened with a libel action by a 1980s pop star for pointing out that his defence of Ken by referring to the work of Lenni Brenner besmirched the legacy of his influential (and politically focused) electro-pop act.
A Corbynista tweeted angrily at John Mann MP asking him if he thought he was “some kind of authority on anti-Semitism”. That’ll be the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on anti-Semitism revealed as an ingénue on the subject then. And of course, thousands of Leftists have identified the burning issue uncovered by this week’s events and have been petitioning for John Mann to be suspended, and have taken the opportunity to subject him (and those who defend him) to a torrent of abuse on social media. And of course a stomach churning proportion of those who are attacking Mann on social media have the rankest anti-Semitism all over their timelines.
In the attacks on John Mann we see the anti-Semitic Left, fellow travellers and a rag-bag of ignorant dupes turning their hate and aggression on a man who has devoted a good chunk of his political career to documenting and countering anti-Semitic hatred. You couldn’t write this as fiction and expect to be taken seriously as a novelist. And has the Labour Party drawn a protective circle of wagons around John Mann and declared, “You who attack John are attacking the very foundations of why we even bother to exist as a progressive political grouping”? Has it hell. The leadership has flirted with throwing him to the wolves and the rest of the party looks the other way and worries nervously about re-selection (the usual tiny group of up-standing Labour MPs excepted of course).
But perhaps the one strand that has for me summed up the nadir that the Left has reached has been the persecution of Ian Austin MP. Ian – as you’ll know – made a joke on Twitter about Ken and Hitler. Owen Jones (yes, him again) and Len McCLuskey lit the flaming torches and sharpened the tines of the pitch-forks and marshalled a baying mob that are demanding that Ian Austin pays the price for his crime.
“How dare Ian Austin belittle the Holocaust and undermine the Labour Party leadership? He must suffer the consequences for this double crime.”
Social media hums with the outrage of the Corbynistas as they circle around Ian Austin. So let’s consider 2 aspects of this.
Firstly, Ian Austin is of course the adoptive son of a Czech Jew who escaped the Shoah whilst the rest of his extended family was murdered, largely in Treblinka. Which might help explain Ian’s tireless work on the subject of Holocaust education.
Secondly, spend 15 minutes examining the timelines of those who are attacking Ian and screaming their OUTRAGE over his joke and you’ll find something very obvious. Most of these people have stuff in their social media profiles/timelines that is simply anti-Semitic; Jews controlling the media, Israel as the nation of money & blood lust (generally related to oil fields under Gaza), Israel creating ISIS, Mossad doing 9/11 etc etc.
Now, young Owen of course has his own history with one common theme of this stuff – notably his revising of the Wikipedia entry on Israel to argue that Ashkenazi Jews actually have no genetic link with the Middle East and that Zionist Israel was therefore founded on a lie. I’ve written about this before and as far as I’m aware, Owen has not taken the opportunity to rip apart his former views in order to avoid others being taken in by this Leftist anti-Semitic discourse. I hope he will.
But we now have the spectacle of someone whose own father suffered the most appalling fate at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators across Europe being told what he can and can’t say about it. And this by those who are either Jew haters, fellow travellers or virtue-signallers too ignorant to identify anti-Semitism when it slaps them around the face with a pickled cucumber and pelts them with stale gefilte fish balls.
Now, see what I did there? I made a light-hearted comment about an existentially threatening issue. I guess it’s a Jewish joke. By that, I mean the sort of joke often told by Jews – as opposed to the Jewish jokes told about Jews.
Hugo Rifkind made a similar type of “joke” in his hilarious “Ken’s Diary” piece recounting Ken’s descent into compulsive behaviour. My family spent Saturday morning walking our (risen from the near-dead) epileptic dog and discussing the week’s events. My wife and I consider it important that our Jewish son both understands the nature of the existential threat to him and all UK Jews that we face from some on the Left (as well as from others) but to also have a sense of proportion around this. And one of the ways that we both provide a context and sound a self-confident tone is by laughing. Like drains. Hugo’s piece kept us cackling on and off for most of that walk. And we laughed about Ian’s tweet too.
It’s a coping strategy that Jews are familiar with, as are many other minority groups.
Now, if Owen Jones, Len McCluskey and the social justice warriors want to start telling other minorities, besides Jews, what they can and cannot laugh about from their own history or that of their tormentors – well, good luck with that. But somehow I think it unlikely that they will. That seems to be another special treat reserved for UK Jews by the Left. Owen & Len are not out there telling British Asians, Sikhs, Muslims or others where the boundaries of acceptable satire lie are they? Nor should they be.
This foul week has seen the political spotlight fall on the fate of or reaction to a minority group that makes up around 0.3% of the UK population. Imagine if you can – being part of that minority. Are we celebrating the week’s events? Are we pleased that we can sit around at an extended family dinner and realize that not one of us will be voting Labour next week despite the fact that we are all lifetime Labour voters over 3 generations? Do we sit back comfortably and say to the youngest at the table “don’t worry son, there’s a bucket of hate coming your way and it comes from those who you might well have assumed would have your back, given that you’re part of an ethnic minority group. Relax already!”
Or do we react with anxiety? That the thing we want to happen (Labour freeing itself from the grip of a toxic and regressive extremist coup) has to happen with our name all over the headlines? I ask myself why the Jews have to carry this burden? Why not someone else? Why can’t Labour finally break with the Broad Church concept by mobilizing around one of the other many examples of the hard Left’s regressive and undemocratic politics that have no place in a modern social democratic party of government? Why anti-Semitism? Why us? Again.
I don’t want to be out on point for the Left. Why? Because it’s not reasonable for a tiny minority to have to carry the weight. Because it’s not safe. I fear the “blowback”. I am nervous in anticipating what “whirlwinds” UK Jews may have to “reap”. If Corbyn et al fall over this, I am concerned for the safety of my fellow Jews. We quietly put up with needing police or security guards outside schools and synagogues already. And street abuse & violence is on the up. But largely, UK Jews keep their heads down, try not to scare the horses and just get on with being engaged citizens. And largely, that works as a strategy to survive and thrive. As it does for many other ethnic minorities. Is being stuck in the middle of the political meltdown of Labour part of the plan for safety? Not where I’m sitting.
So Owen, Len and all you Social Justice Warriors out there: let us laugh, if that’s quite all right with you. Go police your own reactions and positions instead and use your time and energies to examine your own responsibility for this catastrophe. Because whilst we’re out here taking the heat for the moral, political and ethical degeneracy of elements of your Left, us Jews need a joke every once in a while.