In Labour’s antisemitism debacle, the Guardian’s Owen Jones is above reproach. He is above reproach because he has written articles explaining that antisemitism is bad and that it must be confronted. He has also written one explaining that the Holocaust was bad. What more could he do?
Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn has also said that antisemitism, and all forms of racism, are bad. His mother was at Cable Street so how can he be criticised for supporting and befriending unabashed Jew-haters? He then is also above reproach.
In his piece from March, Jones called for a commission on antisemitism and, because balance or something, one on Islamophobia too. He suggested these should be chaired by a Jew and a Muslim respectively.
Corbyn eventually called for an inquiry, it wasn’t to be chaired by a Jew but so what, it was to be chaired by Shami Chakrabarti. She is above reproach because she is Shami Chakrabarti. Or as she is now known, the Baroness Chakrabarti CBE, Labour Member and soon-to-be Shadow Attorney General. Keith Vaz no doubt spoke for all of us when he called her a national treasure.
The Chakrabarti Inquiry concluded that the Labour Party is above any meaningful reproach because it’s the Labour Party and the Labour Party thinks racism is bad and has passed legislation to that effect in the past. The report even suggests we stop looking at people’s social media accounts for old racist incidents. Why not? Surely it’s all behind us and it’s time to move on.
And so, somehow, in a party that can’t be antisemitic because it’s been so strong at fighting racism, under a leader who can’t be antisemitic because he hates racism in all its forms, a Labour member and vice-chair of Momentum, friend of the leader and partner of a friend for many years of Owen Jones, can go to the Labour Party Conference and display clear and transparent antisemitism and seemingly believe she has done no such thing. This after a previous suspension. And her escapades were by no means the only ones to be found.
To understand how this seemingly inexplicable situation can occur we have to understand what isn’t being done.
Despite Corbyn’s boasts of a life-long fight against racism, in all its forms, I can’t see what he has ever done regarding antisemitism. As I wrote previously:
He is a patron of the Palestinian Solidarity Movement and a founding member of the Stop the War Coalition. He speaks at endless rallies and meetings. Now if a man is as dynamic and relentless as Abbott and Jones suggests and also believes he has a duty to oppose racism of any sort at any place, it should be easy to dig up countless examples of this process of ‘rooting out’. Where are they? What internal reports have these organisations put together, at his request, on antisemitism within their movements? Who has he named and shamed and dissociated himself from? Which group he is part of has fewer antisemites because of his actions and his backbone and his principles?
Recently, when discussing antisemitism in front of the Home Affairs Select Committee Corbyn again wielded his life-long opposition to racism ‘in all its forms’. When asked why he did nothing to stop the abuse of a Jewish Labour MP accused of ‘colluding’ with the ‘right-wing press’, Corbyn bravely responded, ‘I wasn’t chairing the press conference’. During the same session he had to be questioned repeatedly in order to make him finally admit that the Hamas charter was antisemitic. In the fight against antisemitism he’s leading from the back and hiding in a foxhole somewhere.
The Chakrabarti Inquiry was at best a non-event. At worst it was a shallow attempt to spare Labour’s blushes. The writer Jamie Palmer offered an essential critique of the report and lays out exactly why it’s such a shamefully inadequate document. The report has done none of the heavy lifting in explaining why Labour has a problem and why somebody like Jackie Walker behaves as she does or how such a person gets to the heart of Labour power.
People are not understanding antisemitism, sometimes seemingly willfully. This renders the problem very difficult to grasp. People, including Jackie Walker, still seem to believe that an antisemitic trope expressed about ‘Zionists’ is not antisemitism but merely a righteous act of support for the Palestinians. Worse than that, people, including Jackie Walker, believe that complaints about antisemitism are attempts to silence debate. The Livingstone Formulation makes the victims doubly traduced as not only do they have to bear the antisemitism but a complaint about it casts them as duplicitous and malign.
But Owen Jones does understand antisemitism. His performance on David Aaronovitch’s Briefing Room demonstrates a fairly acute sense of what antisemitism is and how it manifests. This makes his behaviour over Jackie Walker that much more worthy of condemnation.
Jackie Walker was suspended from Labour and then readmitted in May this year following the exposure of this exchange on Facebook:
In it she repeats the antisemitic trope that Jews ‘were the chief financiers of the slave trade’. It is possible to be bogged down in the facts surrounding this favoured claim of David Duke and Louis Farrakhan, but it’s neatly dealt with in this recent letter to the Guardian. However, as significant as that claim is the context in which it was made. Upon being confronted with the word ‘Holocaust’ Walker’s immediate reaction is ‘oh yes – and I hope you feel the same towards the African holocaust?’. To people concerned with antisemitism this is a familiar sight, it’s the antisemite’s version of ‘All Lives Matter’.
This reflexive reaction is a form of Holocaust minimisation, it’s an attempt to rob the Jews of that part of their memory and identity as the victims of humanity’s worst crime. If not motivated by simple hatred it is politically motivated as it serves to isolate Israel and deny the Jewish state a facet of its founding narrative. This is compounded by the gobbledygook she ends with, an attempt to relativise away the sympathy that Jews might warrant from the Shoah. Her comment then was more than just the repetition of a falsehood, it was a transparent display of antisemitism.
Owen Jones reacted with the following Facebook post:
He also said the following on Twitter:
His repeated invocation of Walker’s Jewish partner and her own Jewish ancestry is a fine case of ‘Jew-Washing‘ and Jones uses it to support his argument that the idea she is antisemitic is ‘just beyond ludicrous’. Of most concern in Jones’ responses is his statement, “my understanding was she was talking about her own ancestors’. This is the argument that her partner put forward in a personal statement.
It’s clearly nonsense and she said no such thing. The unsupportable claim that she did is perhaps forgivable in a spouse but not from Jones. She said “and many Jews (my ancestors too)…”. That word ‘too’ renders Jones’ ‘understanding’ a non-starter for anybody who actually speaks English. A far more sensible reading of her noting the ancestry is as a defence from accusations of antisemitism. It’s a form of ‘some of my best friends are black’.
In reply to Jones making that statement other Twitter users immediately pointed out why that interpretation doesn’t wash. They received radio silence. Jones has almost half a million followers so I can’t say that a tweet sent to him, or even several of them, is definitive but I don’t believe he didn’t read any of those. I believe he evaded the truth by playing dumb. Regardless, he must have read the offending passage and an Oxford man and professional writer presumably has the basic comprehension skills to know a fast one was being pulled.
When faced with an expression of antisemitism, the man that demands antisemitism must be confronted spun total bullshit and described sanctions against the offender as an ‘outrageous suspension’ and then went silent in the face of clear evidence of his mistake.
Owen Jones isn’t just any other columnist. He is Corbyn’s friend and has long been his most prominent supporter in the media. He speaks at Corbyn rallies, he previously worked on John McDonnell’s leadership bid and he even helped name Momentum. Jones used his profile to campaign against Walker’s suspension and it was swiftly overturned. It’s not too much to say that his actions were likely instrumental in this antisemite being readmitted to the party.
Over the subsequent months, the ‘just beyond ludicrous’ became the screamingly obvious. Colour us shocked.
After peaking with her ‘just asking questions’ session at party conference Owen Jones finally took a stand.
Jones has offered no mea culpa, no analysis, no explanation of how he got it so wrong and why the people advocating something ‘outrageous’ were right. He couldn’t even call it antisemitism, merely ‘unacceptable’, a Corbyn favourite.
The seemingly firm ‘that is that’ seems to invite us to ask no more questions. But there are questions to ask. Was her suspension that he asked to be lifted truly ‘outrageous’? Or is it in fact now clear that it wasn’t? Was accusing her of antisemitism for her previous remarks ‘just beyond ludicrous’? Why was Owen unable to read plain English? Why was he willing to claim belief in a demonstrably false interpretation? And finally, how is Labour to ‘confront’ antisemitism if the moment a friend’s partner indulges in it, the very person demanding the confrontation spins a falsehood and then goes missing in action?
Toothless leadership, whitewash reports, and columnists who’d rather spin nonsense than confront a comrade all combine to ensure that efforts to deal with Labour’s antisemitism problem are going nowhere fast. Until Owen Jones demonstrates some honesty, self-reflection, and undertakes actions that go beyond referencing previously written articles as a form of arse-covering, he deserves harsh censure. If he wants antisemitism confronted he needs to do some of the dirty work himself.
24 thoughts on “Just Beyond Ludicrous”
Reblogged this on The ramblings of a former DWP Civil Servant ….
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Reblogged this on The Gerasites and commented:
Our own David Paxton on why the “efforts to deal with Labour’s antisemitism problem are going nowhere fast.”
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Old school scientists like Prof Lewandowsky (proper channels only)
vs news school Dr Jose Duartes
Problem is people tried old school channels to get Lewandowsky’s data and got smeared as bad faith, with motivations questioned for daring to ask for data/challenge, etc..
Bishop/Lewandowsky (channeling Fiske or vice versa)
BeautifulBurnout / CalamityJane123 / BuddhistBarrister @0Calamity – serious questions for a Crawley Labour Party Officer about holocaust denial, anti-semitism, pitchforks, truther conspiracies and Nazism
Great stuff, David. Owen Jones is just a slightly less cadaverous version of Seumas Milne.
On May 5 (screenshot above), Owen Jones wrote “agree with this statement from the Labour Representation Committee” and said the suspension of Jackie Walker “has no justification”.
In the fourth para of the LRC statement, the “chief financiers” quote was repeated with no criticism (see link).
In other words, the LRC (Chair John McDonnell) gave credibility to this anti Semitic lie.
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“Many Jews were the chief financiers..” and “Jews were the chief financiers” are actually different things, since the first, which she wrote, allows for the wicked gentiles also to be amongst the “chief financiers”, meaning that the “chief financiers” probably broke down into some gentiles and some Jews.*
Is it your aim to have Jewish involvement in anything remotely murky scrubbed fom the historical record ? It certainly seems so, as the outrage about Livingstone’s truthful comments reveal that even documented historical facts are unsayable these days if they imply that the Zionist movement, as for pretty well any other political movement, had recourse to deals with adversaries and realpolitik.
You must try to “take on board” the fact that history books exist and cannot be scrubbed by a phonecall to Google, that many of these books were written a long time ago and are the accepted record, and that also…shock…many are also written by Jews so obviously true where the gentile ones are obviously full of holes and insinuation.
Jackie Walker is Jewish too: are you denying this or will you have to do the whole “self-hater” routine as with any noisy dissident ?
Cheeky post but I’m actually interested in your replies.
*What does the scholarship actually say ? Are there, as Ms Walker no doubt fabricates, many synagogues in the Caribbean ? For plantation workers perhaps.
In “Corbyn ‘failed to address’ Israeli Labour’s fears of antisemitism” (News), the Labour party activist, Jackie Walker, is quoted as describing Jews as “chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade”. In the research we have conducted over the past 10 years into British colonial slave-ownership, there is no evidence whatsoever of a disproportionate Jewish presence among owners and mortgagees of enslaved people.
There were certainly Jewish merchants engaged in the business, but the owners and creditors spanned the spectrum of religious and cultural affiliation. The most prominent institutional and individual creditors in the period we have studied, such as the partners in the Smith, Payne & Smith bank, were Anglicans or non-conformist Protestants.
Catherine Hall, Nick Draper, Keith McClelland, Rachel Lang
Legacies of British Slave-ownership project
Department of History
University College London
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I linked to that in the piece
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So you did, sorry. Having followed the link, it seemed like a good rejoinder to that post.
Dear God, where to begin with the amount of bullshit in that post.
The idea that the Jews funded the slave trade was a spurious lie invented by an anti-semitic historian in the 19thC, and has been repeated down the years by every anti-semite since: vrery notably by Farrakhan more recently. It’s not just that it’s not true that’s offensive, but it’s that you fail to understand what anti-semitism is. Just as portraying all Muslims as potential suicide bombers in waiting, the idea of ‘the Jews’ ‘controlling’ – particularly via finances – something is a deeply, deeply anti-semitic. It was one of the planks of the campaign that Hitler used to persuade the German populace that there was a ‘menace within’ that ‘controlled’ their money and their opportunities.
Walker is, at best, a fucking idiot for repeating something so baseless. And I would like to also call her defense of her family Judaism here. Firstly, I understand that we’re talking ancestrallly that is her Judaism in her family. That’s, you know, most of us. Secondly, it’s not a defence, just as their anti-feminist woman and people of colour who support Trump. Membership isn’t a defence.
And then you come out with ‘Livingstone’s truthful commments’, by which time I’m almost laughing out loud, except that what you’re talking about it is disgusting and offensive and – yes! – anti-semitic. If you need me to explain why to you, then I kind of give up. See what I just wrote: again, it’s a lie, and it’s a dangerous one.
All of this bullshit is an attempt to normalise the use of ‘Zionist’ to attack Jews. It is quite possible and indeed desirable to separate the actions of the state of Israel from Judaism, just as I don’t expect anyone to hold me personally to account for Theresy fucking May.
I have been politically active on the Left my entire adult life, and I have quietly despaired ath the hypocrisy on show on this issue. But never did I imagine such an outpouring of idiotic bile of the kind I’ve witnessed. The hard Left has always been a cesspit of lunatics, cranks and the not-very-bright, and the older I get, the further away from it I want to get. It has no interest in actually wanting to better people’s lives or fight for change. It just wants to shout about its moral purity and point score against more moderate colleagues instead of finding common cause against greater enemies – you know, the ones who’ll be screwing the country up for the next decade. The irony is that, far from moral purity, the hard Left is a place of rank views and grim apologists, who will vote for a leader who cannot condemn what is happening in Syria, having appeared scores of times on the Russian state propganda channel, Russia Today.
Anyway, I digress. Jackie Walker said she hadn’t found a definition an anti-semitism that she could work with. The idea that that’s everyone else’s problem and not hers says everything you need to know.
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I posted the link yesterday, but I really do recommend Jonathan Sacks’s recent speech on the nature and causes of antisemitism.
I totally stand by my previous post, more so given the specious replies.
You repeat “chief financiers” when her words and meaning were different: “many were”.
The letter from the historians only argues that Jews were not over-represented (who said different?), and only treats the British trade, not the Dutch for example.
Then the “Livingstone was offensive and if you can’t see it then I despair !!”…..rubbish. In these arguments you have to explain why, shouting “he was!!” just doesn’t cut it.
Likewise the comment of Walker’s that she had no definition to work with. The very reason for holding a “workshop on anti-semitism” is to decide such things! Given you regard this as your speciality, and that these accusations fly and ruin careers (pretty well the only racism which does), then an accurate definition is key, and simply crying “it’s OBVIOUS!!!” will not do. Should we use one from, say, Melanie Phillips ? Half the country would then be anti-semites on the basis of not being sufficiently pro-Israel.
As for the Rabbi Sacks article…it is unbearable for its barely hidden declarations of superiority, zero introspection, and tarring anyone who disagrees as “losers in life” etc.
Don’t Jews have their fair share of good’uns and bad’uns ? Doesn’t their history also contain murky periods and practices ? Is the effort here to try to elevate Jews above the rest of us somehow ? Above criticism ? By extension Israel as the Jewish nation must also be beyond criticism ?
It certainly seems so.
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Your response to the Rabbi Sacks article is very telling. It was a piece full of humanity, thoughfulness and anguish. You saw ‘superiority’ and ‘zero introspection’. I’d suggest you come to such pieces with your own prejudices intact.
Ken Livingstone, for the record, repeated the totally false and highly inflammatory lie about Hitler supporting Zionism. His exact words: “Let’s remember, when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism – this before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews.” The conflation of Zionism = Hitler policy is extrarordinarily offensive and that a man like Livingstone is so comfortable repeating such a lie is truly breathtaking.
I love the idea that the Left is so unable to grasp what anti-semitism is that it wants to run its own workshop to find out – and people it with the very individuals who have used anti-semitic statements in the past. Perhaps we should get Hamas to do a workshop on it too? Or let’s ask ISIS to run a seminar on non-violent protest? The mind boggles.
Interestingly, in my original response to you, I never mentioned Israel. I am deeply troubled by the actions of its governement, I despair of the US providing arms and munitions to the country that end up suppressing the Palestinian people, and I strongly support a two-state solution. But I wasn’t talking about Israel. I was talking about anti-semitism. Bringing up Israel seems to be the last defence of those who have run out of genuine arguments to defend their position. That is because it’s indefensible.
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Ken’s plain intention (except to the many who wish to bring him down), was to explain that Nazi policy for a while coincided with Zionist aims, ie. to get as many Jews away to Israel. As far as I know some tens of thousands did so.
Again, your wish to make Zionism some sort of unblemished shining light is very telling. Any cursory reading of what was said by whom at the time is quite shocking. It was racist settler-colonialsm at its worst. Hey, those were the times right ?
So for me, Ken was clumsy with his words and should know better than to talk about WW2; obviously discussing European history is now a minefield isn’t it ? You and I can’t even do it, without my being taxed as an anti-semite. But of course.
That workshop was actually run, as far as I know, by the very people gunning for Jackie Walker’s head. Well they got it didn’t they? Jewish Labour Movement…take it up with them.
Yes, I mentioned Israel because this is what it’s about…Corbyn holds (I believe) a 2 state vision with justice for the Palestinians…what naivety…in this day and age ? Jeremy, really, what were you thinking ?
Anyway, rejoice, you and those like you have got rid of a black Jewish woman as vice-chair of Momentum….a trifecta !!
In any other situation that would have rightly caused a scandal.
Here, a group of British Jews in support of JL:
Why would I accept your words and opinions and not theirs ?
Liikewise here, though I realize you may quibble with the source, I refer you to the paragraphs on what happened in that meeting, who held it in the first place, and also about the famous definition.
Again, ignoring the source for a moment, in what way is this not credible ? Are these not the facts ?
‘Why would I accept their answer and not yours?’
I found Jackie’s words profoundly distasteful, they had a horrible ring to almost every set of Jewish ears that had the misfortune to hear them. We’ve heard them before, we know what they mean and where they come from. The sentiment she expressed this time, and previously, is from someone profoundly at odds with the vast vast majority of Jews. That’s a race of people FFS. That should worry any right-minded person. And *nothing* she said had anything to do with the Middle East.
Nibs, you sound like someone whose politics lie to the right of UKIP when they’re talking about Muslim sensitivities.
If 95% of black people were telling me that they found something offensive and I replied ‘No it isn’t.’ What kind of person would I be?
You don’t even have to listen to me, which is handy. From the evidence I saw on Twitter, a decent portion of young (non-Jewish) Momentum folk openly expressed disgust at what Walker said.
From what I gather, many of them thought that this antisemitism thing had just been ‘whipped up’ or ‘weaponised’ -as Walker so deftly put it – but when they listened to what she said, and the tone in which she spoke, it sounded so horribly discordant. Then I guess they looked at what she had previously said and realised this person has some kind of hang-up with Jews, a hang-up which extends to Holocaust inversion. Something Paxton accurately describes as a ‘reflexive’ impulse.
Any sensible anti-racist can sniff an impulse like that a mile off. Because it stinks of shit.
Thankfully many young Momentum people, the ones who aren’t entrenched in years of left-wing sectarianism, whose sensitivities towards a race of people extend beyond their political creed, agree with the vast majority of Jewish people.