Anti- Semitism plagues UK Labour

There are two sources of anti- Semitism in a party, which in its 112 years of ex­is­tence, has been the cham­pion of mi­nori­ties and the enemy of race prej­u­dice. There have been lapses — the party, un­der PM Jim Cal­laghan, wasn’t par­tic­u­larly fair to Kenyan As

The Asian Age - - Oped - From Hey Bhag­wan, What About Hin­dus­tan? By Bach­choo

“The flood of truth

Breaks through the dam of lies But truth doesn’t come in floods It comes in drops, in tears, in sighs The dams rise up and ir­ri­gate All hu­man dis­course

It’s too late..

My brothers, sis­ters it’s too late...”

Idon’t think sub- con­ti­nen­tals un­der­stand anti- Semitism. Ev­ery other form of dis­crim­i­na­tion, from caste, class and colour, is known to us and rife. Jews are not nu­mer­ous enough to be against.

Last week, sev­eral Jewish or­gan­i­sa­tions and non- Jewish com­men­ta­tors ac­cused Bri­tain’s Labour Party of be­ing se­ri­ously, even fa­tally, anti- Semitic.

The Jewish news­pa­pers and Jewish Labour Move­ment mem­bers protested against what they said was a trend and tol­er­ance within the party. They high­lighted the role and stance of Labour leader Jeremy Cor­byn. The na­tional me­dia, which took up the is­sue, pointed to Mr Cor­byn’s sup­port for anti- Jewish or­gan­i­sa­tions such as Ha­mas and Hezbol­lah through­out his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer. Mr Cor­byn can’t back­track from his pub­licly pro­claimed sup­port for these or­gan­i­sa­tions but his de­fence for sup­port­ing them and, in the past, call­ing them “my friends”, is the stan­dard Left­ist protest that his state­ments and sup­port were anti- Zion­ist and anti- Is­raeli poli­cies to­wards the Pales­tini­ans, but not anti- Jewish.

The im­me­di­ate is­sue which the Jewish or­gan­i­sa­tions and com­men­ta­tors seized upon was not so im­me­di­ate. In 2012, a mu­ral in the East End de­picted six sup­posed bankers or cap­i­tal­ists play­ing mo­nop­oly on a board which was placed on the backs of pros­trate brown work­ers bent for­ward with their hands on their knees, bear­ing the bur­den of the board and the op­pres­sor’s game. The mu­ral has a very Bangladeshi- look­ing woman’s ag­o­nised face and a brown­ish fig­ure with a raised rev­o­lu­tion­ary fist. The back­ground con­tains cog­wheels pre­sum­ably to sym­bol­ise in­ter­na­tional cap­i­tal’s dark sa­tanic mills.

At that time, Jeremy Cor­byn had ex­pressed his ap­proval of the mu­ral as a work of ag­it­prop art. Jewish com­men­ta­tors have now de­nounced the mu­ral and Mr Cor­byn’s ap­prov­ing re­marks about it as anti- Semitic, claim­ing the fea­tures of the bankers or cap­i­tal­ists in the paint­ing are clearly in­tended to por­tray Jews. Mr Cor­byn, prob­a­bly act­ing on ad­vice, has apol­o­gised for his ear­lier ap­proval of the mu­ral and says he hadn’t looked at it care­fully enough.

I’ve been look­ing at pictures of the mu­ral now and though I don’t think I can dis­tin­guish any specif­i­cally Jewish fea­tures ( a cou­ple of the gen­tle­men with big noses could eas­ily be Parsi), the Amer­i­can artist who painted it, Mear One, ac­knowl­edges that the fig­ures are “Jewish and An­glo”. I must brush up on my ethno- recog­ni­tion skills.

Mear One, prob­a­bly not the name given to him at birth ( but one never knows with Amer­i­can and Ben­gali par­ents), picked on Han­bury Street in Brick Lane which is a spe­cific ma­jor­ity Bangladeshi Mus­lim area.

The East End of London, in which it is sit­u­ated, has a few decades of pol­i­tics into which Is­lamic iden­tity and fun­da­men­tal­ist ide­ol­ogy and at­ti­tudes have been dragged. This bor­ough of Tower Ham­lets has more mosques per square mile than Mecca. It has had ma­jor­ity Bangladeshi mu­nic­i­pal coun­cilors, re­flect­ing the com­po­si­tion of the elec­torate. The rebel politi­cian Ge­orge Gal­loway who was ex­pelled from the Labour Party when Tony Blair was Prime Min­is­ter, stood as its par­lia­men­tary can­di­date and won against Labour can­di­date Oona King. The cam­paign wasn’t clean. Gal­loway stood vir­tu­ally on the con­tention that he sup­ported Sad­dam Hus­sein’s regime in Iraq and op­posed the Blair- Bush war. Fair enough, but there were cer­tainly un­der­tones of an­ti­Semitism in the cam­paign against Ms King, who is Jewish by birth.

Mr Cor­byn’s ten­ta­tive 2012 ap­proval of the mu­ral has been the pivot of the lat­est protests against Labour’s al­leged anti- Semitism un­der his lead­er­ship. The pro­test­ers quote other in­ci­dents and this on­slaught has prompted Mr Cor­byn and the lead­er­ship of the Labour Party to de­nounce anti- Semitism and dis­tance them­selves from any of it in very strong terms. Mr Cor­byn has now pub­licly ac­knowl­edged that there are “pock­ets of anti- Semitism” in the Labour Party and they would be dili­gently rooted out.

There are two sources of anti- Semitism in a party, which in its 112 years of ex­is­tence, has been the cham­pion of mi­nori­ties and the enemy of race prej­u­dice. There have been lapses — the party, un­der PM Jim Cal­laghan, wasn’t par­tic­u­larly fair to Kenyan Asians with Bri­tish pass­ports who fled per­se­cu­tion in Africa. Nev­er­the­less, the party’s con­stant con­cern for the plight of Pales­tini­ans has emerged in “pock­ets” of the party as anti- Zion­ism and as an­tiIs­rael. The left fac­tions of the party have been vo­cif­er­ous in their de­nun­ci­a­tion of Is­raeli pol­icy and this has been very of­ten in­ter­preted as cross­ing the line, how­ever thick it is, into an­tiJewish­ness. The sec­ond fac­tor is that the Labour Party has elec­torally cap­tured the in­ner city con­stituen­cies of Eng­land with a de­ci­sive pop­u­la­tion of Mus­lim im­mi­grant com­mu­ni­ties. All of these com­mu­ni­ties are now three gen­er­a­tions old but their al­le­giances are demon­stra­bly in­flu­enced by Saudi money and preach­ers in­fil­trat­ing their mosques and in­sti­tu­tions, by dif­fer­ing de­grees of sym­pa­thy for Is­lamist aims if not ter­ror­ism and by bla­tant anti- Jewish sen­ti­ments.

The Labour Party has 12 Mus­lim MPs in Par­lia­ment. Two of them have been dis­ci­plined for anti- Semitic re­marks and it is very likely that Jeremy Cor­byn in­cluded these com­mu­ni­ties but ob­vi­ously not the MPs they’ve elected, in his cal­cu­la­tion of “pock­ets of anti- Semitism”.

I be­gan the col­umn, gen­tle reader, by not­ing that in my ex­pe­ri­ence there was no an­ti­Semitism in In­dia. Come to think of it, in my child­hood in Pune, there was a red brick syn­a­gogue at the end of our street in Pune Can­ton­ment which we na­tives called Lal De­val. It was the tem­ple for the fair- skinned Bagh­dadi Jews of the town. I was, as a teenager, aware that the brown- skinned Bene- Is­raeli Jews had their own syn­a­gogue in Pune City. Within Pune’s Ju­daism a tacit apartheid pre­vailed.

I later heard that sev­eral of the brown Jews from our city had at­tempted to em­i­grate to Is­rael, ex­pe­ri­enced racist treat­ment and re­turned to hos­pitable Pune.

‘ Ev­ery­one knows that the cam­era adds pounds.’

Far­rukh Dhondy

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