Tony Greenstein | 30 April 2018 | Post Views:

Keeping it in the family – Jewdas
Rebellion Doesn’t Extend to Palestine or ‘Anti-semitism’

To Jonathan
Arkush of the Board of Deputies (or Bored of Deputies) Jewdas are a ‘source of virulent anti-Semitism’. Arkush
and his fellow Zionists cannot be considered politically as of sound mind if they really believe this.  Zionism does terrible things to otherwise
normal people.  It is nationalist mind
This one tweet demonstrates that Jewdas really don’t get it when it comes to the use of ‘anti-semitism’ as a weapon against the Left
Anyone who
falls over backwards to welcome Donald Trump to power, given his anti-Semitic
election campaign
and at the same time has the audacity to call other Jews ‘anti-Semitic’
is beyond redemption.  It is unfortunate
that Corbyn has treated Arkush as if he was bona
and genuinely concerned about anti-Semitism.  Corbyn has completely failed to understand where
this right-wing Tory is coming from. 
One thing
Arkush and the Board cannot be accused of is a sense of humour.  These narrow minded petty Jewish nationalists,
bigots and small-time businessmen don’t find the antics of Jewdas amusing in
the slightest. 
All they
can see is that Jewdas don’t sign up to 100% support of Israel and Zionism.  That is the only standard by which they
measure people.  Zionism uber alles. Hence they dismiss Jewdas as
just another group of ‘Jewish self haters’
– since to Arkush and company only fully fledged racists are mensches.  
Jewdas may be seen as outrageous by present day standards they are pretty tame
and conservative by the standards of Jews yesterday. They are middle class dilettantes.
For example
in the period before the first World War Jewish socialists and anarchists
invaded the Great Synagogue in protest at the refusal of the Chief Rabbi to
support Jewish workers’ strikes and the unemployed. 
Fishman describes how on the 26th January 1894 some 500-600
unemployed entered the Great Synagogue seeking an audience with ‘the long suffering Chief Rabbi’.  They were forced to disperse by police armed
with truncheons.  ‘The Evening News, among other dailies waxed indignant at the antics
of this  ‘mob of foreigners’ in creating a riot.’  ‘It is
a natural result of our previous humane treatment of the Jewish immigrant… It
is bad enough to have these people coming over to undersell our workers…’
Now where
did we hear that one?  Oh yes, the Tory
press has always concerned about the wages of British workers being undercut by
foreigners.  The same Tory press that
hates trade unions that strike for higher wages!
In 1904 Jewish
anarchists ‘marched in column to the
Spitafields Great Synagogue in Brick Lane, smoking or brandishing ham sandwiches,
as a gesture of defiance and rejection of their creed.’ 
It provoked a full scale riot! 
Also mentioned is how the socialists (Bundists) ‘pelted a Synagogue which stands adjacent to their club and that they
had arranged a concert for the day of fasting… invitations which they had
sent to the principal Rabbis!
’ (pp. 259-260, East End Jewish Radicals
1875-1914, William Fishman).
Note how Jewish
anarchists and socialists expressed their hatred of the Jewish bourgeoisie led
by Chief Rabbi Hermann Adler, by openly brandishing their rejection of the
rituals of the Jewish religion. Yom Kippur is a day of fasting and mourning and
they had arranged a concert!  They marched
eating ham sandwiches and smoking (also strictly forbidden).
that with Jewdas whose act of
rebellion was to hold an ‘alternative’ Seder at which Corbyn brought the horseradish
for the bitter herbs.  I have to confess
when I was young those of us who rejected the Orthodox did much the same as the
anarchists and defied not aped the rabbinical traditions.  These middle class rebels of Jewdas are indeed
tame boys and girls in comparison!
I’m not
condemning them they are in their milieu Jewish pranksters with an irreverence
that is itself a Jewish tradition.   I
myself had a fleeting relationship with Jewdas some years ago in so far as I
penned a few articles for their website (which seem to have  disappeared).
I confess
to having a sneaking admiration for some of Jewdas’s activities, their anti-racism
and Birthwrong but they are middle class rebels
on a day trip to the Left. They are defying their parents during the day only
to return home in the evening.  It is all
a rebellion with the Jewish family. 
never once bothers to put this ‘anti-Semitism’ nonsense in the context of  how Zionism uses it as a political weapon
against their adversaries (including themselves) nor relating this to the privileged
existence of British Jews.  Nor do they
ask how it is that Arkush and co. can be so worked up about the ‘anti-Semitism’
of anti-Zionists and the Left and so remarkably unconcerned about the real Jew hatred
of Israel’s friends like Hungary’s Viktor Orban, or the Polish Law &
Justice Party to say nothing of the anti-Semitic attacks against George Soros
as the archetypal Jewish financier.
privileged nature of British Jewry, which is concentrated in the middle class
suburbs of London is taken for granted. 
Not once is the class position of British Jewry today related to this
concern over ‘anti-Semitism’ and what the latter might actually mean.  Anti-Semitism is a signifier for other things
yet there is a poverty of ideas in Jewdas.
The reality
is, despite the schmaltzy looking back to the days of Jewish radicalism which
they and other Jewish groups engage in, there is no going back.  The large Jewish working class of the East
End, in which a multiplicity of radical, socialist and anarchist groups
thrived, where there were unemployed groups, 30 Jewish trade unions, anti-fascists,
rent strikes and communists cannot now be recreated. The Jewish working class has
died and with it the tradition of Jewish radicalism.  All that is left are faint echoes of which
Jewdas, is a remnant. 
In days of
old Poale Zion was a fragment that mainly existed amongst middle class Jewry.  Its successor calls itself the Jewish Labour
Movement at a time when there is no Jewish labour movement.  They consist either of right-wing non-Jews in
Progress or anti-socialist Jews who have decided that the Labour Party is too
important to leave it to the supporters of Palestine. When there was a Jewish labour
movement it was decidedly anti-Zionist. 
Todays JLM is a living insult to the memory and traditions of the Jewish
working class. When the JLM voted by 92-4% for Owen Smith against Jeremy Corbyn
in 2016 I wondered how it was that Corbyn had gained 4%.
Idiot Labour MP Angela Smith can’t even spell the word Seder
Like most
people I enjoyed the discomfiture of the Board of Deputies over the Jewdas Passover
(Seder) meal with Jeremy Corbyn in attendance. 
The frothing at the mouth reaction of firstly Guido Fawkes, the Tory
Blogger and then Arkush was an added treat, to say nothing of idiot MP Angela
Smith who condemned Jeremy Corbyn for attending a ‘Seber’!
Jewdas are
not even the equivalent of IfNotNow, a
radical  Jewish group in the USA. IfNotNow it
was whose picket of the Zionist Organisation of America in 2016 persuaded Steve
Bannon, Trump’s fascist friend to stay away. 
IFNotNow has undertaken a
whole series of pickets and events aimed at targeting American Jewish politicians’
support for Israel over Gaza.  Seven were
invading Senator Charles Schumer’s office and 9 were arrested
obstructing the entrance to Senator Dianne Feinstein’s office. Jewdas has done
nothing comparable at all.
That was
why I was outraged when on Twitter Geoffrey Cohen @geoffreyJewdas extended ‘solidarity and respect to @lucianaberger
@ruthsmeeth and @johnmannMP who shared their personal experiences of anti-Semitism
in the House of Commons today.  It’s not
easy and they must not be dismissed.’
This was in
reaction to a tweet from Luciana Berger praising her own ‘bravery’.  This debate, staged by the Tories in order to
enable the Labour Right to attack Corbyn and the Labour leadership was a
reactionary racist pageant.  We had the
obscene spectacle of Tories applauding Labour traitors and ‘anti-Semitism’ was
the means by which these racists did it. 
Those who had deported and removed citizenship from the Windrush
children were now overcome with tears at the ‘anti-Semitism’ that Smeeth and
Berger had experienced. 
This debate and the nauseating speeches of Luciana Berger,
Ruth Smeeth and John Mann led directly to the expulsion of Black anti-racist
activist Mark Wadsworth.
I messaged
Geoff twice but he was too arrogant to respond, hence this post.  Jewdas clearly have no sense or understanding
of how ‘anti-Semitism’ has been used, not least against Jews like myself and
Jackie Walker.  Indeed Jewdas have
attacked Jackie Walker, a Black-Jewish socialist in terms not dissimilar to the
vile racist abuse she has suffered at the hands of the JLM and their
supporters.   They have also attacked Ken
Livingstone for speaking the truth to power.
Smeeth and
Berger are despicable racists. The emails they have received have largely been abusive
not anti-Semitic.  This has been a consequence
of their own support for Israel’s murderous behaviour.  I am more concerned about the 40+ deaths of
unarmed Palestinians in the West Bank or the incarceration for 8 months of a 16
year old girl Ahed Tamimi than Smeeth being told she is a racist scumbag.
Judging by
the 10 messages Smeeth read out only one was explicitly anti-Semitic.  Whilst I don’t condone the use of anti-Semitic
language, the real crime is her support for Israel’s apartheid policies not the
abuse she has received. Smeeth was a paid worker with BICOM, the Israeli propaganda
group.  She is a Zionist shill not a
victim of anti-Semitism.
comments fit squarely with Jewish privilege and exceptionalism.  What matters is not Palestinians under the
heel of a state which calls itself ‘Jewish’ and which the British Jewish leadership
helps to support but ‘anti-Semitism’.   Pass the sick bag Alice.
As for
praising John Mann (who is not Jewish) that must obviously be one of those
parodies for which Jewdas is justly famous. 
Mann is perhaps the most odious of all Labour’s MPs and he has stiff
competition.  I copy below the
experiences of Amira Hass at Angela Smith’s ‘seber’.
organizers define themselves as anti-Zionist Jews, or non-Zionist, or just
Jews; most of them didn’t know that Corbyn was invited and when he came he
didn’t act like the leader nor they like the led

(Hackney, London)
Apr 06, 2018
9:33 AM
The Labour
Party’s Jeremy Corbyn attending an alternative Passover seder held by the
radical Jewish group Jewdas in Hackney, London. Guido Fawkes
LONDON – On Tuesday morning, at 7:30
A.M. Gaza time or 5:30 A.M. in London, I awoke to a headline on the popular
Israeli news site Ynet: “Britain: Corbyn attends event of group that called for
Israel’s destruction.” Given that I had left that very event seven and a half
hours earlier, I can say wholeheartedly that the headline should have read:
“Corbyn brings the bitter herbs to alternative seder in London.”
Jeremy Corbyn grows horseradish in his garden
allotment. Slivers of the pungent root he brought were added to the maror, the
bitter herbs, waiting in white plastic cups on round tables in the hall below
St. Peter’s Church de Beauvoir, Hackney. These bitter herbs, a glass of whiskey
before (begging pardon from my Muslim friends and Jewish friends who keep
kosher) and songs in my father’s tongue, Yiddish, destroyed the flu germs that
had ruined part of my vacation.
I lost the
chance to publish the breaking news about the Labour leader’s healing
horseradish because the organizers of the event explicitly asked the 100
participants not to tweet, report in real time on social media, or take photos.
Last Monday’s was a private event, and nobody wanted paparazzi to pop up. Even
so, somebody was evidently taking photos surreptitiously. Since the photos
reached a right-wing British blogger, of all people, who immediately uploaded
them to the internet with his distorted interpretation, one would assume that
the unknown photographer was a mole planted in advance with a contrarian
agenda. In the coming hours, the inaccurate, selective information that the
blogger disseminated drove headlines hostile to Corbyn, in social and formal
media, occupying more cyberspace than had been devoted to the slaughter of
Palestinians in Gaza a few days earlier.
The blog
claimed that Corbyn had contributed beet roots to the seder; a simple
journalistic inquiry would have shown the roots’ color to be very different.
The blogger also said he had a recording of people present at the meal booing
when the names of two leaders on the Board of Deputies of British Jews were
mentioned (or, as the seder participants put it, “Bored of Deputies”). It is
true that there were catcalls, but it’s only partially true. There was much
longer booing when Ken Livingstone’s name came up – a former mayor of London
and Labourite who had been suspended from the party after saying that Hitler
supported Zionism.
The people
behind the catcalls and the organizers of the seder define themselves as
anti-Zionist Jews, or non-Zionist, or just Jews. They belong to the Jewdas
Group – Radical Voices for an Alternative Diaspora, founded in 2005 by young
people seeking to reflect socialist-minded Judaism in independent ways, and
seeing the Bund as a model.
They seek to
free themselves of the identification of Jews with Israel, without conceding
their right to criticize Israel’s policy against the Palestinians. They spell
the organization’s name Jewdas to remove any doubt that they are Jews, but it’s
pronounced like Judas, the ultimate symbol of betrayal in Christian tradition.
That symbol nourished 2,000 years of Christian anti-Semitism.
The choice
of a name that sounds like the most hated symbol in the eyes of the group’s
non-Jewish environment suffices to grasp Jewdas’ nature – provocative,
delighting in tongue-in-cheek statements and in needling history and mythology
and religion. Its members, atheist and observant and all that’s in between,
hang around in radical leftist and pro-Palestinian circles and flaunt their Judaism
proudly, including by wearing yarmulkes and Stars of David.
In 2014,
Jewdas published a guide for how to criticize Israel while also being aware
that anti-Semitism exists and avoiding the trap of anti-Semitic stereotypes and
prejudices. In September 2016, it published a Facebook post urging that
Livingstone be sent into space “for his own good and everybody else’s, because
he won’t shut up, so we are sending him to space where nobody will hear him.”
This was interpreted by non-Jews as a call to oust him from the party.
members participate in demonstrations against the extreme right and neo-Nazis,
Islamophobia and economic austerity. They party a lot, because being Jewish is
fun, and have taken trips to former centers of Diaspora Jewry like Andalusia
and Marseilles in what they call “Birthwrong” – as a counter to the Zionist “Birthright” trips to Israel.
Most of the
people at the alternative seder were young; many belonged to the LGBT
community. Some wouldn’t be considered Jews under traditional Jewish law. Two –
a man and a woman – are studying for the rabbinate. Some work as cantors
despite not having been formally trained. One couple, who looked Indian, saw
the gathering as they walked by and were invited to join, since the Haggadah
says, “Let all who are hungry come and eat.”
The seder
included a prayer for the release of prisoners and the return of refugees.
Participants sang a Yiddish hymn whose author, Shmerke Kaczerginski, dedicated
it to the young fighters of the Vilna Ghetto; one elderly participant reminded
all that the Warsaw Ghetto revolt began on Pesach eve. The Jewdas Haggadah also
included Bella Ciao, an Italian partisan song in Yiddish translation. Also
included was Rachel Bloom’s poem “remember that we suffered,” and its immortal
words: “have we mentioned hitler?” In addition, they sang “The Internationale”
in English and Hebrew. Corbyn joined in, or at least lip-synched.
They enacted
a neoliberal dialogue in English between Pharaoh and his CEO over how to increase
Egypt’s profits. The answer: Stop paying the workers. Corbyn laughed with
everybody else. Each table was asked to propose ways of fighting Pharaoh. One
table parodied a purist, isolationist left. Corbyn laughed in open delight.
Others said humor alone wouldn’t topple capitalism; the slaves had to form a union that would declare a general strike
in Egypt.
There were
good jokes and bad ones, including what seemed (at least to older participants)
like excessive and infantile use of the word “fuck.” The price was five British
pounds per person, not including wine, grape juice or matzah, which everyone was
supposed to bring for themselves. The church was paid 230 pounds for use of its
hall. One member worked for three days to prepare vegan food for everyone,
using Persian recipes she learned at home.
participants, including several organizers, didn’t know that one member of the
group had invited Corbyn; they were surprised when he arrived with his wife
Laura. He didn’t act like the leader and they didn’t act like the led.
Corbyn said
the blessing over Elijah’s Cup, as written in the Jewdas Haggadah: “Legend has
it that the prophet Elijah will come at some point to announce the coming of
the messiah. We fill up the cup and open the door just in case Eli is
outside waiting. As radical Jews, we understand ‘the Messiah’ as ‘the
messianic age’ or ‘redemption’ or ‘revolution.’ So let’s fill this
cup with the hope that socialism and revolution will be upon us soon.”
The seder
table also had a Miriam’s Cup, “to remind ourselves of the women whose stories
are often hidden from the seder, and everyone who is oppressed in a patriarchal
society.” And there was a Geoffrey’s Cup – named for the group’s imaginary
spokesman “Geoffrey Cohen” – “as a symbol of our struggle with the Jewish
Last year’s Haggadah included a “prayer against the state of
by “Geoffrey,” which urged, “Please god smash the state of Israel.
Smash it in the abundance of your love and judge it.”
Jewdas members believe
this is what led the blogger to assert that it called for Israel’s destruction,
and thus to suggest that Corbyn’s participation in the seder was evidence of
either anti-Semitism or blindness to it.
According to
the British media, however, the blogger based himself on a December 2017 tweet
which said, “Israel is a steaming pile of sewage which needs to be properly
disposed of.” Of this quote, one Jewdas member said, “That was surely some
nonsense that somebody tweeted in anger.”
morning, Corbyn’s participation in this non-Zionist Jewish
seder was indeed depicted as further evidence of his insensitivity to anti-Semitism.
As evidence it was mentioned that this dissident Jewish group even dared to
claim that the recent organized protest against anti-Semitism in Labour stemmed
less from a desire to fight anti-Semitism than from a desire to oust Labour’s
elected leader because he’s a socialist and supports Palestinian rights.
But later in
the day, the tone changed, as people stopped relying on the blogger and instead
investigated the details for themselves and studied Jewdas’ history. The
organization received additional donations, and one person wrote on its
Facebook page, “I had never heard of Jewdas before Monday but now  I think
I’ve found my people.”

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Tony Greenstein

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