Tony Greenstein | 03 May 2020 | Post Views:

Open Letter from Jackie Walker and Tony Greenstein to Diane Abbot and Bell Ribeiro-Addy – Don’t Retreat or Apologise to Israel’s racist supporters – follow the examples of Paul Robeson and Angela Davies

The New McCarthyism – the Zionist Board of Deputies ‘Expects’ Starmer to Suspend 2 Black MPs for having spoken in a meeting with 2 Black and Jewish anti-racists!

You really could not make it up! The Board of Deputies which has support of Israel hardwired into its constitution, demanded that Keir Starmer suspend 2 Black female MPs for the crime of having spoke in a meeting at which 2 Jewish anti-Zionists, Jackie Walker and Tony Greenstein, spoke.

Both Jackie and I were were expelled as a result of Israel’s fake anti-Semitism campaign. However neither Jackie nor myself were expelled for anti-Semitism, contrary to the lies of the Jewish ChronicleDaily Mail and the New Statesman.

Last Wednesday I tuned into the meeting of Don’t Leave, Organise. The meeting started at 7 p.m. and I came in about 20 minutes late as I’d been out for my daily walk. Little did I realise that I was about to be at the centre of another manufactured storm about ‘anti-Semitism’.

Think about it. Even if Jackie and I were confirmed anti-Semites how are Diane Abbot and Bell Reibeiro responsible for the fact that we spoke from the audience after they had finished speaking? And what is this to do with anti-Semitism?

But of course we are not anti-Semites. Both of us, unlike the Board of Deputies, have fought our whole lives against racism and fascism, anti-Semitism included.

The Board of Deputies, which has never fought the anti-Semitism of the Fascist Right, told Jews to stay indoors and not confront Sir Oswald Moseley’s British Union of Fascists in the 1930’s. These petty bourgeois nobodies feared for their place in the Establishment pecking order if they could not control the Jewish working class. But that was a time when there was a strong Jewish working class.

This is the same Board of Deputies which gave unstinting support to Israeli army’s snipers as they picked off children, teenagers, medics and other unarmed demonstrators who got too near the Gaza fence.

It is also the same Board of Deputies whose President, Jonathan Arkush, gave a warm and effusive welcome to Donald Trump when he became President of the United States. The most anti-Semitic (and pro-Zionist) President there has ever been.

As Audrey Gillan wrote,

‘Mosley planned to send columns of thousands of goose-stepping men throughout the impoverished East End dressed in uniforms that mimicked those of Hitler’s Nazis. His target was the large Jewish community.

The Jewish Board of Deputies advised Jews to stay away. The Jewish Chronicle warned: “Jews are urgently warned to keep away from the route of the Blackshirt march and from their meetings.

Blair minus the personality

The Board of Deputies did the same in the 1970’s when the fight against the National Front was at its height. Instead of attacking the NF it attacked the Anti-Nazi League set up to fight the NF.  As the late Maurice Ludmer, Editor of the Anti-fascist Magazine Searchlight wrote:

“In the face of mounting attacks against the Jewish community both ideologically and physically, we have the amazing sight of the Jewish Board of Deputies launching an attack on the Anti Nazi League with all the fervour of Kamikaze pilots… It was as though they were watching a time capsule rerun of the 1930’s, in the form of a flickering old movie, with a grim determination to repeat every mistake of that era. ” (Issue 41, November 1978)

The then Secretary of the ANL, Paul Holborrow wrote: ‘We were constantly under attack from the Jewish Board of Deputies’.

So of one thing you can be certain. If indeed Jackie and I were anti-Semites the Board of Deputies wouldn’t be in the slightest bit interested in us. Indeed if we were racist supporters of the Israeli state like Katie Hopkins we would be given special invitation to the Zionist annual dinner and be introduced to the Israeli Ambassador, war criminal Mark Regev.

The Board’s objection is solely to do with their undying devotion to Israel, a state whose army is busy demolishing isolation tents and clinics for Palestinians suffering from COVID-19 in the West Bank. Bt’selem, described how on Thursday, 26 March at around 7:30 am,

‘officials from Israel’s Civil Administration in the West Bank arrived with a military jeep escort, a bulldozer and two flatbed trucks with cranes at the Palestinian community of Khirbet Ibziq in the northern Jordan Valley.

They confiscated poles and sheeting that were meant to form eight tents, two for a field clinic, and four for emergency housing for residents evacuated from their homes, and two as makeshift mosques.

The force also confiscated a tin shack in place for more than two years, as well as a power generator and sacks of sand and cement. Four pallets of cinder blocks intended for the tent floors were taken away and four others demolished.’

Israel is a state that the Labour Party says it is ‘anti-Semitic’ to call racist, because of the. Israel is apparently the personification of a Jew and an attack on Israel is an attack on Jews. By that twisted ‘logic’ Jews must therefore responsible for the actions of the ‘Jewish’ state.

What has Diane Abbot and Bell Ribeiro-Addy speaking with Jackie and myself got to do with Karen Pollock’s Zionist Holocaust Trust?

The attack by the Board of Deputies on Diane Abbot and Bell Ribeiro-Addy is nothing if not an act of pure undiluted racism. In pursuit of their McCarthyist agenda, the Board is going for the few Black Labour MPs that there are.  And why?  To support the world’s only apartheid state.

Diane Abbot and Bell Ribeiro-Addy should take a lesson from Paul Robeson and not give way so easily

We are not however uncritical of Abbot and Ribeiro-Addy. They had a responsibility to stand up to this attack, not only on them but on those, Jewish people included, who were expelled for standing up for the Palestinians and opposing Zionism. The statement that they issued was disappointing, to put it mildly. Instead of coming out fighting they chose to surrender:

“The MPs were not aware that any suspended or expelled former members of the Labour Party might contribute as audience members.”

They did not and would not share a platform with them.”

Both MPs are long-standing anti-racist campaigners and are known for standing up to all forms of bigotry.”

Jackie Walker and myself have issued an Open Letter to both MPs. In it we talk of the pressure on Paul Robeson, one of the great heroes of the Black struggle. A committed Communist when Robeson refused to testify that he was not a communist, during an application for a passport, he was hauled before McCarthy’s House of UnAmerican Activities.

During the hearing Robeson refused to testify. When asked if he was a member of the Communist  Party he responded: ‘Would you like to come to the ballot box when I vote and take out the ballot and see?’

When Angela Davies, another Black American hero, was given the Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award in February 2019 by the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, the Alabama version of the Board of Deputies protested.  Because Angela Davies supported the Palestinians and opposed Zionism she was accused of ‘anti-Semitism’. Even worse she supported BDS, the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel.

The difference between Angela Davies and Diane Abbot/ Bell Ribeiro-Addy was that Angela didn’t back down.  On the contrary Angela Davies and her supporters went on the offensive.  Such was the outrage over the Museum’s decision that its Directors resigned and a new Board reinstated the award and apologised for their racism.

CNN reported that:

‘One Jewish outlet, Southern Jewish Life, posted a story about the upcoming award in December, saying, “For some in the community, there might be some indigestion at the dinner over this year’s honoree.”

“Something not included in the Institute’s publicity for the event is that Davis has also been an outspoken voice in the boycott Israel movement, and advocates extensively on college campuses for the isolation of the Jewish state, saying Israel engages in ethnic cleansing and is connected to police violence against African-Americans in the United States,”

Paul Robeson during the HUAC hearings

In other words their objection was to the fact that Angela Davies insited on telling the truth. However, because of the refusal of Angela Davies and her supporters to submit to the Zionist blackmail, it was the Zionists who had a severe bout of indigestion. They ended up pleading that they hadn’t really wanted to stop Angela getting an awared. It’s just that they felt ‘offended’ like our British Zionists at the idea that a Black anti-Zionist might not pay tribute to their shitty little Jim Crow state.

There is a lesson here. If you are sincerely committed to anti-racism you can’t give ground to the supporters of Israel when they cry ‘anti-Semitism’. The reaction of the Labour Party to the Zionist protests was deeply racist and offensive.  Starmer’s spokesperson said that:

“The previous comments made by some of the individuals on this call are completely unacceptable.”

These are not people who support the values of the Labour Party.”This is being made clear to the Labour MPs who attended the call in the strongest possible terms and they are being reminded of their responsibilities and obligations.”

What this affair has shown is that the Board of Deputies use of ‘anti-Semitism’ has to be fought and resisted.  The Board has only one concern, the defence of Israel.  If that means attacking Jewish people like Jackie and myself then it is more than prepared to do so.

People should be aware that when it comes to associating with anti-Semites there are some that the Board has no such scruples.  Not only does it contain outright supporters of Tommy Robinson amongst its Deputies, like Robert Festenstein, who appeared in a Rebel Media video with him but its own President and Vice President, Jonathan Arkush and Marie van der Zyl spoke at a meeting with members of the Jewish Defence League in the audience sporting JDL shirts. 

JDL is a Jewish neo-Nazi organisation banned as a terrorist group in the United States. Its forerunner Kach, led by Rabbi Meir Kahane, was even banned in Israel.  But the Board of Deputies is more than happy to associate with Roberta Moore of the JDL, which was the Jewish section of the English Defence League.

And not only the Board of Deputies.  Keir Starmer is reported by Canary to have started to cosy up to the Hindu Nationalist government of India led by Narendra Modi of the far-Right BJP. Starmer has backed off supporting an independent Kashmir which was Labour policy. Modi is an admirer of Israel and wants to make India into a second Israel. He wants to abandon a secular India for an Hindu India. There have been pogroms against Muslims in Delhi recently as a result of nakedly racist legislation that excludes Muslims from applying for refugee status in India. Modi, as Chief Minister of Gujarat presided over the death of over 2,000 people in anti-Muslim pogroms.

These are Starmer’s new friends. Diane Abbot and Bell Ribeiro-Addy should withdraw their apology and stand up to the New McCarthyism that is taking hold in Britain today. 

Instead of accusing people of being Communists as the McCarthyite used to do, the accusation now is of ‘Anti-Semitism’. It is time for anti-racists, socialists and those who consider themselves democrats to stand up confront this wave of hysteria.

Tony Greenstein

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Open Letter to Diane Abbot MP and Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP

We Must Stand Up to the New McCarthyism

Dear Diane and Bell,

First we send solidarity to you. We are black and Jewish. Like you we are anti-racist and anti-fascist activists of long standing and have first-hand experience of the effect and purpose of attempts to publicly shame. We know this campaign of monitoring your words and deeds will not cease.  

We were among the audience of over 600 at the ‘Don’t Leave, Organise’ meeting held last Wednesday at which both of you spoke from the panel. As people who had been mentioned, and smeared, by the leaked Labour report, we both made short contributions, as was our right and our responsibility as Left anti-racist activists who have been unfairly expelled.

As a result the Board of Deputies of British Jews, a small pressure group representing the most right-wing 30% of British Jewry, which has support for the Israeli state enshrined in its constitution, called on Keir Starmer to suspend you both.

The recently leaked Labour Party report makes clear, the Corbyn Project was in part destroyed by false and malicious accusations of anti-Semitism made against socialists in the Labour Party. If it were not for the Orwellian atmosphere surrounding the question of ‘anti-Semitism’ in the Labour Party and the wholesale attack on freedom of speech, then the fact that the Board had objected to two Jews speaking at a meeting on grounds of anti-Semitism would have been held up to justifiable ridicule.

The Board’s current demands are a continuation of their campaign to politically castrate the Left. Their aim as ever is not to promote anti-racism but to prevent criticism of Israel and Zionism. It has nothing whatsoever to do with opposing anti-Semitism.

The response by the Labour leadership does have a precedent. In 1939 Aneurin Bevan and Stafford Cripps were expelled from the Labour Party. Their crime? To support the Popular Front against fascism alongside the Communist Party and to have spoken on the same platform as communists. The Labour Party at that time opposed all anti-fascist activity for example, the Battle of Cable Street in 1936.

Let us be blunt.  Today’s ‘anti-Semitism’ is the new Communism, and protecting Zionism is the premise for the new McCarthyism. That is the context in which the Board’s actions should be judged.

There are many lessons from history for activists too. When Black communist Paul Robeson was summoned, in June 1956, by the House Committee on Un-American Activities he refused, despite enormous pressure and intimidation, to testify. His passport was confiscated, he was sentenced to one year’s imprisonment and his career all but destroyed. Nonetheless he stood firm on his principles. His struggles against injustice fed the movement which he saw himself as part of.

We understand the pressures that you are under but we also know that with the privileges of power and leadership comes responsibility to those you seek to represent. That is why we are disappointed that you did not feel able to withstand those who called upon you to dissociate yourself from those who were erroneously expelled for being anti-racists and Internationalists, opposing discrimination and injustice, in particular for us as Jews, the racism of the Israeli state. The way to oppose racists is, as we all know, never appeasement, whatever the short term benefits.  

The lessons of history go on.  The new Israeli government of Netanyahu, of which the Israeli Labor Party is a member, is committed to the annexation of large parts of the West Bank. The Palestinians who live in the West Bank, despite being ruled by the Israeli state, have no democratic rights. After all, to give the Palestinians a vote would imperil Israel’s Jewish demographic majority. This was the same argument used in South Africa to deny Black people a vote. The reason that veterans of the fight against Apartheid in South Africa, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Ronnie Kassrils and Mandla Mandela condemn Israel as an apartheid state is because of its similarities with the regime that used operate in Pretoria.

We hope that in future you will feel able to speak truth to power. We hope the time will come when the swell of support from the grassroots, from oppressed minorities and from those who stand in solidarity with them will empower you to speak with the clarity, truth and passion we know is yours. We need your voice so we can raise ours to a pitch that cannot be ignored. This is the time to speak out because, as Rabbi Hillel said ‘if not now when?’

Kind regards and solidarity

Tony Greenstein

Jackie Walker

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