With the publishing of this report (dld pdf), I am taking this opportunity to update my own position on racism. I am an avowed anti-racist in any form, but that does not mean I have removed all my racist conditioning nor not grown new racisms in my isolated life. I have the greatest conflicts however with the Israeli government policy because of my own Palestinian Solidarity. I see the Israeli government’s policies as expansionist and contrary to the genuine spirit of the UN. I have no doubts at all that the 1%, in supporting the formation of the country of Israel, were using longstanding enmities to destabilise the Middle East. I personally met people who had been displaced by the forces of the international community. A member of my maths department still held a deep and legitimate wound because his grandfather had been given 24 hours to get out of his family home – I think by British soldiers. It appears to me that the formation of Israel by the international community was handled badly and was based in guilt. However this occurred 78 years ago, and the crimes against humanity committed in the Middle East – I include Israel in the Middle East – are not acceptable. There is a state of war that has existed there for a long time. I taught a group of Israeli students at a language school holiday. They were polite. I wanted to talk about the history and rights of Palestinian people, they just wanted to speak of family deaths. Unless the international community intervenes judiciously to create peace as opposed to appointing warmongering lackeys such as Blair to mediate a “peace process” by defending Israel against the Arabs, the conflict can never be resolved internally. Yet there are genuine socialist voices in Israel and it is those voices coming out of Israel I listen to. But those voices are drowned out by the tide of nationalist expansionism that has been created by the history of the conflict and personal loss for that duration.
With regards to the Labour party I am unsure how much the racism has changed. It is supposedly the movement of the working-class, and a powerful tool of the establishment 1%-system is to divide in whatever way possible; this includes race. So the Labour party contains some racists. I remember an incident from a young foolish black lady back in the 80s. In the run-up to an election as a candidate she announced to the media that the party was racist, and the resulting publicity contributed to the subsequent loss in that general election. She, Dianne Abbott, is now shadow education secretary, I hope her politics have improved. No activist at the time disagreed with what she said, but as one of the few, fewer than now, black people in representation why was she saying it during a general election. It was at the time when Labour was famous for shooting itself in the foot, Blair rid the party of that weakness as he did other “weaknesses”- democratic accountability, mass movement representation, socialism and most disagreement with him.
In the past I have taken the word zionism to mean the policy of the right-wing governments of Israel, my misunderstanding of “zionism” included all the expansionism and war-mongering. With this meaning in mind I have defined myself as anti-zionist but not anti-semitic, my limited reading of left-wing Jews has ratified that distinction but maybe I have been misusing the term. According to wiki zionism is “a [[Ethnic nationalism|nationalist] political movement of Jews and Jewish culture that supports the re-establishment of a Jewish homeland in the territory defined as the historic Land of Israel”. Within reason I support that approach, in the same way I support land for the Kurds, any diaspora or indigenous peoples although I am not happy with the term “Land of Israel” as I believe it gives plausibility to expansionism. However following land being apportioned to Israel by the UN after the war, the governments of Israel have a continued policy of expansion and displacement of Palestinian peoples, as well as exploitation of those peoples as cheap labour. Previously I have considered this as zionism, maybe I shouldn’t. It is interesting to note from the wiki that at one time zionism was formally considered colonial and racist by the UN, although since rescinded. It is further interesting to note that in 1946 Palestine had 1076783 Muslims and 608225 Jews; what is it now? How are such figures decided? Whilst I had known to some extent of British involvement this wiki has informed me greatly of this. Further reading of the wiki does not discount my initial position but maybe it is too convenient as there is so much history, this puts me in an interesting position to see what the inquiry says.
“It seems to me that it is for all people to self-define their political beliefs and I cannot hope to do justice to the rich range of self-descriptions of both Jewishness or Zionism, even within the Labour Party, that I have heard. What I will say is that some words have been used and abused by accident and design so much as to blur, change or mutate their meaning. My advice to critics of the Israeli State and/or Government is to use the term “Zionist” advisedly, carefully and never euphemistically or as part of personal abuse” [p15 Chakabarti Inquiry]. In terms of my own usage this quote is particularly pertinent. It appears to me that my usage of the word, zionist, to describe the expansionism and Palestinian exploitation by the Israeli State is inappropriate. Zionism is concerned with Jewish nationhood and not necessarily these excesses. My position of supporting Jewish peoples by supporting Jewish socialists is not an anti-zionist position as according to the report such people might well legitimately support the formation of a Jewish homeland, the original meaning of zionism – as I understand it. I am against the excesses so I am against the Israeli 1% or Israeli capitalism. A very useful correction, it is good I have read this report.
I am going to invent a word now, obfuscationism. I define the word, obfuscationism, as the process in which powerful bodies or organisations, usually under 1% instigation, deliberately cloud and confuse issues. The purpose of this inquiry is to help clarify, and it has for me. But there is undoubtedly an obfuscationist policy in play with regards to anti-semitism. My own earlier misconceived anti-zionism was not anti-semitic as I clearly pointed out – I sought support from statements by Jewish socialists. But there is a clear policy of obfuscationism in which the excesses of expansionism and Palestinian exploitation are being identified with the neutral appropriate right for a Jewish homeland. This obfuscationism identifies the excesses with Jewish rights to a homeland, and encourages the pejorative of anti-semitic against those who criticise the excesses. Such government inquiries (as the Chakabarti Inquiry) never get to the full truth, and some form of condemnation of the widespread misuse of the word anti-semitic would have been constructive; I don’t think “What I will say is that some words have been used and abused by accident and design (my emphasis) so much as to blur, change or mutate their meaning” is enough. Summatively criticising the excesses of expansionism and Palestinian exploitation is not anti-semitic, it is human decency. [The latter half of the inquiry looked at internal Labour structures and education and training, not helpful for my own purposes.]
Jokes abound about the “racist card”. I have learned especially when younger by people helping me understand my racist conditioning. I later learned to be careful enough to have black sources for whenever I put forward a view on race. Yet when it suited I have been accused of being racist more recently, not often but occasionally. I always listen when black people describe someone as racist, I have learnt that there is a valid “feel” gained through black experience, something I could never understand. But racist is an epithet that needs to be used wisely, ignorant misuse is not helpful.
I have never been in discussion with regards to anti-semitic racism. Recently I have been involved in discussions with Jews on macrobiotic forums because they felt it was appropriate to promote propaganda within a forum on food. I had to leave one such forum. One very helpful lady repeatedly put forward her views that I disagreed with, and when I asked the moderator if she would block such politics she refused. I left. It happened again in another forum, only this time I decided to attempt to counter what I saw as misinformation. In neither case was the word anti-semitic used but in both situations I came away feeling they thought I was. In my view the conditioning of Jews is very strong. As I mentioned above Jewish people especially in Israel have experienced family deaths at the hand of Arabs. Israel is an enclave in what might be called “Arabia – the land of the Arabs”, and the government uses attacks by Arabs (whether instigated or in response) as a means to further anti-Arab feeling, anti-Muslim feeling. This indoctrination is quite clearly racist in practice. When I discussed my 3 years of living comfortably in Arab countries, Oman and Bahrain, my experience was dismissed as “wrong”, they were willing to say what I experienced did not happen because it did not fit in with the indoctrination.
The Chakrabarti inquiry is concerned with good practice in the Labour party, that was the brief. As such the brief was concerned with one-sided good practice. By the nature of such a brief the wider environment of inappropriate misuse of language and racist practice by others is not included, and that is a shame. I have a feeling that the anti-semite card is used far more than the race card – as I said obfuscationism.
Racism is always a part of war, you cannot kill people unless you think they are inferior. You cannot detach anti-semitic racism in the UK from the ongoing Middle East war. The examples of anti-semitic racism that led to this inquiry were based on the war and based on the legitimate need to raise consciousness concerning the atrocious excesses committed by the Israeli government. Policies on this matter were avoided in the inquiry yet such a blinkered one-issue approach is limiting because it avoids context. This is a big weakness of the inquiry. Whilst Palestinians are murdered by the Israeli government and its military, Labour party members are advised to control holocaust analogies and control the use of the word “zio”. This is appropriate advice but so misses the point. Of course attacking Israeli government policies would lose Labour votes.
Perhaps more significant is recent responses by some local councils to boycott goods from Israel. The Tories said such was illegal – here . Economic blockades affected apartheid South Africa, and applied pressure to create a solution that eventually led to a black government. It appears everywhere you turn there is control against constructive action to end war and oppression of Palestinians in the Middle East. This is worth saying.