By Julia Bard
On Sunday 1st November I spoke on behalf of the Jewish Socialists’ Group at a meeting to defend Jeremy Corbyn and the anti-racist, socialist politics he represents, following his summary suspension from the Labour Party. The meeting had 27,000 live views and was organised by the Radical Alliance. You can watch a recording of the event, which was chaired by Daniel Kebede and included Laura Pidcock, John McDonnell, James Schneider, Nadia Jama, Ian Lavery, Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi and Andrew Feinstein, among others.
Seeing so many people there to defend Jeremy Corbyn made me hopeful that the left will be strong and determined enough to challenge this injustice, which is not only an attack on him but on everyone who shares his vision of a world in which human lives and human dignity are prioritised above all other considerations.
Here is the speech I gave.
Thanks to the Radical Alliance for organising this meeting. I’m honoured to be here.
The Jewish Socialists’ Group was founded in the 1970s by people who cut their political teeth fighting fascism and poverty in the 1930s. We have inherited their legacy together with the legacy of the Bund, the Jewish Socialist movement in eastern Europe. That movement fought against nationalism and for the rights of all minorities wherever they live in the world. They knew, as we do, that the only secure future for Jewish people is one based on solidarity with the exploited, oppressed and discriminated against and their allies. Jeremy Corbyn is absolutely one of those allies.
In the continuing row about antisemitism in the Labour Party so many non-Jews are turning up on television to tell us how Jewish people feel. I don’t entirely blame them because the institutions the media listen to – the Board of Deputies, the Chief Rabbi and – a recent invention, the Campaign Against Antisemitism – claim to speak on behalf of all of us. But they never have, and they never will.
They are all on the political right – and in the case of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, on the extreme right. They want to stifle dissent from the left, even though it is leftists within the Jewish community who have always been the backbone of the struggle against antisemitism, fascism and all forms of racism.
This fundamental political divide in the community is overlaid by another division, over the centrality of Israel in Jewish life. This has allowed right-wing leaders to drag us away from our natural allies. It has also allowed the pro-Israel non-Jewish right to present themselves as defenders of Jews everywhere.
This Israel-centred politics has had disastrous consequences for Jews in places such as Argentina under the Junta where at least 10% of the Argentinians who were disappeared by the Junta were Jews. The regime that carried that out were using arms supplied by Israel.
Racism and fascism are growing today in India, America, Poland, Brazil, Hungary and the UK, all, coincidentally close allies of Israel and supporters of the Occupation. We have to acknowledge, too, that conspiracy theories and other antisemitic ideas are also surfacing within the left. The last five years in which antisemitism has become so entangled with the right-left battle within the Labour Party has made antisemitism on the left more difficult to challenge. Nevertheless, both Jews and non-Jews have a responsibility to challenge it.
But the principal threat to Jews and other minorities is from those right-wing governments and the movements that derive confidence from them.
So who should we go to for support and solidarity? Institutions that have declared their support for Trump; who refuse to criticise the Tories for their close relationship to fascists across Europe and beyond? Or should we turn to the people who we know are are allies – people like Jeremy who has antiracism and antifascism woven through his political being?
We stand by the words of Marek Edelman, one of the leaders of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, who survived the war and who remained a Jewish Socialist and anti-nationalist all his life. For me, his motto “Always with the oppressed, never with the oppressors” epitomises Jeremy Corbyn.
Julia Bard is a member of Islington North Labour Party. She blogs at https://juliabard.com/