Wednesday 22 January 2020

The four horsemen

This is a condensed version taken from articles I have had published in recent years. I think it addresses issues which are sadly blocking the road to a better future – perhaps any future.

In recent days US Vice President Mike Pence and Sec of State, Mike Pompeo, have been urging Trump to attack Iran. Both of them are supported by the Christian-Zionist movement who can’t wait for a Biblical Armageddon in the Middle East.

In this country we have a Prime Minister who is happy to be the fourth horseman of the Apocalypse and many in the Labour Party too ready to clamber up behind him .

The Labour Party will soon be choosing a new leader and, surprise surprise, accusations of anti-semitism are once again being used against those who dare criticise Israel and who speak out for the rights of Palestinians.

After claiming that Jeremy Corbyn scored 0 out of 10 as party leader Emily Thornberry said, “We need to get down on our hands and knees to the Jewish community and ask them for forgiveness and a fresh start.” On BBC Question time Clive Lewis ‘apologised’ for Labour’s ‘anti-semitism’.

Leading party leader contender, Rebecca Long-Bailey better be among the first to get on her knees and ask forgiveness after former Labour deputy leader Tom Watson said she was was the candidate he "would worry about" adding, “she's the continuity candidate, she stands for Corbynism in its purest sense.” He went on to criticise her for not joining Labour Friends of Israel.

And forgiveness for what?

Perhaps forgiveness for agreeing posthumously with Albert Einstein who wrote:“The (Israeli) state idea is not according to my heart. I cannot understand why it is needed. It is connected with many difficulties and a narrow-mindedness. I believe it is bad.”  Or with Sigmund Freud who said, “I concede with sorrow that the baseless fanaticism of our people is in part to be blamed for the awakening of Arab distrust. I can raise no sympathy at all for the misdirected piety which transforms a piece of a Herodian wall into a national relic, thereby offending the feelings of the natives,” Perhaps also for agreeing with Erich Fromm: “The claim of the Jews to the Land of Israel cannot be a realistic political claim. If all nations would suddenly claim territories in which their forefathers lived two thousand years ago, this world would be a madhouse,” or with Primo Levi, writer and Auschwitz survivor: "Everyone has their Jews. For the Israelis they are the Palestinians." Perhaps we should also seek forgiveness on behalf of Marek Edelman, last surviving leader of the 1943 Warsaw uprising: who wrote a letter in support of the Palestine resistance, comparing them to ZOB, the Jewish fighters in Warsaw. He opened with, "Commanders of the Palestine military, paramilitary and partisan operations - to all the soldiers of the Palestine fighting organisations,” And there is of course Hannah Arendt who wrote, The trouble is that Zionism has often thought and said that the evil of antisemitism was necessary for the good of the Jewish people. In the words of a well-known Zionist in a letter to me discussing the original Zionist argumentation: 'The antisemites want to get rid of the Jews, the Jewish State wants to receive them, a perfect match,'” Finally a voice from the living, Noam Chomsky: “In the Occupied Territories, what Israel is doing is much worse than apartheid.”

It has now reached the level of absurdity when these giants of our political history are ignored or maligned and the rest of us must bend the knee before criticising Israel.

My father was one of the first Allied doctors to enter Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. The photos he took there, and later showed me of the skeletal prisoners, scarred my young mind. It was those haunting pictures that led me to a lifetime of anti-fascism.

At sixteen I had my first contact with real anti-semites. One Saturday morning in Bromley High Street, thugs from the British Movement, forerunners of Tommy Robinson's Britain First, and shouting “You bloody Yids”, beat me up for selling Peace News. I discovered the headquarters of the Zionist Federation and they gave me Star of David badges. The following Saturday I, and a fellow pacifist wore these badges and were beaten up again.

As a member of the Anti-Nazi League in the 70s, I helped set up a support and defence group in North West London for Asian shopkeepers attacked by the National Front.

I consider that I am in the proud tradition of anti-fascists, both Jews and non-Jews, many of whom were or, like Chomsky, are anti-Zionists.

Amongst the first Jews who opposed Zionism were those who set up the Jewish Bund in Poland and Russia. They stressed the principles of socialism, secularism, Yiddish and doyikayt or “localness.” Doyikayt was encapsulated in the Bund slogan: “There, where we live, that is our country.” “We Bundists”, wrote one of their early leaders, Viktor Alter, “wish to shatter the existing economic frameworks and show the Jewish masses how a new society can be built not by escape, but by struggle. We link the essence of the Jewish masses’ life to that of humankind.”

Their contemporaries in this country can be found in Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Jewish Voice for Labour and others.

Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible, takes place in 1692 during the Salem witch trials. It tells the story of a group of women who accuse other villagers of witchcraft. The play was written as an allegory during the McCarthy years and the House of Un-American Activities trials in the 1950s. To be accused of being a member of the Communist Part then ensured that jobs, reputations and, for some, their lives, were lost.

It mattered little whether the accusations were true or not. It mattered even less that membership of the CP at that time was evidence of radical political consciousness and not criminal inclination.

Our Salem trials are an attempt to mask the real anti-semitism that has always been at the heart of the British political Establishment.

It started with poor Jeremy. “Now, within living memory of the Holocaust, and while Jews are being murdered elsewhere in Europe for being Jews, we have an anti-Semite as the leader of the Labour Party” declared the Chief Rabbi. He ommitted to add that one of those countries where anti-semitism was now rampant is Victor Orban’s Hungary. The same Orban who was an honoured guest of the Netanyahu Israeli government.

In our own country, the pro-Israel Middle East Forum funded fascist Tommy Robinson while he was in prison. In the words of their Director, Gregg Roman, who has worked in Israel’s Defence and Foreign Ministries, “we are helping Robinson in his moment of danger in three main ways ... to fund his legal defence … bringing foreign pressure on the UK government to ensure Mr. Robinson’s safety and eventual release …” NOTE: Robinson has recently joined the Tory Party!

Let us take a closer look at the ancestry of Zionism. Their founder, Theodor Herzl, an admirer of the British Empire wrote to Cecil Rhodes, who gave his name to the white settler colony Rhodesia, about his passion for a Jewish state in the Middle East, “You are being invited to help make history … it does not involve Africa but a piece of Asia Minor, not Englishmen but Jews … I turn to you … because it is something colonial ..”

Chaim Weizmann, who suceeded Herzl, wrote to the Manchester Guardian: “Should Palestine fall within the British sphere of influence and should they encourage Jewish settlement … we could develop the country, bring back civilisation and form a very effective guard for the Suez Canal.”

Back to those Chrisian Evangelicals, Iran and the Middle East. Prayers at the opening of the US Israeli Embassy in Jerusalem, were delivered by Robert Jeffries, a Dallas megachurch pastor who said Hitler was sent by God to drive the Jews to their ancestral land. A busy God who, Jeffries assures us, was also standing over the shoulder of Donald Trump and those horsemen.

A lifetime of anti-fascism and anti-racism makes me also anti-Zionist. If I was being beaten up today by those fascists in Bromley Hight Street chances are that they and not me would be wearing Star of David badges.


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