After the Paris attacks against Jews, some questions for the rest of the Left

Two weeks ago, four Jews were killed in a kosher supermarket for being Jews. Anti-Semitism was in the news once again. The headlines confirmed what everyone in a minority has known for some time: racism, in all forms, is on the rise.

Right-wing Jewish groups like Campaign Against Anti-Semitism seized on it as an opportunity to feed paranoid dogma. Zionist groups used it as an excuse to promote immigration to Israel. Conservatives pulled together awful policies, saying it meant we needed more police.

We, on the Jewish Left, struggled to articulate ourselves, to say that Jews did of course have a future in Europe, to reject right-wing opportunism, to say that we would be stronger if we united with all other groups facing bigotry, to express our concerns about Islamophobic and anti-immigrant backlashes, to offer our best arguments for socialist, anarchist and democratic solutions to anti-Semitism.

And we did it alone. We did it alone.

If you read any of the left-wing news sources or subscribe to any of the UK’s leftist parties, you wouldn’t even know an attack on Jews had happened. You’d know about Charlie Hebdo. You’d know about the attacks on mosques in the aftermath. You could read deep and insightful histories of French colonialism in North Africa and interesting accounts of the problems in the Parisian banlieus. But nothing about Jews.

On Counterfire: nothing. On Left Unity: nothing. From the Greens: nothing. Red Labour: nothing. On the Revolutionary Socialists Network: nothing.

My Facebook and Twitter feeds filled up with Jews offering their thoughts. But from other, non-Jewish leftists, I just heard nothing. Absolutely nothing.

I want to know why. I want to ask some questions to the rest of the Left.

Do you think it doesn’t matter?

Maybe you thought it wasn’t newsworthy. But it’s not every day that Jews get killed in a supermarket for being Jews. That felt pretty important, to us at least.

Didn’t you care?

You must have cared. You’re leftists because you care about other human beings. You worry about people’s lives and want to see them do well. Surely a public execution of Jews warrants something. Just your condolences. Just your acknowledgement. That’s all.

Do you think anti-Semitism isn’t an issue?

In that case, how many Jews need to die before it is?

Did you think that Islamophobia mattered more?

The gunman was a Muslim. We were all worried that the attack would result in a backlash against Muslims. It has. It’s been terrifying. We’re adamant that we must stand together with Muslims and support our comrades and neighbours through all that’s happening. But surely – surely – the attack on Jews warranted enough to worry a little bit about anti-Semitism too. Just enough to say it was happening.

Do you believe the lies they tell about us? Do you believe we’re all rich and doing fine?

It’s an old distraction tactic from the right-wing elites to scapegoat Jews as wealthy. They think that if they point the finger at us, nobody will notice that the ruling class is overwhelmingly white, Christian and from the same schools. The truth is Jews are evenly spread across all classes, mirroring almost exactly the rest of society. As a religious group, we are no more wealthy or poor than any other religious group.

Do you think we’re all white?

Most of France’s Jews come from North Africa. The murdered came from Tunisia and Algeria. The Jews of Paris come from the same cities as the Muslims of Paris. Most Jews in Europe come from the Middle-East and North Africa. Not centuries and centuries ago. They and their parents were born in Morocco, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Yemen and Afghanistan. We’re overwhelmingly not white.

If we were all rich and white, would it mean it mattered less?

Perhaps it would. But surely it wouldn’t mean it mattered so little that anti-Semitism didn’t deserve a mention.

Do you think Israel’s occupation of Palestine justifies anti-Semitic attacks in Europe?

One BBC reporter, Tim Wilcow, said exactly that.

Israel is occupying Palestine. It’s inexcusable and unjust. It gives anti-Semites an excuse. It makes people everywhere angry. But the Jews who live in London, Paris and the rest of the world don’t have any control over that. We are not Israel’s military occupation any more than Christians are the Pope. Of course we’re not. A people can be oppressed in one space and oppressors in another. That shouldn’t mitigate against mentioning their oppression where you see it.

Do you think support from Tories is enough?

Theresa May and Eric Pickles were snapped holding up signs saying “Je suis Juif” [French: I am a Jew], in solidarity with those killed. Conservatives and right-wing Labour leaders made statements. The Spectator and The Telegraph wrote articles about the worrying growth in anti-Semitism. But we didn’t want, need or ask for their support. It’s the support of our comrades – the people who stand with us on anti-cuts and anti-war demonstrations – that matters. We needed to hear something from you.

Do you know that your silence is driving Jews to the right?

When you ignore Jewish suffering, you hand undecided Jews over to fundamentalist religious movements and Zionist political groups on a plate. They see no place for themselves on the Left, so go in any other direction. One of the main reasons that groups like the reactionary street movement Jewish Defence League are growing is that the organised Left hasn’t stepped in to offer an alternative. It’s not enough for Jewdas to write articles and organise vigils. We need you on our side.

I hate it, I really do, when anyone starts a conversation with “the problem with the Left is…” It’s an act of separating yourself from the rest of the Left, giving up and saying that it’s somebody else’s responsibility to change.

Only in this case, we didn’t separate ourselves from the Left. The Left separated itself from the Jews. You did that when you didn’t acknowledge that four Jews were murdered in a supermarket for being Jews.

And I want to know why.

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17 thoughts on “After the Paris attacks against Jews, some questions for the rest of the Left

  • 23/01/2015 at 12:03 pm
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    Penny dropping finally, probably one of the few sentiments I’ve read on this site in a while. The real insult with the Paris kosher shop murders is they weren’t the target, or rather the primary target. They were a quick stop off in Paris when the murderers had nothing to do whilst waiting for the after life. Jewish murder is the wafer thin mint at the Mr Creosote banquet of terrorism. And the left has had a lot to stay about Paris….oh boy they’ve barely been able to shut up it. Not about 4 Jews doing some shopping, or the Jewish Charlie Hebdo victims. But about why Netanyahu shouldn’t be allowed to march for his coreligionists because Israel is a terror state and why some how out of 194 world leaders; Israel is utterly the worst. Which must come as slap in the the face to US drone pilots killing people on several different continents in a futile war with an emotion, or the Egyptian premier locking up Al Jazeera journos. Did it really take you that long to realise the far left has descended into the kind of fatuos, single issue prejudice that used to be the hobby of Mosely? You can’t be a national socialst, without being a socialist. But take heart, being scared of the far left is like taking a magnifying glass to the beach. And running in fear from the amplified giant crabs you gaze it. Put it down and look around you at the lovely sunny day. At how the enviably democratic BoD with it’s articulate leaders is buidling ever stronger links with the MCGB. See how outside of the dusty dull world of samizdat antisemitic screeds online [apparently the EDL are a Zionist front, the Hebdo killers are a Mossad hit team and the IDF sells more kidneys and lungs then a dodgy burger van]. Most of the world 83 percent of the UK quite like Jews according to more reputable surveys. And look with sorrow and disapointment at a left wing picking through a Kindle 1.01 version of the Protocols of the Elders of Zionism. Whilst all around them the pillars of the UKs actually socialist; health, education and welfare system start to crumble. Look at them paying a fiver to Warner Bros for a V for Vendetta Mask and a fiver to Amazon for Russell Brands book, or buying a Starbucks crappucinno as they charge their iphone whilst occupying something else. Here’s the thing about antisemitism it’s both a pitiful down punching, form of ignorant bullying. It’s also the Caine mark of failure, people turn towards Antisemitism as the last gamble of a losing streak. Tragically it’s happening in the UK, at the time that a meaningful leftwing opposition is really needed.

  • 23/01/2015 at 12:08 pm
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    The Left separated itself from the Jews a long time ago, long before this. Are you completely blind? Read Nick Cohen on this. Jews, to the Left, are white imperialist colonialist racist whatevers. Whereas clerical fascists are fine, as long as they’re brown. It’s absurd.

  • 23/01/2015 at 12:14 pm
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    Oh gosh.

    Good stuff.

  • 23/01/2015 at 1:11 pm
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    Well, antisemitism in Europe will be over when the Occupation will be over. Right?

  • 23/01/2015 at 2:40 pm
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    This split goes back to the foundation of Israel and the Left being anti-US and therefore anti its support of a Jewish state: at the same time USSR was supporting Palestinians which despite Stalin continued to be the model for many on the left
    As the daughter of a holocaust survivor I find it so difficult that as human beings we are so incapable of being intelligently and honourably critical of atrocity without feeling that we will somehow betray our overall beliefs.
    I am of the left
    I am anti-Islamaphobia
    I am against anti-Semetism
    I believe in a Jewish State
    I do not support in the treatment of the Palastinians by Israel
    I do not support the actions of ISIS etc
    The murder of any person is to be condemned – no hierarchy!
    I believe the pen is mightier than the sword and in many ways manipulates the sword.
    As human beings we must always condemn atrocity – seek to find out why it has happened and work to stop it.

  • 24/01/2015 at 2:24 am
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    There is not just one answer to why ? there is a myriad of them, so many it makes my head swim. There is so much I would want to say to you. My email address is stbe125@riseup.net.

  • 24/01/2015 at 2:28 am
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    Yeah yeah do you guys have any idea how much of my life has been spent awaiting moderation ?

  • 28/01/2015 at 1:06 am
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    my gut on this is that the left in Scotland have moved away from the central left to a wider left which sits on SNP territory. The SNP has a much firmer view on where it sits on the Israel/Palestinian debate (even though anti-semitism and Zionism shouldn’t be brandished as one, they are by many uneducated) and so by its very nature those that support SNP and other left wing parties support a anti-Zionist view and therefore don’t wish to be seen supporting Jews in Scotland or beyond. The middle-East conflict has caused the left to blame the Jews. Simplistic, yes, but social media is awash to support this view – a few searches and it supports my position.

    I personally have always remained in the centre ground, but without question there has been a loud shift (if not majority) to more extreme views on the right and left that tend to sound quite similar in rhetoric to suggest that we are living in a world where right and left have equal weighting to their anti-semitic views – perhaps the only difference is non-violent hate and violent . It’s disturbing and the reality is this new wave of radicalism is opening up rather old racist and anti-semitic views.

    Whatever your political view is (and free speech is important), don’t hate a person because of their religion or POV. Try and understand, agree or disagree, but don’t hate. Here is to hope and possibility that we can somehow all live together in safer times

  • 28/01/2015 at 1:42 pm
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    “If you read any of the left-wing news sources or subscribe to any of the UK’s leftist parties, you wouldn’t even know an attack on Jews had happened. ”

    “On Counterfire: nothing.” – http://www.counterfire.org/articles/analysis/17632-government-points-the-finger-at-all-muslims-for-terrorism-whilst-attacking-civil-liberties
    “On Left Unity: nothing.” – http://leftunity.org/charlie-hebdo-unity-in-condemnation-and-solidarity/
    http://socialistworker.co.uk/art/39748/France+is+in+political+turmoil+after+the+Paris+massacre

  • 28/01/2015 at 10:26 pm
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    Hi Roy.
    Was the Counterfire link supposed to have a reference to the attack on Jews? Because it doesn’t.
    You’re right, though, the Left Unity article does bury a mention in the seventh paragraph, so I guess I have to take it all back. No problem here then.

  • 28/01/2015 at 10:49 pm
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    What is the(ir) left ?

  • 02/02/2015 at 3:38 pm
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    Real food for thought which I’ll translate into action. An inexcusable panic overlooked this extremely troubling and dangerous action and it’s implications. You’re right, the right wing and mainstream news did capitalise, and we on the left awkwardly tried to compensate perhaps. Thank you for this.

  • 08/02/2015 at 3:35 pm
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    “Was the Counterfire link supposed to have a reference to the attack on Jews? Because it doesn’t.” – “the terrible events in Paris with the Charlie Hebdo and kosher supermarket shootings” + “Whereas the government has announced police protection for synagogues and Jewish schools, claiming that there is a heightened threat of anti Semitic attacks” + “a memorial service for the Paris victims — organised by the Jewish community” . But what has troubling me since I read the piece is how exactly you expect “the left” (a politically divide rag-tag bunch of sectarian groups) to show solidarity with “the Jews” (an equally politically divided group – manuy of whom were referring to us an antisemites)

  • 08/02/2015 at 4:50 pm
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    Roy Bard, supporter of Holocaust deniers.

    “In April another IM moderator ftp (Roy Bard) defended holocaust denier Kurt Nimmo who had stated that the gas chambers at Auschwitz were ‘discredited’. A fellow moderator, Nim Chimpsky complained that ‘What has been becoming increasingly problematic is that not only are the offending posts allowed to stand, but any complaints will be hidden.’ The whole debate can be seen here ”

    http://socialistunity.com/how-indymedia-uk-lost-its-way-and-became-a-safe-haven-for-anti-semitism/

  • 07/03/2015 at 2:20 pm
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    Agreed, Roy Bard is the perfect emblem of the problem described here. You will never meet a more devoted disciple of the egregious Gilad Atzmon, who is stainless and perfect in Bard’s eyes – and a nasty little antisemite in everyone else’s. Years after Atzmon promoted Paul Eisen’s infamous essay plugging Holocaust denial, Bard, Eisen, Atzmon, and Francis Clark-Lowes – the latter fresh from being “censored” out of the Palestinian Solidarity Committee it its 2012 annual meeting for being a Holocaust denier, a position which which Bard simply doesn’t find in any way problematic – sat down together to found a new website with a heavily antisemitic tone, deliberation.info.

    You, Roy Bard, are the face of left antisemitism.

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