I was brought up in a secular, democratic socialist family and the values of freedom, equality and solidarity were engrained into me from an early age.
My parents, British Labour Party stalwarts, looked to Israel in the 1960s as exemplar of the democratic and socialist ideals they maintained. Both were on the centre left of the Labour Party, and as a result, they and their many friends were deeply committed supporters of Israel and the Zionist cause. The commitment of those British socialists of half a century ago to the cause of the national self-determination of the Jewish people was exemplary and widely shared on the British left, Jewish and Gentile alike.
Things are very different now. The left of centre is, at least in Britain, the domain of the new antisemites of the anti-Zionist movement. BDS stalks the land, not the Spectre of Communism. The left is delivered to a lethal compromise that gets into bed with clerical fascists who demand women and gays and Jews be thrown off mountains.
This modern red-brown Strasserite left spits on the socialists of yore that actually believed in such values as freedom, equality and solidarity — and does it in the name of a fictional “anti-imperialism” that is nothing but the cheer-leading of the evil and murderous. The great British writer and journalist Julie Burchill has recently written of her own similar upbringing and the sad, sad demise of that left of the past, that left of another country:
It’s easy for me to sentimentalise those days when the trade unions held sway, chiming as they did with the calf country of my communism, but whatever their beery and sandwichy limits, they were far better than what replaced them; the politics of diversity. While working-class left-wing political activism was always about fighting the powerful, treating people how you would wish to be treated and believing that we’re all basically the same, modern, non-working-class left-wing politics is about… other stuff. Class guilt, sexual kinks, personal prejudice and repressed lust for power.
And blatant, overt hypocrisy.
On March 17th, the Times of Israel carried an article about the recently published report of the UN Commission of Inquiry on human rights in DPRK (North Korea). The report is some 400 pages long and makes for harrowing reading. In its press release, the Commission asserts that
The gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world […] These crimes against humanity entail extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation. Crimes against humanity are ongoing in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea because the policies, institutions and patterns of impunity that lie at their heart remain in place.
What has been the reaction of the British left to news of this thumping great big report that overtly compares the North Korean neo-monarchy with Hitler’s Germany? In short, the reaction has ranged from utter indifference to insane support for the North Korean regime. The report certainly makes uncomfortable reading for the comrades who head up Britain’s fractious and minute communist movement, for example — especially as many of them spend an awful lot of time inviting members of the North Korean embassy in London to shindigs. Hardly a surprise then that the comrades have either ignored the report, or denied its findings (for a deranged and mendacious example of the latter, see here).
Much the same weary cynicism greets news that the situation in Darfur is continuing on its genocidal way. The indefatigable Eric Reeves, who has spent decades exposing the murderous ways of the Khartoum regime is certainly correct to condemn the inaction of the international community. In one of his most recent articles, Reeves highlights the escalation in mayhem in that benighted place and the utterly abysmal lack of concrete response from the world community. Writing of the thoroughly useless and widely ignored 2011 Doha “agreement” between the Darfuri rebels and the Khartoum regime, Reeves writes:
The international community—especially the UN and African Union—have been flogging this dead horse of a “peace agreement” since it was signed by factitious, unrepresentative “rebel groups” in July 2011, failing to acknowledge how very little support it has among Darfuri civil society and the major rebel groups (who must answer for their own severe abuses of the civilian population). This “support for the Doha process” has persisted long after all observers not part of the AU or the UN clearly have come to see that it is a failure. It was left for expedient international actors to pretend that “progress” was being made in negotiating an end to the Darfur catastrophe, thus giving the Doha process a credibility that could hardly be provided by its Qatari auspices. The U.S. has been front and center in this pretense, shamelessly asserting the potential success of the DDPD. Both previous U.S. special envoys for Sudan—Scott Gration and Princeton Lyman—were complicit in this diplomatic travesty.
Reading Reeves’ cataloguing of the crimes of the Khartoum regime’s janjawid mercenaries in Darfur, the trail of murder, rape, looting, arson, sickens one’s heart. It is truly appalling what is happening in Darfur. It is equally as unacceptable that, despite it being widely known that the Khartoum regime is committing genocide there (and elsewhere), absolutely nothing is being done to stop that vile and barbarous dictatorship of military men and religious fanatics in their tracks. Nothing. This absolute condemnation of the moral hypocrisy of the global movers and shakers is embellished by the discovery that the very “great and good” sent in to Darfur by organisations as allegedly august as the African Union to oversee resolutions to such intractable conflicts have spent much of their time fighting turf wars with each other whilst women and children die in the villages and desert fastnesses of Darfur. Thambo Mbeki, former President of South Africa, take a bow.
This should make the British left choke with frustrated anger. Yet fear that it might interfere with the comrades’ digestion might well also mean that they defer reading on until they have finished debating the intricacies of transgender intersectionality. Let’s be honest with ourselves, many times even if the left collectively shakes its head in despair at the evil that walks on every side and the vilest men that are exulted… they will move to propose some daft resolution demanding immediate socialist revolution in the Sahel based on the sterling work of local jihadi and condemning Zionism for the ills of the world.
So if genocidal regimes are either to be supported, or simply ignored by those who call themselves left-wing in the UK, if the mass murder of women and children in Darfur, or the terrifying, Orwellian dystopia of North Korea does not move the brothers and sisters, what exactly does get the comrades all frothy at the chops and out on the front line where they are meant to be? — Israel and Jews. That’s what.
Sometimes I think the entire British left has dropped acid. There can be surely no other explanation for its addiction to insane, inverted political visions of a surreal quality that might suggest the left was readier for the madhouse than any sort of political power. Really though, it is not funny ha-ha. There is nothing amusing about the treachery of the modern British left, its abandonment of the values of freedom, equality and solidarity. Julie Burchill rightly rages against the modern British left’s obsessions with the hang-ups of the chattering classes; but if ever there was a collective criminal act by which the British left has betrayed its own foundational values, it is its iniquitous and venomous loathing of Israel and its denial of the Jewish people’s inalienable right to national self-determination in that land.
It is more than a delusion to condemn the only democratic and liberal state in the entire Middle and Near East as an “apartheid state”, to vilify its supporters as “Zionazis” — it is an outright slander, a defamation of the rights of an entire people. It is despicable to knowingly and falsely assert that Israel is a land without freedom and equality, when it is the only state in the entire meta-region where religious, sexual and personal liberties are not only maintained but upheld. It is an utter disgrace that the British left, almost invariably, takes the side of mass murderers of Jews, terrorists and violent antisemitic clerical fascist thugs rather than show solidarity with the Jewish State and its people. It is a betrayal of those that die in the villages of Darfur, of those that languish in the prison-state of North Korea, about whom these so-called British socialists could clearly not give a fig.
Nick Cohen, one of Britain’s most wonderful political journalists and writers, summed it up nicely: What’s left? The answer is sad, so sad: not much – a red flag stained not with the blood of our martyrs, so much as dripping with the blood of the victims of the British left’s indifference or even naked, open support for the real sources of evil and wrong in this world. The poet W. H. Auden wrote bitterly in his poem Epitaph on a Tyrant of a dictator that “When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter”. When Comrade Kim laughs, the comrades in Britain stand up and deliver him a round of applause, it would seem — lackeys all of a red-handed murderer. When al-Qaradawi demands the extermination of Jews, Red Ken Livingstone invites him to a nice slap-up meal in London and calls him a “moderate”. When Hamas and Islamic Jihad slam indiscriminately missiles into Jewish towns, the British left rambles on about a fictional “siege” of Gaza. When clerical fascist murderers saw off the heads of their victims, the British left rave about the ultimate responsibility of Zionism. And woe betide the uppity Jews of Israel should they respond to suicide bombers and Khaibar missiles and snipers – because, you see, the victims of terror had it coming – just in case they are Jewish.
I have spent plenty of time trying to get to the bottom of this evil malaise that grips the British left. I can rationalise it away as an addiction to a basically failed ideological obsession with a faulty notion of anti-imperialism, one in which the tactic of “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” holds sway. Yet even accepting this, it does not explain away the sheer poisonousness and simultaneous stupidity of the British left’s hatred of Israel that seems to cut across every single value to which it claims it holds dear.
Auden’s poem ends with a line that confronts the sheer hypocrisy of his dictator, “And when he cried the little children died in the streets”. The British left is today that dictator crying its crocodile and lethal tears. What it does shout about is the absolute inverse of what it should be screaming about. What the left does rail about is completely the opposite of what should be motivating it. It defends the evil and defies the righteous. As the Psalmist had it: evil walks on every side when the wicked are exalted. The British left have become part of the problem and not its solution.