Bacon and Democracy
• Get real, you’re trying to stop a train with your foot.
• The Labour Party was always a waste of time, they’re just a bunch of lefties and so are you.
• Jewish Labour members should resign en masse.
• A new real Labour Party should be formed so don’t waste your time on this one.
• Antisemitism is just as bad in the Conservative Party and the Lib Dem Party.
• Antisemitism in the Labour Party? It’s all a witch-hunt
• ‘I do not consider myself an anti-Semite, yet I can also understand why some are.’ Ben White (1)
These are some of the responses I’ve seen since launching Whitewashed (2) and being plunged into the dark world of Labour’s difficulties with Jews.
How do we find the resilience to continue campaigning against Labour’s antisemitism?
The short answer is that there’s no other choice. We are fighting for democracy.
In ‘Memoirs of a Fortunate Jew’, Dan Vittorio Segre describes life in the mid 1940s in the Palestine Buffs, precursor to the Jewish Brigade:
‘A few days after my enlistment, our Jewish sergeant informed us that we were going on strike. He had informed our British sergeant major that we would refuse all duty, stop eating, and go to prison if necessary, if we were not given bacon for breakfast like the British soldiers instead of other food in the name of “special religious treatment.” We were not to be treated like Muslims, or Indians, or any other “bloody natives”; our rations should be exactly like those of the British because we wore the same uniform and fought (at a distance) the same enemy. We were Zionists, not ghetto Jews, and it was not for the British to decide which of our religious superstitions we should follow. Obviously they pretended to respect our religion only in order to deny our national identity as Jews. We would not play their game; we would defend our right to eat bacon as part of our right to be equal—as a symbol, not as a commodity.
‘The strike lasted a couple of hours. The British did not understand what we wanted, but they realized that it would be difficult to explain why they had to jail a unit of Jewish volunteers because they insisted on eating bacon. The whole thing was absurd, but it could reach London and the House of Commons, where there was always someone ready to listen to the Zionists. Our commanding officer announced that beginning the next morning bacon would be served to the Jewish units as to everyone else in the camp who did not object to eating pork, and we celebrated this achievement in our bungalows as if we had won a political victory. The Welsh sergeant major became more acid and disparaging in his comments. He now accompanied his commands on the parade ground with phrases such as “Heads up, chins in, don’t look at the ground: there are too many Jews and Scotsmen around for money to be lying about.”’(3)
In this anecdote, we are not told how many of those Jews ate the bacon. It’s irrelevant because there was a right at stake, and there’s a right at stake now.
Holocaust Memorial Day is Sunday 28th January
I have always been reluctant to liken our situation with Nazi-era Germany; there is no comparison and G-d willing never will be. But we are living in bad times and a recently issued video is a warning to us all. It contains witness statements from a Holocaust survivor, a survivor from the Rwandan genocide and another survivor from the Bosnian genocide. The common thread is that there was a build-up of warning signs, and an erosion of rights for each minority group.(4)
In our time we are fighting for a great right: the right of every person to be able to vote for any political party. Most particularly we are fighting for Jewish people, and all people of conscience, to be able to vote for Labour if they wish. Happening now, in Britain, this privilege has been taken away from Jewish Labour supporters, the overwhelming majority of whom believe in Israel’s continuing existence as the Jewish homeland. We are in effect disenfranchised from the Labour Party; a socio-economic marker of systemic racism within the Labour Party.
It’s a hard task
Labour’s leadership is in the hands of extremists, many of whom are unable and/or unwilling to distinguish between anti-Zionism and antisemitism, and who demonstrate an inability to root out antisemitism(5). Their aim is to take over the whole party, and they are becoming increasingly successful.
However, there are extraordinary individuals who dedicate themselves to the fight against this takeover. They are Jews, Christians, Hindus, Muslims and atheists. They are Labour members; they are those who have exited Labour in despair and disgust and are now politically homeless; they are Conservatives; and they are also non-party political.
They are doing a public service, and all they receive in return is hatred from the haters and lack of support and recognition from those who should know better. They work fearlessly to expose the antisemitism and they also recognise that a Corbyn-style government would be a disaster for Britain. Many of these people unite on Labour Against Antisemitism, who are on Facebook and Twitter.(6)
I say here, in public, thank you for all you do, and to all the other unsung heroes who battle away for no other reason than passion for fairness and justice. These are the people, many of them Labour stalwarts, who can truly claim to have zero tolerance for antisemitism.
Let me make myself as clear as I can be.
Those early Palestine Buffs were not campaigning to eat the bacon; they wanted the right to make their own choice.
I would not dream of telling anyone to vote Labour, but I will fight with every breath I have for our right to be offered the choice. There are others standing shoulder to shoulder, fighting in their own way. We need to prove to ourselves and others that there is no similarity between modern-day Britain and Nazi-era Germany, and we have to do our level best to make that stay true.
Whoever you are, whatever your allegiance, raise your voices, the voices that would be suppressed under a totalitarian regime, and join in, however you can, to campaign to return Britain’s Labour Party to its ethical roots. Doing nothing is never an option.
And then, when the time comes, either do or don’t vote for Labour. That’s your call.
(1) Ben White: ‘I do not consider myself an anti-Semite, yet I can also understand why some are. There are, in fact, a number of reasons. One is the state of Israel, its ideology of racial supremacy and its subsequent crimes committed against the Palestinians. It is because Zionists have always sought to equate their colonial project with Judaism that some misguidedly respond to what they see on their televisions with attacks on Jews or Jewish property.’ – just one example of this pervasive genre
(3) Dan Vittorio Segre – Memories of a Fortunate Jew
(5) Labour’s National Executive Committee’s disputes panel was recently taken over by Christine Shawcroft. In her first meeting it was reported that they discussed whether the use of the word ‘yid’ is antisemitic. At the same meeting the case of Mike Sivier was raised. Education by the Jewish Labour Movement was recommended rather than suspension or expulsion. Sivier claims he has refused this training because he believes JLM should be expelled from the Labour Party. The Campaign Against Antisemitism’s dossier on Sivier is here: https://antisemitism.uk/labour-council-candidate-mike-sivier-defends-far-left-antisemites-and-quotes-far-right-holocaust-denier/. Ken Livingstone’s case is still in limbo. Shawcross is on record as being a supporter of Livingstone.
(6) Notable work is also done, in their own different ways and not always in the public eye, by Campaign Against Antisemitism, the Jewish Labour Movement, Labour Friends of Israel, the Community Security Trust, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, StandWithUs, MPs and Members of the House of Lords, together with Dave Rich, David Collier and the irrepressible Jonathan Hoffman. Last but not least is David Hirsh and all the individuals who took part in the Whitewashed Project. Apologies for leaving out many other groups and individuals; my point is to demonstrate that there is a broad range of opinion united by a common cause. It’s all hands on deck. For more see Twitter, Facebook and Google.