The vice-chairwoman, Jackie Walker, has been suspended by the Labour Party because of ‘remarks’ she made at a recent conference, comments which the great and the good in the party deem to have been anti-Semitic. As I understand it, the ones which gave offence were as follows:
When the conference was engaged in discussing anti-Semitism within its own ranks, she asked how the term should be defined so as to have an agreed reference point. Is that anti-Semitic? No, of course it isn’t. It’s simply rational.
She pointed out that many Jewish financiers were prominent in profiting from the slave trade. This might be getting a little close to the bone, but it comes down to a matter of balance. The question is whether it’s a valid addition to the discussion, and in a civilised society it is surely valid to raise any related point as long as it’s true, which I have no reason to doubt it is.
She asked, in relation to the Holocaust Memorial Day, whether only the Nazi Holocaust should be formally remembered. She suggested that other forms of holocaust, like the slave trade, should also be remembered. That isn’t anti-Semitic and it isn’t new. I watched an hour-long documentary on the BBC once which made the same point.
So let’s be intelligent about this. Nobody is suggesting that anti-Semitism is anything but a very bad thing which has no place in civilised society. Nobody is suggesting that the Holocaust was not a terrible episode, or that it shouldn’t be remembered. (Although it has to be said that tyrants who order ethnic cleansing have no regard whatsoever for memorial days, which is why the practice has happened since and will almost certainly happen again. It seems that the human race does not learn from the abuses of history even when it remembers them.) At the same time it is surely self-evident that when we remember abuses or collusion in abuses, Jews should not be exempted from blame any more than anybody else.
And might I just add that both Jackie Walker and her partner are Jews, yet now she is being vilified as an anti-Semite for wholly irrational reasons and drummed out of office.
There is a wider implication to this issue. I have been a supporter of moderate socialist policies for most of my adult life. I have witnessed the Labour Party becoming a pale pastiche of the Conservatives until there was little to choose between them. That’s why I’m a fan of Jeremy Corbyn who is trying to bring the party back on track and wish him success in the next General Election. But if those in powerful positions in the party can be so hysterically touchy that they lose all sense of reason, I will have to reconsider whether the party with its present personnel is worth voting for.