Faced with anti-Semitism, the left commentariat’s eerie silence

27th March, 2012 12:28 pm

Well, mostly: there are always exceptions.

“No-one can justify the Toulouse attacks”, said Stop The War Coalition’s Lindsey German, “but…” and, without irony, proceeded to attempt to do precisely that, with the usual litany against Western imperialism. It was, predictably, all our fault.

However, we expect that from the Stoppers. More interestingly, there were a few mainstream voices. On Tuesday while it was still entirely uncertain what had caused the attacks, a Guardian editorial gleefully jumped in:

“Currying votes from the extreme right is a two-edged sword, and Sarkozy could be about to feel its blade.”

Of course, it was all the fault of that nasty Sarkozy. And how conveniently it played to our prejudices to see that it was to see that it was right-wing fascists responsible for the horror. Except that, of course, in this case, they weren’t.

But more generally, the reaction we saw in the liberal-left press was all the more intriguing.


Where was Seumas Milne? Where were Robert Fisk and Simon Jenkins? Not a dicky bird. Metaphorical tumbleweed blew through the left-leaning media following these shocking events.

However, if you think about it, it makes sense. Because even such seasoned defenders of the indefensible would find it difficult to dream up an “it’s the West’s fault” argument for a child-killer.

And, although the body count was relatively small in comparison with, say, the London bombings, somehow there was something more stomach-wrenching about Mohamed Merah, in that he could witness, and revel in, the suffering of his victims. So the reaction of the left commentariat was a deafening silence. Anything but admit that a resurgence of anti-Semitism is a fact, and Islamism increasingly its root cause.

Mohamed Merah was a textbook Islamist extremist who had “made the trip” to Afghanistan. He was trained and nurtured as a hater and killer of Jews. He was not like Anders Brevik, a lone wolf with his own sick ideas; he acted after being radicalised. As some pointed out, this was not France’s Brevik killing, it was its 7/7.

Those few liberal-left commentators who did not keep their silence were reduced to Houdini-like contortions: for example, the Independent attempted to argue that it was indeed like the Brevik massacre, and was all the fault of the nasty racist French. In fact, Merah’s motivations were almost mundane in their predictability: hatred of the West, in the shape of France, combined with a vicious anti-Semitism. Not a 20th century European anti-Semitism, that of white Christians. No, this was taken directly from Islamism, that perversion of Islam which blights the 21st.

And there is an uncomfortable truth in all of this: that something lies deep in the psyche of the European left, which still, despite all logical evidence to the contrary, wants to see these jihadists in Iraq, the Arabian peninsula or Palestine in some degree as freedom fighters. Sticking it to the man: the man in question being the West, the Establishment, the US.

It is a dangerous fantasy, and one which ultimately puts in jeopardy everything we believe in, because those outside our narrow political club do not see things the same way. The disturbing thing is that we can’t see that this kind of coincidence, of a bunch of Jewish-related news stories since the start of the year in the national press, in a country where we’re talking about a tiny proportion of the population. It wasn’t happening ten years ago, or even five. We can’t see that anti-Semitism is back on the agenda in a big way, as I wrote in the New Statesman back in October, and the left is ignoring it. It is periodically linked with the far right, but more often with Islamism.

As Alan A points out in a very fine post at Harry’s Place, we Europeans, particularly on the left, have developed a strange blind spot towards anti-Semitism:

“…particularly but not exclusively among the “progressive” Left, there is a clear determination to ignore the legacy and present danger of anti-Semitism. So much so, that when a Jihadist murderer grabs a little 8 year old Jewish girl by her ponytail, and shoots her in the face, in front of her mother, few are prepared to acknowledge the role that conspiracism, pathological hatred, and murderous intents towards Jews, as Jews, played in that slaughter.”

We can’t see it because we don’t want to. Because, in doing so, we hold a mirror up to ourselves, and the truth is so unpleasant we keep our eyes closed. But there is a choice: we choose either to condone Islamist extremism, or to reject it. There is no in-between, much as we might like there to be.

So, there must still be those of us who don’t think anti-Semitism is a problem for us on the left. But we should also be asking ourselves: how much more evidence do we need?

Rob Marchant is an activist and former Labour Party manager who blogs at The Centre Left

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  • Lydia

    Thought provoking article – the silence of the press has indeed been embarrassingly loud…

  • James

    This is a ridiculously poor article – all bluster and no substance. Even the article from Lindsey German, which you cast as beyond the pale, is quite justifiable. She’s merely saying that individuals don’t perform actions in a vacuum, and that sensible policy makers look at the impact of their policies on all types of people – to quote Ed Miliband after August’s riots – “to explain is not to excuse”.

    There has to be some kind of fallacy that we can coin to stop you knee-jerk reactionaries from whipping yourselves up into a lather over things like this…

    • James,

      People don’t “perform actions” in a vacuum, no. If they are angry about discrimination, foreign policy or (for all I care) the colour of the sky, they campaign, debate, protest, march, vote. In extreme circumstances, (though I don’t believe they should) they take direct action against those responsible.

      However, grabbing an 8 year schoolgirl by her hair and slotting her forehead with bullets while filming it to revel in it later, falls somewhat outside of “performing actions” (direct or otherwise), don’t you think?

      That does only happen in a vacuum – a vacuum caused when ignorance, narcissism and cowardice suck out all morality.

      On the Left, we used to care deeply about this, recognising that the likes of Merah aren’t seeking to change the world for the better like us, but that such hatred reflected fascist traditions, not social democratic ones. Now some – thankfully only some – elements of the Left just shrug their shoulders and ask what did “we” expect. At best.

      At worse, some individuals (like Ms German) positively revel in it, no doubt seeing the seeds of revolution in such political violence.

      So tell us, if Merah’s act was so connected to whatever grievances he claims to have had, how have these grievances been addressed by his “performance” of these “actions”?

      • AlanGiles

        At worse, some individuals (like Ms German) positively revel in it, no doubt seeing the seeds of revolution in such political violence.”

        Sadly the right wing of the Labour party have learned virtually nothing since 2003. A great majority of “Stop The War” campaigners were Labour supporters, disgusted by Blair’s toadying to George Bush. Many of those lost votes never returned and if young fogeys on the right of the party continue to peddle this “revolution” rhetoric in connection with STW and Ms German, you are hardly likely to get them back.

        I have little doubt the likes of Marchant has virtually no regrets, or even second thoughts about the Iraq war and the advisability of it (ditto Afghanistan).

        • Thank you for proving my point, Alan.
          You, like thousands of others, were enraged by Western interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Blair’s persuading of Bush to support this (your description of the former ‘toadying’ to the latter exposes a telling misunderstanding).

          Now you expressed this through STWC and at the ballot boxes. Not through violence. So those who do use violence in the way Merah did must have other motivations.

          As for STWC’s views on revolution, are you seriously claiming that it is NOT dominated by Trotskyists?

          • AlanGiles

            You, like thousands of others, were enraged by Western interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Blair’s persuading of Bush to support this (your description of the former ‘toadying’ to the latter exposes a telling misunderstanding).”

            Misunderstanding, Dan?

            Plainly you do not recall the events of 2001/3 very clearly:

            Campbell, Dodgy dossiers and Campbell’s “mate” John Scarlett. Blair offering to stand “shoulder to shoulder”….AND SO ON.

            As regards the STWC I was not involved in it, but I believe it included people from all walks of life, not just Trotskyists, including Labour party members (however much that might upset right-winger Marchant)

          • jonathanmorse

            Sorry are you saying that Blair made Bush invade Iraq?

          • Duncan Hall

            Yes I think that is his odd suggestion

      • Duncan Hall

        I am sure nobody is suggesting for a moment that Merah’s disgusting murders – of Jews and Muslims – have achieved anything other than horror, death and loss. Anybody seeking to justify the act is bereft of any kind of moral compass.  But anybody arguing that it is wrong to try and understand it is bereft of any kind of sense.

        • Duncan Hall

          Just to clarify that point – historians expend a lot of ink on trying to understand the rise of Nazi Germany, considering the social, political and economic context.  To do so is not somehow to justify Nazism.  Is it?

          • Of course not. But we mustn’t confuse cause and effect. The Nazis didn’t create anti-semitism, they channelled it. Merah’s (and please not that it was not me who brought up the Nazis; I’m not succumbing to Godwin’s Law, here) anti-semitism was not created by foreign or social or economic policy, but his wrong-headed analysis of policy gave him an excuse to express (horrifically) his anti-semitism.

            Now we can all agree or disagree on any policy you care to mention. We can vote, campaign and protest against or in favour of whatever policy we like. We can lobby for changes, seek redress through courts, or act in ways that, within the law, re-balance the effects of things we don’t like.

            But we must not allow policy-making (however controversial the subject) to be dictated by murderous losers.

          • Duncan Hall

            Is anybody suggesting that it should be?

          • Duncan Hall

            The Nazis didn’t create antisemitism, absolutely.  Indeed antisemitism was rife in many of the countries that would form the allies in the Second World War.  But it is important to understand why people were receptive to disgusting, racist antisemitic arguments then, and it is now too. Whatever well those repugnant views spring from.

          • ianjmatt

            But any reasons why someone is receptive is not an excuse for anti-semitic views.

            Those views should be condemned outright and without reservation regardless. As should any racism.

          • Duncan

             I 100% agree and know nobody on the left who doesn’t also.

          • Sadly for many on the left, Duncan, it is one thing to say it, it’s quite another to do it.

            Check out Jeremy Corbyn on Raed Salah:
            “We checked him out and he denied completely that he was an anti-Semite so we thought it was appropriate to bring him over.”More here: http://thecentreleft.blogspot.com.es/2011/07/our-tolerance-of-extremism-will-do-for.htmlBut it’s not enough to say you are not anti-Semitic, is it? You need to DO anti-racism, not just talk about it.

          • jonathanmorse

            I know many American’s on Facebook and many of them dispise socialism, with the same irrational and ignorant hatred we see against the Jew in Europe. Many American’s think that they’re being clever by calling Obama a socialist – they see it as an insult, a gross insult, akin to asking Blair whether he ‘prayed’ with Bush.

            I find this unreasoning hatred fascinating.

        • Understand, by all means. Draw the wrong conclusions based on prejudices about imperfect democracies, then expect to be called out on it.

          • Not, Duncan, that I’m suggesting you are doing that – just to clarify. Sorry if that seemed a little ad hominem.

          • Duncan

             I appreciate this was not aimed at me personally, but who are you saying has “drawn the wrong conclusions based on prejudices”?

  • Duncan Hall

    Rob, the existence of anti-semitism and the reality of anti-semitic murder is clear.  The lack of comment is (partly at least) due to the fact that comment is hardly needed: the disgusting event spoke for itself.  I get very angry about this regular theme that somehow “the left” has a blindspot about anti-semitism.  It is an extreme and emotive charge and one for which nobody seems to have to produce any evidence.  In this article, the crime committed by Seamus Milne and others is to have not commented on one (particularly repulsive) hate crime.  Did every journalist who failed to write about Anders Brevik have a blindspot about neo-Nazism?  I can’t find a Robert Fisk article, or a Nick Cohen one?  I just don’t think the argument holds any weight, and is singularly offensive.

    I do want to pick up on something that you said here though, and that was the Anders Brevik comparison.  When a neo-Nazi commits repulsive, politically-motivated mass murders, the eventual accepted opinion is that they are a “lone wolf”, a rogue, a bezerker, insane. The same happened with the London nail-bomber.  There is some comment about the individual’s association with far right groups, but ultimately accepted opinion is that they were on their own.

    When similar horrors are committed with somebody whose justification is centred around Islamist politics the accepted conclusion is always that they are part of a bigger movement, that they were not a “lone wolf” but the footsoldier of something bigger – directly influenced or even working under orders.

    I am not convinced by the absolute conclusions in either case, and suspect the truth lies somewhere between the “lone wolf” and the “active cell”.

    Surely the truth is murkier

    • Ianr Stewart

      But Duncan, I seem to remember Nick Cohen writing an article in The Spectator about Breivik, to which the online responses were predictably vile. (If you think we have it tough with comments here or in the staggers, try the speccie) Robert Fisk is a Middle east Foreign Correspondent, not specialising in the Euro-Right.
      I take your point, both Breivik and Merah are both pawns in a game. It is entirely possible that they acted alone or in concert with others. They certainly have their supporters. However it is the nature of the game that worries me – one in which large sections of the Left in the west will excuse oppression and terror perpetrated and popularised by brown skinned people upon other brown skinned people in the name of anti-imperialism. At the same time, we rightly join together to combat fascists and nationalists with white skins.
      My position, & I think Rob Marchants position, is that you have to oppose all forms of oppression.

      • Duncan Hall

        It was Rob that mentioned Fisk initially.

        My position is also that you have to oppose all forms of oppression, although I would go so far as to say that I don’t think you should oppose them all equally (but that gets us into murky water).  What I would say is that antisemitism – all racism for that matter – sit right at the top of that “league table” of oppression.  I don’t feel I should have to point that out every time I comment on these issues, it should go without saying. 

        But imperialism is a very real issue and our understanding of global controversies requires an understanding of it; otherwise we would simply run around seeing all sorts of horrible, apparently senseless actions and having no part in it other than to condemn it all equally.  Worthy, perhaps (though I would question that), but ultimately impotent.  Otherwise we sometimes cheer brown people killing brown people and at other times condemn it based on a very partial understanding of the small part of the situation we read about in our papers.

  • Adam

    The Guardian wrote two editorials on the subject. Both blamed the non-Islamist far Right.

    None mentioned antisemitism. 

    I hear what Duncan is saying, but he’s wrong. 

    • Duncan Hall

      I have read the editorials in question and – once the identity of the killer was confirmed – nobody “blamed” the far right, although I agree the far right was referred to and, in later comment antisemitism wasn’t (although of course – antisemitism was one of the reasons why the far right was suspected in the first place).

      I think you are picking up on a broader aspect of the reporting of these crimes from all commentators, left, right, centre, inside and outside France – that is, that the focus has been on the likely impact on the French presidential elections.  It is an understandable preoccupation, of course, but it is one that does effect the content of any comment.  There is a far-right candidate in the election, there isn’t a wahabist candidate.

      I don’t think that says anything about left-wing priorities or attitudes to anti-semitism.  Up until this point, charges of Islamophobia have been more an issue in the contest than issues relating to antisemitism, although comment on the right fringe has been targeted at all religious minorities in France, to a certain extent.

      I don’t know what sort of comment Rob (and some who have congratulated him) want to see.  I suspect it is some sort of mea culpa, accepting the unfounded charges that have been levelled at the left since Nick Cohen’s “What’s Left” and associated discussions.  But that comment will only come from those who accept the initial criticism.

      I compare it to comments during the Iraq War – many of us found ourselves falling over ourselves to condemn Saddam Hussain’s record because (without it) any anti-war comment would somehow be repackaged as pro-Saddam.  To consider the events in France this month partly in the context of how a young French Muslim might have arrived at the disgusting views (that are quite contrary to his faith and his upbringing)that led him to pull the trigger is only indicative of a blindspot to antisemitism if you are looking for one.  It is never wrong to try and understand, and if people have reached the wrong conclusions then debate with them – but don’t accuse them of not caring or question their commitment to basic and fundamental principles.

      • Duncan, I ask only that you ask yourself the question: why is it that many of the left’s commentators find it impossible to write about such subjects? Have you ever read a piece by Seumas Milne which actually unequivocally condemned an Islamist terrorist action (and there have been many over recent years)?

        Now ask yourself why that is. That’s all I ask.

        • Duncan

           Well that is a very different point to the one which you make in your article alleging that people ignore anti-Semitism.

          I can’t speak for Seumas Milne, but assuming we can agree that a humane, decent writer like Seumas Milne will have a humane and decent response to atrocities, the reason why he chooses to write about something else might be interesting, but should not be the focus of a witch-hunt.

          Let’s face it, there is hardly a shortage of condemnation of Islamist terrorist actions in the press!  Thoughtful considerations about context, and about the impact of the sometimes rather extreme media coverage on the vast majority of Muslims – who are as repulsed by such actions as you, me or Seumas Milne – are fewer and further to come by.  And therefore I do not find it surprising that some commentators choose to tell that story.  It is an important story to tell.  They don’t have preface it with a watered-down version of Peter Hitchens piece from the Mail in order for it to be acceptable.

          • Chilbaldi

            Milne, humane?! Ha!

          • Duncan Hall

            Care to elaborate?

          • Ben

            Seamus Milne is a Stalinist, not a “humane, decent writer”. Further, his support for Al-Qaeda in Iraq and their slaughter of innocent civilians rules out the possibility of him being either humane or decent, thank you very much.

          • Duncan Hall

            No he isn’t, no he doesn’t. Is this the “lies and the lying liars who tell them” thread?

          • Mr Chippy

            Duncan well he was when he was active in the Anti-Apartheid Movement (Hammersmith Branch) for whom I worked. How do I know? Well I was a stalinist myself. I accept people can change but didn’t he appear on C4 (Right to Reply I think) about a decade ago challenging  Stalin’s death tally.

          • Duncan Hall

            While I don’t see it as something every writer needs to do to be free of the allegation of being a Stalinist (has Robert Marchant ever explicitly denounced Stalin?  His silence on this matter is eery and concerning!) I have read plenty of things from Seumas Milne explicitly condemning the repugnant crimes of Stalin-era Soviet Union.  His reasons for “challenging Stalin’s death tally” is much more pertinent to this discussion.  That is, Milne fears that an attempt to present Nazism and “communism” as equal evils is a contemporary attempt to legitimise Nazi collaboration and involvement in the holocast in Eastern Europe.  Which, oddly, does appear to be Seumas Milne writing about anti-Semitism.
            (e.g: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/sep/09/second-world-war-soviet-pact )

  • UKAzeri

    “Not a 20th century European anti-Semitism, that of white Christians. No, this was taken directly from Islamism, that perversion of Islam which blights the 21st.”
    I would like to congratulate the author on being truthful to the issue.  Some might argue that association of whole cultures with particular racial hatred is an over exaggeration however I am simply happy that someone felt it important not to discriminate and instead level an assertion to both.
    However he forgets to mention that the right in the media behaves in a similar way when attacking Muslims. Hence when a standoff takes place neither of the side is particularly keen to admit they are wrong or to overtly/eagerly condemn acts of horror because to do so is to give ammunition to the other side. It’s like a school playground.

    On the Merah allow me to give an alternative view from the colourful world of Islam.

    There is a plague in the Muslim world. Some of you might know it as Wahabism and others as Salafism.. Though it has many names. In a nutshell its puritanical interpretation of Islam, which has its origins in Arab response to Crusades. In other words it is an interpretation forged during war time. However it’s not the historical but modern manifestations that blight the people of the Middle East and beyond. It was largely absent in the 19th and 18th century but with onset of the oil boom and subsequent rise of Saudi Arabia it has infiltrated every part of the world. It is Saudi (by proxy our) money that funds much of the ideology aimed against the ‘infidels’.  It is they who have done so much in getting this message across and as long as Saudi Arabia  remains unchecked, Wahabi’s will continue to brainwash young men and women. Western politicians like Bush and Blair didn’t want to distinguish between mainstream and radical Islam, because it fitted their agenda. Hence whenever I see articles like the one above I rejoice at the fact that there are journalists who are prepared to underline the perversion of the culture /religion.

    A broader point the right need to understand is that Muslim attitudes to Jews are rooted in a national conflict and not in some kind of racial hatred( Imagine if Turkey  was doing the same to an Eastern European country since 48, what would the attitude be to Turkey in Europe today?). Certainly racial hatred becomes part of it for some but many in the Arab world, know too well what it is to live without rights, freedoms and under occupation, to then question the right of Jews to homeland. Once the bombs started dropping and guns firing (almost from the word go in the 30s), no one was particularly interested in talking about reasonableness and common ground.

    • @UkAzeri: Very interesting and thoughtful comment. From your handle I’m guessing you may have a lot more insight into the thoughts of moderate and extremist Muslims than some of those on this thread!

      I think you’re right about the right-wing press and the potential for anti-Muslim prejudice, however it is a very localised problem, as I have written before here: http://thecentreleft.blogspot.com.es/2012/01/why-mehdi-hasan-is-wrong-about.html
      and it is something on which Express Group have been rightly called. But generally speaking I would argue that the UK press are fairly even handed in their treatment of Muslims (sometimes to the extent of being apologists for extremists, in the case of the Guardian, and sometimes the BBC).

      The tragedy is that many in the media on both right and left cannot tell the difference between ordinary Muslims and extremist Muslims (who are dragging the name of their religion through the mud).

      My concern is that, at the other end of the spectrum, very few people are calling this stuff out in the Guardian, and on the left we pretend that anti-Semitic prejudice does not exist.

      • Duncan

         Who pretends that?  It does exist.  It’s disgusting.  It’s on the rise.  Some of it comes from the sources you refer to, much of it does not.  The problem is, I am now concerned that I might be pretending millions of other things don’t exist because I have specifically mentioned them in this comment.

        • Btw Duncan, given that there is no prejudice whatsoever in the liberal-left press, perhaps you can explain the Guardian’s extraordinary puff piece on Holocaust cartoonist Latuff?


          I suggest you read it, then Google him, and see a few of his “humorous cartoons”. Do you see what I’m talking about now?

          • Duncan Hall

            I have to say I don’t Rob.  I’d never heard of the cartoonist in question, and therefore I’m sure there must be a cartoon that didn’t come up when I googled him, especially as I could see nothing that could explain describing him as a “holocaust cartoonist”.

            But assuming I’ve missed the offending cartoons, I’m still not sure what your point is.  I certainly didn’t say “there is no prejudice whatsoever in the liberal-left press” but are you suggesting the Guardian is anti-Semitic?  I think you have to stop with the inuendo.  What precisely are you accusing Jeremy Corbyn of in a later comment?

          • Duncan

             Disgusting I agree.  The concept of a “holocaust cartoon” competition is itself sickening. The fact this this person’s entry seems to have been one of the least offensive on show is no sort of mitigation.

            If the author of the Guardian piece was aware of the competition and his entry to it, then that was a shocking omission to the brief discussion relating to claims of anti-Semitism.  If he wasn’t aware, then he should have done more research.

            We can all find vats of rubbish articles (and buckets of offensive articles) in the Guardian and most other newspapers.  I don’t disagree with your decision to be critical of this “puff piece” – but I do come back to the question, are you saying the Guardian is anti-Semitic?  Are you accusing Jeremy Corbyn of being anti-Semitic?  If not, precisely what is your allegation?

          • jonathanmorse

            I have often wondered what would a Jew, taken from the horrors of the concentration camps, having said that his kind would never do what was being done to them, taken by God/the Angels/the Ghost of Christmas Future to see how the Israeli State treats the Palestinians, would say. There are many Jews opposed to what Israel does, some even opposed to the State including survivors.

            Jews and Arabs live side be side within the State, why can’t this continue as a single State?

  • Ianr Stewart

    Spot on Mr Marchant! I fear that sections of the left are happy to bask in the reflected glory of Cable Street rather than accept that there is a problem here and now. Of course, any leftist worth their salt would point out that the far right and the islamists are two faces of the same coin. 
    We must do all we can to support liberal campaigners of ALL religions, and not pretend that reactionary fundamentalists, whether Muslim, Sikh, Christian or whatever have any solutions to the worlds problems other than a retreat back to the dark ages.

    • Mr Chippy

      Don’t your comments equally apply to Jewish fanatics? Or are all practitioners of this faith intrinsically liberal?

      • Ianr Stewart

        Mr Chippy, as an ex-Trot replying to an ex-Tankie, please re-read the post. I wrote in shouty capital letters “ALL” religions. I followed that with “…whether Muslim, Sikh, Christian or whatever…”
        Apologies for failing to provide a comprehensive list of religions. As a Humanist, and secularist, I thought that a few examples would do. I also didn’t mention Hinduism, Zoarastrianism or Bhuddism. 
        Yes, fundamentalist Jews can be as oppressive as fundamentalists of any stripe. As can those who spend their time wondering why others left out the word “Jew” in the first place. I must say I find your reply both misleading and slightly sinister.   

        • Mr Chippy

          I don’t know you from adam and you me. I was trying to determine whether your omission was a sub-conscious one and would indicate a blind spot of your own. You advise me no so I am happy with your response. 

  • Denise

    At last! Someone who can see that we keep making excuses for this kind of behaiviour at our peril. Blaming Israel and the west for all the worlds ills just encourages this sort of person to think they can behave with impunity. It’s been going on since the 70’s and has always been legitimised  so it’s hardly surprising people turn a blind eye now. We really need to sort it out without always having the screamers calling ‘racist’ every time someone condemns a crime like this that happens to be commited by a Muslim.

    • Thanks Denise. In fact, it’s being going on longer than the 70s. I have just found this excellent piece on the history of the subject from m’learned colleague Nick Cohen: 

      • coventrian

        Nick ‘Bomb Iraq, Bomb Iran’ Cohen.

    • coventrian

      Blaming Israel and the west for all the worlds ills…’

      This is what’s known as ‘The Straw Man’ argument. Pathetic.

      ‘…always having the screamers calling ‘racist’…’

      Most people who talk the way you do are racist.

  • AlanGiles

    Yet another rant at the “Stop the War” coalition. Mr Marchant. You just can’t bear the fact that they were nasty to the dear leader can you?. Never mind, Tony cried all the way to the bank.

    • On the contrary, Alan, the Stoppers were, and are, a total irrelevance.

      By the way, I do not ask everyone to share my views, I do expect them at least to argue their own logically and consistently. There is no logic or consistently in saying something is unjustifiable, then spending a couple of paragraphs trying to justify it.

      • AlanGiles

        At least the “Stoppers” as you choose to call them, tried to do something to stop us going to war, unlike the Blair lickspittles, who even today see nothing wrong in our adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the STWC gained support across the board, with people from all walks of life. The trouble with the right wing of the Labour party is that it is easy to sit back and say how “brave” Blair was – they and he were not the ones who had to do the fighting.

        If the right wing of Labour becomes dominant again Blue/Purple/Black/New Labour, whatever you market yourselves as,  will become just as much an “irrelevance” as you consider the STWC to be: why have a pseudo-Tory government when you can have the original for the same price?.

        • GuyM

          I see nothing wrong with going into Afghanistan.

          Nor do I see anything wrong with removing Saddam. The problem was the horribly planned “peace”.

          STWC was in a minority in the country, both in terms of the politicl parties, MPs and opinion polls.

          It had no more right to expect a shift in government policy simply through “people on the street” than did the countryside alliance’s march to defend fox hunting.

          • AlanGiles

            There is never much point in trying to have a sensible conversation with you Guy. All I can say though is you must have been on another planet in 2003.  There was an overwhelming majority of people against the Iraq war – not least in the Labour party itself. You only have to compare the results of the 2001 and 2005 elections to see that, but of course as you are so up your own rectum you wouldn’t be able to see that

          • jonathanmorse

            Yet BlairLabour won the GE and OldLabour lost it. Democracy is not so much about what the voters voted for rather what they’ll let you keep your seat for. I believe to be electable again we need to be at least Blairish is not Blairite. But I think most of Labour’s backbenchers like it where they are for the moment, so are content with Ed.

          • derek

            I don’t think Blair won the 1997 election as much as the tories lost that election, the way the tories are going hammer and tongue to finish off Thatchers work, we could well be in for a change of government by 2014, labour will need to have the policy of reversal in hand, something that’s completely out of the Blairites hands.

          • jonathanmorse

            In 97 I lived in Croydon Central. Croydon N was seen as a key seat and those who believed we had a cat in hell’s chance of winning Central and wasted effort that was needed on North were heavily critised. People who believe that the Tories would inevitably have lost in 97 also believed that in 92, except that they can’t.

            I don’t believe that the current Labour MP’s want to risk being elected back into power in the next 60 years – they like their safe seats, but, whereas I thought that the Tories would inevitably loose in 2014 now I don’t, largely because Ed and co. won’t say the necessary things like justify our deficit or apologise for it.

          • derek

            To be fair in this day and age the Army and Armed Forces are public servants and deserve to be conscientious objectors.It’s about high time the Armed Forces were given trade union rights, if an armed services personal doesn’t want to drive a tanker because he supports the tankers drivers actions, then that personal should have the right to express his objections and refuse the action under secondary conscientious thoughts. 

          • jonathanmorse

            My understanding was that they had a planned peace then GW put his drinking buddy in power and the whole thing went South.

  • Great Article Rob, antisemitism has no place in a modern society. 

  • Mr Chippy

    As a pro-Palestinian I share your unease. Certainly anti-semites of the left do no favours to the Palestinian cause.

    However, pro-Israel supporters have a blind spot of their own. Indeed as a former ‘tankie’ I am minded how their justifications of every action of the Israeli state is similar to my former defence of ‘actual existing socialism’.

    The racist nature of some sections of Israeli society needs to be condemned its own right. I accept that seeking condemnation as a pre-condition for others condeming anti-semitism is bordering on being anti-semitic itself. But certainly being blind to racist discrimination perpetrated against Palestinian Arabs hardly gives moral ground to comment.

    I know this is not true in your case Rob because we have previously had a discussion of a similar nature. 

    Recently a report was published about how settlers were acting with impunity against the Palestinian Arab population particularly farmers. If similar acts were carried out by Arabs against Jews there would be collective punishments imposed. I could add planning permission or property rights in Jerusalem where immigrants from Russia or the US appear to have more rights than the indigenous population.

    If there is no equality under the law then that in my view is discriminatory.  Your proper action in calling to account some of the  comments of the pro-Palestinian left is not going to inhibit my criticism of the increasingly racist nature of the Israeli state and some sections of society.

    • It’s undoubtedly true there are some sections of Israeli society which have a radical right bent. There are also some clear shortcomings of some of their administrations (like the current one, I’m afraid). No-one is saying life is easy in Gaza (either because of the Israelis or because of the repressive Islamist regime itself).

      But yes, two wrongs, as I think you are saying, make a right.

      • Mr Chippy

        No such thing read the whole post. I could suggest you are saying anti-semitism is wrong, anti-Arab racism doesn’t make anti-semitism right. Anti-semitism exists in the UK without a doubt but I would suggest Islamophobia is more prevelent. Perhaps you could recognise this or your own blind spot is no different from the blind spot you identified in the article. However as I said from previous dialogue I do no believe this true. The same cannot be said for other supportive posts. 

      • Mr Chippy

        Rob why do you use the term radical right and appear reluctant to use the term racist.

      • Mr Chippy

        Rob I know you are responding on many points but in time can you get around to mine. I’ll make in simple. Why do you appear reluctant to describe the so-called radical right and aspects of the Israeli state racist?

        Can I also at the same disassociate myself from the more trenchant critics of your piece which to my mind only support some of the points you are making? What is it about this issue which makes it impossible for a rational and temperate debate to take place?

        • Well, because it’s a more subtle question than you might think. Firstly I don’t believe the state itself is racist, racism is generally a function of specific governments not states. And is every member of Likud a racist? No, I don’t think so.

          I believe there are racist elements in the Israeli population (as there are in all populations, including the UK) and some Israeli politicians who verge on racism and sometimes spill over into it. I am not a fan of the current Israeli government – at all – but it was at least democratically elected. Neither does it, in general, try to oppress women or gay people. That said, this particular government has a poor record with its treatment of Palestinians and its settlements policy is downright stupid. So that is my assessment, for what it’s worth (although frankly it’s got very little to do with this debate).Anyway, thank you for at least trying to debate the issues, rather than coming with insults and stupidity.

          • The problem for you is that the Israeli left has virtually disappeared. Labour have been decimated and the options now appear to be between Likud and Kadima (ex-Likud)

            Both are right of centre

      • Mr Chippy

        Rob I suppose in view thatyou have replied to other posts you are not going to describe some sections of Israeli society and some legal provisions of the state as racist. Shame because your article had many merits but is undermined by your own blind spot.

      • Mr Chippy

        And thank you I think we reached an understanding of each others position if not agreement.

  • Rob – 

    Another brave and well-argued article. The importance of this type of writing and the coverage of the subject cannot be overstated.


    • Why thanks, Dan. Nice to hear the odd positive comment!

    • coventrian

      Actually a  cowardly and poorly-argued smear job, 

      …but what else can you expect from a B£airite?

  • I could have guessed who the author of this was before I started.

    When you start recognising that Zionism is unacceptable and every bit as racist as anti-semitism, then I’ll start taking you seriously. Until then, I’ll simply view you for what you are – part of the pro-Israel right or wrong lobby

    • Daniel Speight

       You know Mike it’s very easy to get pulled into this nonsense with sides holding ideas set in concrete. I’m not sure that Zionism in itself is/was that bad an idea. A Jewish state was probably earned in the hardest of ways by victims of the holocaust. Even a Jewish state in holy lands isn’t so unacceptable, and certainly wasn’t to those in the socialist movement in the post-war years.

      The 1948 war and even the 1967 to some extent were defensive wars against very undemocratic neighbouring governments and locals being whipped up by extremist religious leaders. What seems to have been lost by the following Israeli governments is looking for ways of living alongside those that were already there. By adopting at times expansionist policies they have made peace hard to find and encouraged terrorist movements. (No this is not a justification of shooting schoolkids Marchant, don’t even try that line.)

      I don’t pretend to understand the different lines that run through Zionism, but wasn’t Netanyahu’s father a leader of a movement who wanted all the places mentioned in the bible to be part of the Jewish state.

      • Daniel; I think the problem was that the Zionist settlers expected those already in that country to simply leave. There was never any thought as to them not doing so – its a problem when a belief is that the country is yours for ideological reasons

        Surely those who committed the atrocities of the Holocaust should have had some responsibility for finding suitable land, using that argument? I don’t think there is very much chance of a peaceful settlement in the region – the enmity runs too deep.

    • Mike, as usual you throw around the term “Zionist” without really explaining what you mean. If you mean the right of Israel to exist, well pretty much the whole party and the whole country think that. But as for the whole debate, my views are actually quite balanced between the two.

      By the way, you have no idea whatsoever what my ideas are about Israel and Palestine are, because I’ve never told you and you’ve never asked. I have never written a piece about my views, either. All you do is infer, incorrectly, what you think they are. You might be rather surprised.

      If you could take off your black-and-white blinkers, Mike, you’d realise that Palestine is one issue, and racism quite another.

      • Mike Homfray is a member of the lunatic fringe who would be far more at home in the SWP. I’ve grown used to listening to his stupid far left nonsense but he’s also revealed himself as a nasty anti-semite as well as his views above and in this post below on another thread show …


        • Another tactic of the Zionist Israel-are-always-right lobby is to label their opponents as anti-semitic.

          You can spot them a mile off

          • What a stupid post that more or less proves my point. I am opposed to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, did not support the war in Iraq and do not support war in Iran so what evidence do you have that I am a Zionist or was it just a cheap shot? I can at least back up my charge and provided a link where you almost seem to be willing on the destruction of Israel.

          • A two state solution would be ideal, but looking at the way the map has been drawn following settlements, that’s hardly an option now, is it?

        • Bill Lockhart

          Homfray is only far-left for certain audiences. When he believes only like-minded people are reading, on some subjects he’s way to the right of  Enoch Powell- poor brown people for one thing.


          I’m not sure whether wishing death on someone you’ve never met but with whom you disagree is left or right wing. I think it’s basically just revealingly nasty.

          • jaime taurosangastre candelas

            That is disgraceful.  I hope Mike Homfray will come back to either recant those views or debate them. For an active member of the Labour Party to continue to host them on his blog is very surprising (and elsewhere on his blog, there are some more trenchant views on sterilisation of poor people in India. e.g. “There are some good ‘carrots’ – for example, we came across a first-division English-medium school which offers free places to the poor, but only if the mother has two children and is then sterilised. Is this harsh? I don’t think so.”).

          • Oh, nonsense. The women want to be sterilised, to stop them becoming baby machines and extremely poor. The hospital is run by Indian people who are thoroughly fed up with the simpering third world lobby – get real, over-population is a vital issue and very few people are honest enough to talk about it. The main protagonists in its favour are religionists of all varieties.

            The Chinese policy worked and has much to do with the advancement of that country in economic terms

  • Daniel Speight

     A nonsense post and using dead kids to make it. Shame on you Marchant.

    • Oh do be quiet, Daniel.

      • AlanGiles

        Oh do be quiet, Daniel.”

        Why not take your own advice?. You are no longer an important  “manager”, and even if you were, if you choose to write an article you must expect many different responses to it. If you can’t stand the heat – stay out of the kitchen.

        • Daniel Speight

           Funny, a post complaining about silence and then a command to be quiet in the comments. A bit of the school teacher in Marchant.

          I will say it again – shame on you Marchant. Draping dead kids bodies over your arguments.

          • AlanGiles

            Good morning Daniel. I think Mr Marchant still labours (pardon the pun) under the impression that he is “important” instead of a “former manager” – another of his little conceits like the one that he is “on the left”. He should do what several existing “Labour” MPs and a few Labour MP manques should do, and join Cameron or Clegg – they seem to have more in common with the coalition than they do with us.

          • I leave to the good readers of LabourList, Alan, to decide which of us is reasonable and which is certifiably bonkers.

          • AlanGiles

            “certifiably bonkers”: Is that a term you often employed as a “manager” for Labour, Marchant?. In which case it is no surprise they are now in o;pposition. You show nothing but contempt for left wingers both on LL and in your mithering articles. This time it was Jeremy Corbyn, we have had your little thoughts on Livingstone.

            If you are to regain power you need the support of us “bonkers” left wingers, not just those nice little Blairite lickspittles.

            Given your attitude, if that is the future for Labour I don’t fancy your chances.  There is no room in UK politics for a second Conservative party, but go ahead and try p- and I will enjoy watching you squirm when you are defeated.

          • I don’t take him at all seriously, Alan. I hope he will take his mate Bozier’s advice

          • AlanGiles

            He seems to have more in common with him, Mike, but the question is, would there be a room big enough to contain LB and RM’s egos? 🙂

          • Ben

            What I find particularly instructive, Rob, is the extraordinary level of vitriol and hatred that oozes from the “anti-Imperialist” perspective here – attacking you in the most personal terms. The Hard and Far Left have always had a tendency to push aggressive lines in order to shut down discussion. That is what they are doing here. (Great piece, by the way.)

          • Thanks Ben. Yes, I am not sure why people can’t stick to the arguments, rather than resort to personal vitriol, but hey.

          • Ben

            What I find particularly instructive, Rob, is the extraordinary level of vitriol and hatred that oozes from the “anti-Imperialist” perspective here – attacking you in the most personal terms. The Hard and Far Left have always had a tendency to push aggressive lines in order to shut down discussion. That is what they are doing here. (Great piece, by the way.)

          • Dave Postles

             ‘certifiably bonkers’
            That is an appalling comment.  I hope that you will have the grace to retract it.

          • Bill Lockhart

            Oh the pomposity, oh the faux ‘offence’. Funny, I don’t recall you responding like ‘Claire in the Community’ when one of your progressive allies was complaining about “Tory spasctics ” here the other day. All depends who’s making the “appalling” comments I suppose.

          • Dave Postles

            “Tory spasctics ” 
            I condemn that equally.  I don’t read every posting here.  It certainly does not matter who is making the comment. 

          • Dave Postles

            BTW, the original Clare in the Community [Clare Allan] is the daughter of a highly intelligent couple [the mother I know] who has been hospitalized on several occasions.  She writes about the experiences of her illness in the print media.  She has also written a novel: Poppy Shakespeare.  Her writing is well worth reading and you will learn a great deal about the true issues of mental illness.  Faux offence, indeed.

          • Its the usual Zionist tactic

    • Hugh

      And presumably on all the  leftist agitators who’ve used the dead kids argument frequently over the last decade or so to variously argue for dropping sanctions, implementing sanctions (rather than go to war), stopping the war, or pulling out from the occupation in Iraq? 

      • AlanGiles

        How predictable! The right wing of the Conservative party agreeing with the right wing of the Labour party……

        Pity you and Mr Marchant didn’t go and join the Army to fight yourselves if you feel it so necessary

        • Hugh

          That would be an excellent point, apart from:

          – I didn’t refer to with Mr Marchant’s article or his opinions, making it difficult for me to have agreed with them;
          – I didn’t say anything about whether the war was necessary or otherwise, making it unlikely that it should be necessary for me to join the army; and
          – I’m not on the right of the Conservative party

          Otherwise, spot on.

          • AlanGiles

            Come off it, Hugh. Are you trying to say that you are on the left yourself? (“Leftist agitators”) given your various LL posts. It’s clear where hyou are coming from
            Pull the other one.

          • Hugh

             And it’s clear you don’t do coherent argument.

    • Jeremy_Preece

       Looks like a case of denial

  • Dave Postles

    We’re just heightening the rhetoric.  We must stop killing each other.  Staff Sergeant Robert Bales kills Muslims; Muslims kill Jews and French people; drones kill innocent people; idiots fire rockets into Israel; Israel uses planes disproportionately.  Why can’t we just stop all this crap?  Stop the killing fields.

  • Jeremy_Preece

    In 2006, Pope Benedict made a speech about faith and reason.
    Sadly the point of it was drowned out by accusations that it was anti Islamic,
    and in fact it was not. It was about the essence of being truthful.


    Central to his position that faith has to be reasonable: Therefore
    the end never justifies the means. Those inside their faith groups have no
    special preference in terms of their human rights over those who are on the
    outside. This was not the pope’s invention, but a statement of Catholic Social
    Teaching. On that basis the crusades could never have be justified and violence
    cannot be a weapon in furthering truth.  In
    other words, the dream of creating any utopia ends when violence and murder are
    used, and it ends as simply an act of barbaric horror. To use the New Testament
    maxim “ by their fruit shall you know them”.


    There are many examples of a religion being turned upside
    down and perverted into a war. There are also examples of communism,
    nationalism and political idealism. In many places, the USA in particular,
    there are a number of really awful cults that take the Christian faith and
    twist it into some perversion that justifies members in being able to break the
    law, or abuse others – the lesser outsiders. In main stream cases there are
    problems when a group are considered to be above the law.



    One of the very ugliest parts of that is where there appears
    to be them and us, with the implication that “they” are not fully human and
    therefore are deserving of less rights than “us” who are in the right. So in Argentina,
    under Pinochet, those who murdered people for being Marxist did not consider
    that they were killing people, they were killing Marxists. I am sure that part
    of the radicalising of Mohemed Merah was the notion that anti Semitism is not
    murder but that he would be somehow getting rid of an enemy and something that
    was sub-human. This is not only repugnant, but is the spring board into the
    most evil acts of human behaviour.


    Islamic fundamentalism is another classic manifestation of
    this evil. Sadly the word “fundamentalism” is applied to those who take their
    faith and twist it away from its original principles into something that
    contradicts the very heart of the message that they started with. Actually the
    truth is that these people actually miss the fundamental elements of their
    religion, so fundamentalism is a very inaccurate word.


    The Muslims I have spoken to are appalled by Islamic
    fundamentalism which is a travesty of their religion. There is always a
    revolting politics behind these manifestations of hatred, and it is really
    tribalism at its most shocking. The religion is actually missing, and the tribal
    label is what has been left.


    What happened in Nazi Germany was another modern
    manifestation of the same problem. And what has happened in France is more
    of the same. Sadly there are also tribal identities that are used to protect
    the guilty or to ignore what has happened simply because it does not fit.


    It is not a religious problem, but a human problem. There
    can be a gang/mob element, for example the trade union supporter who decides to
    use violence against someone not supporting a strike, because “they are a scab”,
    i.e. a lesser human being. In Soviet Russia the communist party member also
    enjoyed being above the law, or at least more equal in the eyes of the law.


    Whether religious or secular, there is also a tribalism in
    the response to violence. Sometimes this results in exactly the type of science
    that Rob Marchant is referring to here, when the truth becomes all too inconvenient
    to the cause and is hushed up in the vain belief that the greater good is at
    steak. And I would acknowledge parts of my own church have spectacularly failed
    in this area.


    A political example – In Libya, there were undoubtedly acts
    of barbarism committed by anti-Gadafi forces too, but they were seen as too inconvenient
    to the cause of removing Gadafi. The argument I would make is that truth
    dictates that all such abuses have to be treated with equal vigour. And so no
    element of the political landscape should silence the horrors of violence caused
    by Islamic fundamentalism, which as Rob Marchand rightly points out, is an
    organised system of spreading hatred.

    • Thanks Jeremy. I am not always a fan of Pope Benedict, but think on that occasion he was right. A very important point constantly to make, that most Muslims are as appalled by fundamentalist Islamists as non-Muslims.

      By the way, the CofE has sometimes been spectacularly weak on the subject of anti-Semitism: for those interested, go to Harry’s Place and look up the Rev. Stephen Sizer, who should, frankly, have been de-frocked long ago.

      • Stephen is actually a strong conservative evangelical – far from on the left.  His critique is of the so-called Christian Zionists – why should he be defrocked simply for daring to criticise the state of Israel?

        • Er, because he links to Holocaust denial sites? Mike, you clearly have no idea what you’re talking about.

          • No, Rob, I have every idea – and I know where you are coming from – an Israel right or wrong propagandist who clearly has no idea about the effect of the Palestinian issue on the Muslim population. 

            Stop whining on about anti-semitism every time someone makes a reasonable point about the atrocious behaviour of the Israeli government and their occupation of Palestine. Its got nothing at all to do with religion – I have no religion – and everything to do with Israel as a state and its expansionist aims and unacceptable aggression.

          • Ok Mike, I would like to you to attest, in front of our colleagues at LabourList, that you do not find anything anti-Semitic about this website, to which Rev Stepen Sizer linked: http://theuglytruth.wordpress.com/

            Go on Mike, say you think it’s perfectly acceptable.

            I’m waiting.

          • Its largely anti-Israel: the state of Israel. Its somewhat unsubtle to put it mildly!

            However, I didn’t spot any Holocaust denial, and if states insist on giving themselves religious labels, you can see how easy it is to think that everyone in that category is included when the state itself is criticised.A bit like you, really, in your refusal to accept the links between the appeal of Islamism and what is going on in Palestine. In the west, undoubtedly the main recruiting sergeant – if there is one subject which unites moderate Muslims and Islamists, it is opposition to the activities of the state of Israel in Palestine’s occupied territories.Have a look at what’s happened in Bradford.

          • And there you have it, folks. I invite you all to check out this website, and draw your own conclusions as to whether or not this site is anti-Semitic and whether you agree with Mike.

      • Jeremy_Preece


        Thank you Rob. I would also go on to say that not only are
        most Muslims equally appalled by the evil that is carried out in their name, but
        that in the cases of political correctness and those trying to ban Christmas
        (Winterfest etc.) that it is the Muslim community who have often spoken up for
        the Christian churches. This to my mind is real tolerance and diversity at


        You also have to be careful and remember Islam is not one
        single entity. In Iraq
        for example, all three elements at war with each other were different shades of
        Islam. The Kurds are Islamic as are the Turks who desperately want to suppress
        any Kurd nationalism.   


  • Duncan

    I’ve been trying to be very careful with my tone on this thread, because it is such an emotive issue.  But I do get so angry at this sort of comment, because it just so astonishingly offensive and, seemingly, so lacking in foundation.

    People I have a lot of time for themselves have a lot of time for Rob, so I have to assume this was not intended as a thoughtless attack piece.  But I do think Rob needs to consider the logic in his piece.  He accuses Lindsay German of trying to justify the Toulouse attacks.  I hold no brief for German, but can’t we begin – on this issue of all issues – from a standpoint that if somebody says “no-one can justify the Toulouse attacks” that they mean it?  And therefore whatever they go on to say, whether you agree with it or not, or indeed whether you think it appropriate or not, is NOT an attempt to justify them.

    And then it appears that everybody who hasn’t written this article has remained deliberately and eerily silent: and they have done this because they don’t want to acknowledge anti-Semitism.  I mean, is it not abundantly clear how irrational and repugnantly offensive that argument is?  In the comments, it goes further to whether people have or have not condemned Islamist terror attacks.  A separate point but an equally disreputable one.

    So I ask Rob: you obviously have an opinion.  It is always inferred, there is great inuendo, but you do not express it.  Why do YOU think Seumas Milne has not condemned terrorist attacks (if he hasn’t?)  Why do YOU think the “left commentariat” does not want “admit” to a resurgence of anti-Semitism? (Which you assert they do not).  I do not think inference and inuendo are acceptable when dealing with such fundamental issues of decency: come right out with it.  What are you saying?  What are you accusing people of?

  • Duncan

    Just one last point on this, if you wrap up the disgraceful rise in anti-Semitism in Europe entirely in a discourse about “Islamism”, you will fail to deal with the problem, because you are dealing with a tiny proportion of the problem.  Your assertion that “Islamism” is  increasingly the “root cause” of anti-Semitism is undermined by studies that have found that over 70% of people in Spain (for example) hold anti-Jewish views.

    So there are different fights to be fought here – there are the horrible incidents in Toulouse, a major toxic ingredient of which was anti-Semitism; but there is a much broader problem of anti-Semitism on the rise in Europe that must be dealt with in a more intelligent way.  I have to say that while, in my role working with young adults, I see considerably more Islamophobic and anti-gypsy racism and prejudice than I do anti-Semitism, I would say that “casual” anti-Semitism would be the fastest growing prejudice that I have encountered in the last couple of years.  I would also add that this is coming overwhelmingly from white kids, not local Asian Muslims.  I don’t know where it has come from, but the “casual” prejudice (often expressed “positively” – “they know how to make loads of money”, etc.) is the same old prejudice that I have to assume never really went away.

    • Duncan, your point about Spain is bizarre, and anecdotal. (Hardly surprising that a country locked away for 40 years has higher levels of xenophobia, half of my family is Spanish so I think it’s an issue I have a fair understanding of.)

      I do not insist – as is clear from the piece – that all anti-Semitism is Islamist, but it increasingly eclipses the far right version, at least in the UK. Both, of course, are important.

      Islamophobia is an important problem, which deserves attention. But it is known and recognised on the streets and largely localised in the media, as I have written before. Anti-Semitism (apart from the far-right variety) is largely ignored on the streets and denied in the media. Especially the liberal-left media.

      • Duncan

         Rob – I agree it’s bizarre, but it is not anecdotal. 


        The figure I gave for Spain came from the raw data which differentiated between “anti-Jewish sentiments” and anti-Semitism, which accounts for the different figure, but I’m sure you’ll agree the numbers are very shocking.  I highlighted Spain merely because it was the highest figure, the 24% in France and 17% in the UK are also very shocking figures.

        All I am saying is that to pretend that this arises from Islamism is dangerous and wrong: of course there are anti-Semitic elements in Muslim communities, and their anti-Semitism should be challenged head-on as much as anybody else’s, but it is not the most significant example of anti-Semitism in Europe today.

        It is also important to note that the same study found a significant increase in Islamophobia.  As such, it is imperative that we on the left tackle BOTH problems and see them as part of the same disease: racism.

        Finally, I think we need to be very careful in debates like this, which is one reason why I am so upset and angry about the inuendo that is employed by commentators like you and Nick Cohen.  If you have allegations to make you should make them; a series of nudges, winks and “draw your own conclusions” hung on half truths and sometimes on nothing at all is absolutely the wrong way to conduct a debate like this.

        I also think that some who might be thought of as being on “my side” of the debate (whatever that would mean) also conduct themselves badly on such questions, using language very imprecisely and refusing to engage on any level.

        So let’s try and be grown up about it.  One big problem at the current time is that criticisms of Israeli governments and Israeli government actions are often defended by inappropriate charges of anti-Semitism.  Sometimes the critics bring this on themselves through imprecise language (and therefore in some cases I am sure that those who level charges of anti-Semitism actually believe them) – often it is simply an effective way to shut down a debate.

        Such an approach is entirely unhelpful.  It is also sometimes used to shut down debate about prejudiced or extremist views held by some Muslims: the critics can be labelled as Islamophobes and the discussion brought to an end (or turned into a shout). 

        In both circumstances this a) draws attention away from real anti-Semitism and real Islamophobia and b) actually might encourage both anti-Semitic and Islamophobic views.

        What also really doesn’t help and has been an enormous distraction has been the repeated attempts to smear people who are absolutely and fundamentally 100% against all racism as either being themselves anti-Semitic or being somehow unconcerned about anti-Semitism.  It is a hugely divisive tactic that was, I am quite convinced, developed purely and simply as a way to discredit critics of US and UK foreign policies during the War on Terror.  I am sure that those arguments have convinced some people who now propagate them believing them to be true – and I assume Rob is one of these – but they are in reality a terrible and disreputable attack on some of the people who are at the forefront of fighting racism in all forms.

        There are, of course, some involved in pro-Palestinian politics that do express views that I consider anti-Semitic and it is 100% right to challenge those views and refuse them a platform from which to spout it.  The tactic I have previously referred to actually makes that harder, because all such criticism is understandably perceived as being part of that disreputable tactic.

        It is time for what we once called the “pro-War left” to withdraw and renounce the terrible smears in which they have engaged for the last 10 years, so that all those who are enemies of oppression, prejudice and racism can unite to stamp it out, whatever differences we might have on individual cases of foreign policy.

  • Hannah

    Superficially, this article is inarguable- antisemitism is bad, and I’d hope we could all agree that killing children is inexcusable but on closer inspection it’s central argument- that the failure of “the left” to respond to the events in toulouse as the author would like represents some sympathy towards violent anti-semitism doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.  Journalists don’t publish articles on every single subject no matter how worthy, they have their own interests and specialties, they may not have the inclination or feel they have anything useful to contribute to a particular story.  Why does Robert Fisk (a Middle East correspondent) or Seamus Milne (a commentator on western foreign policies from an anti-imperialist perspective)  have a particular obligation to comment on an ideologically motivated spree killing in France?  The only reason the author suggests this is to further the slur that critics of US/UK foreign policy or (heaven forfend) Israel are somehow motivated a sympathy toward Islamic extremism or a deep rooted anti-semitism. 

    • Not so, Hannah. There are many decent critics of UK foreign policy, even under Blair (e.g. Chris Smith, Robin Cook) who have done it from a principled perspective which has nothing to do with being pro-Islamist. Being against UK/US foreign policy is a necessary condition for this type of anti-Semitism, but it is by no means sufficient.

      You must surely admit it is pretty odd that the Guardian can run two editorials on the subject of Toulouse and never once mention anti-Semitism.

      • coventrian

        ‘Being against UK/US foreign policy is a necessary condition for this type of anti-Semitism…’

        Candidate for the stupidest B£airite formulation of the week.

        • Oh yes, one more thing – could you please stop writing Blairite as B£airite?

          It’s not amusing or clever, it’s just annoying.

          • coventrian

            How much is your hero Tony B£air worth now – in blood money?

            It may or may not be amusing, clever or annoying – but it is accurate. That’s why B£airites like you hate it.

  • Doctordrink

    Could we all please remember that the first three victims of Mr Merah were off-duty French soldiers, who were also of North African descent? I think we have to admit the truth of this, that fundamentalist terrorists of whatever stripe first of all seek to oppress their own. In this context, Merah and Brevik are brothers in arms.
    In a time when there are those in government ranting about “fundamentalist secularism” (an oxymoron), and islamist demagogues, not to mention fundamentalist christian outfits preying on the poorer areas of London, explaining their appeal comes a second best to actually combatting the causes. These people are leeching off poor communities, whilst in some cases fomenting antisemitism. At the same time, Londons Mayor is playing his own race card – with organised accusations against Labours candidate. Livingstone is shamefully responding in kind.
    BTW, due to a technical hitch, I now appear as Doctordrink, formerly Ianr Stewart

  • derek

    @Rob, are you sure your just not pro Zionist and anti Muslim? tolerance is maybe something you need to embrace?

    • I will treat that comment with the contemptuous silence it fully deserves. Derek, it’s really not worthy of you.

      • derek

        @Rob, it would be interesting to know just how many times you’ve done articles on this subject? it’s a theme you revisit regularly. 

        • jonathanmorse

          I think, Derek, if you want to go places in Labour you have to be blind to the shortcomings of Israel

          • derek

            Yeah good point, most talk about the 1967, 6 day war and the territory grab, few mention the October war of 1973 when Egypt and Syria pushed deep into Israel land and Egypt had the means to bring down Israeli fighter jets, if it wasn’t for the American’s supplying Israel, they’d have lost that war.

            So I’m thinking Iran wouldn’t be no push over and Syria never did sign a peace agreement over the 1973 conflict?

            Maybe an odd reply, just thought I’d mention that but as to the link between Israel and labour I’d agree that it’s deep, long and very strong.   

  • madasafish

    Having come late to this thread, and having read most of the comments, it’s sad to see the article is entirely justified.
    None so blind as those who do not want to see..

  • Andy Gill

    Thank you for this article.  The left are in denial of their anti semitism, and we need more people like you to speak out loud and clear.  A kicking for Ken Livingstone in the polls would be a good place to start.

    • Duncan Hall

      So another term of Mayor Boris Johnson would apparently be a good thing would it?  Anybody care to back up any of these assertions about “their antisemitism”?  Astonishing.

  • Chilbaldi

    Fantastic blog Rob, this needs to be said. As Nick Cohen has often stated, many on the far left are keen to turn a blind eye when it is the Jews, or the west that is the victime. Contemptuous morons, the lot of them.

    • Many thanks. Link to Nick’s excellent history of left anti-Semitism below.

      • coventrian

        Is that the same Nick Cohen who urged on the invasion of Iraq? 

        Thought so.

        You warmongers love to praise each other.

  • Leslie48

    As Syria is back in the news again today ( crimes against Syrian children)  – note the blog on the BBC which is picking up on the silence of the Left Wing. The critics are so right the silence on Syria by the UK Labour Party is absolutely utterly appalling. Crimes against Humanity & our movement is indifferent.

  • coventrian

    Who radicalised Rob Marchant to make him a serial warmonger? Tony B£air.

    ps Anyone who quotes the Islamophobic hate site ‘Harry’s Place’ has lost any credibility – if they had any to start with.

    • Serial warmonger? Islamophobic hate site? Oh please.

      • coventrian

        Since you have supported B£air’s wars the cap fits precisely.

        As for Harry’s Place, I can give you plenty of evidence for their smear campaigns against Muslims and their tolerance of the most disgusting hate speech against them.

        • Bill Lockhart

          No, you can’t. They would have been closed down years ago. All they do is counter the failed Left-liberal relativism which defines all belief systems as morally equivalent. Most normal people outside the useful-idiot left agree with them.

  • Brumanuensis

    I have to agree with Hannah that no-one can reasonably disagree with the central premise of this article: that anti-semitism – or ‘judeophobia’ as I prefer – is a serious problem and that Merah’s actions were abominable. I’m minded to admit that sections of the anti-war left have turned their animosity towards the Israeli government, into a willingness to overlook the unpleasant behaviour of some of Israel’s opponents. Similarly, there is a tendency to view one prejudice (judeophobia) as a lesser priority than another (islamophobia).

    I have to take very strong exception to a couple of your points though.

    First, I find this quote strange: 

    “Mohamed Merah was a textbook Islamist extremist who had “made the trip” to Afghanistan. He was trained and nurtured as a hater and killer of Jews. He was not like Anders Brevik, a lone wolf with his own sick ideas; he acted after being radicalised. As some pointed out, this was not France’s Brevik killing, it was its 7/7”.

    Suggesting that Brevik was not ‘radicalised’ is just bizarre. He may not have visited training camps, but he read inflammatory works online, posted on far-right forums and listed Melanie Philips as among his favourite journalists. He wasn’t born with a hatred of Muslims. He developed it. Merah wasn’t born with a hatred of Jews. He became that way. The only difference between Merah and Breivik is scale, not mentality. There are plenty of people with diseased minds, but few of them go round massacring people.  

    I noticed you making this oddly physical point on another one of  your articles, about Raeed Salah coming into Britain. There is no significant difference between being radicalised over the internet and becoming radicalised in person. The consequences were the same. Anyone can download instructions on making a bomb or operating a sub-machine gun. Geography no longer acts as a limiting factor in terrorism.  

    As a corollary, you appear to be suggesting that: 

    a). Merah’s was not a diseased mind – this is entirely unintentional, but it shows the need for caution in speech.

    b). That Breivik’s actions are somehow of less consequence, because they weren’t as obviously part of a vast conspiracy. I’m sure if someone adopted this stance about an anti-Jewish atrocity, you’d be screaming blue murder.  

    Second, in your reply to UK Azeri,  you said:  

    “But generally speaking I would argue that the UK press are fairly even handed in their treatment of Muslims (sometimes to the extent of being apologists for extremists, in the case of the Guardian, and sometimes the BBC)”.

    Nonsense. Dangerous nonsense. Suggesting the problem only lies with the Express Group is disengenuous. The Mail publishes Melanie Philips and Richard Littlejohn, both of whom routinely direct vile invective towards Muslims. Only a week or so ago, the Mail published this disgusting set of lies (http://tabloid-watch.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/mailonline-changes-inaccurate-headline.html), and this is by no means the end of their inaccurate coverage. Of course, the Sun published this after the Norway massacre (http://tabloid-watch.blogspot.co.uk/2011/07/suns-editorials-on-norway.html), which I presume you were alluding to in  your jibe at The Guardian. The Telegraph routinely publishes Ed West – who has praised the EDL – and James Delingpole, who wrote this swivel-eyed rant (http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jamesdelingpole/100006651/how-the-west-was-lost-ctd-the-burkini/).

    The right-wing press’ role in stoking Islamophobia was ably illustrated by Radio 4 a  year ago ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00xw21x). That  you have chosen to downplay it means you have fallen into the same trap you are decrying the left-wing press for. Equally, why excoriate the Guardian and Independent (combined circulation for Nov 2011:  354,400), but suggest that the Express is a localised problem and of limited importance (when its circulation for Nov 2011 was 603,318). Which has more impact, even if  your assumption is true? 

    Judeophobia is a great social evil. Lazily implying only the Left has a problem with racism is unhelpful and trite.   

    • Brumanuensis
    • Ok you make some interesting points, albeit points I mostly disagree with, and thanks for entering into proper debate (unlike some).
      I don’t believe that with the anti-war left there is “a tendency to view one prejudice (judeophobia) as a lesser priority than another (islamophobia)”. My contention is that recognition of anti-Semitism is simply *absent* from most parts of the anti-war left, and there is an unpleasant confusion between being anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish. Substitution the word “Zionist” for “Jew” in whatever unpleasant thing you are saying does not suddenly make it ok, despite the fact that “Zionist” is a terribly badly-defined term.
      Re Raed Salah, obviously people can be radicalised over the internet, but that does not mean we should invite into the country people who do it more efficiently and effectively in person. You cannot surely be arguing that we must accept dangerous terrorist sympathisers (or even, simply, terrorists)  into the country on grounds of free speech.
      About the UK media, I stand by my position that it is *generally* even-handed regarding the Muslim community (which does not mean, of course, there is never any Islamophobia). It is useful to follow the link to my piece about Leveson and see that the arguments given by Engage about a regular bias in the UK press were particularly weak. There remains a specific problem, however, with Express newspapers. I’m afraid the problem with Mail is not its Islamophobia so much as that it has a tendency to print lies about everything.
      “Lazily implying only the Left has a problem with racism is unhelpful and trite.” You’re overreaching. I have nowhere implied this. It is clear that there is a far-right racism problem. My piece is about the specific issue of anti-Semitism and the media. Not people on the streets of Britain. Indeed, recent studies show that among the public, there has been a rise in BOTH Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.
      What is interesting, though, is that in the mainstream parties the Tories tend to be much less tolerant than Labour of racism. And as a long-time Labour activist, that depresses me. And what is also true is that Islamophobia in the media tends to be called out by people, exactly as it should be. Anti-Semitism in the liberal-left media is, sadly, largely tolerated and downplayed.
      Finally, let me make one thing perfectly plain. There is no “less important” or “more important” in terms of racism. All racism is abhorrent. However, I feel the need to call out a form of racism, tolerance of which is affecting my party, more than one which is not. Although it is out there on the streets of Britain, where we will continue to fight it, I defy you to find me evidence of Islamphobia within the Labour Party activist base.

      • Brumanuensis

        First of all, thank you for your reply, especially to such a pugnacious response as mine. Just to make a few quite notes in reply to yours.

        I agree that there is a tendency in some quarters to perhaps use Zionism as a code-word for something more unpleasant, but the as you yourself observe the term is so loosely defined that it causes many problems in itself. If someone was to define ‘Zionism’ to me as ‘the right of Jews to settle in an area, i.e. Israel, of historical and cultural importance’, then I would be prepared to call myself a Zionist. If it means, ‘establishing a solely Jewish state in an area of historical and cultural importance to three major religions’, then I have to disagree, which is why I disapprove of Israel’s current form and would ideally prefer a secular state where Muslims and Jews were educated, worked and lived alongside one another. This would do far more to eradicate prejudice than any number of proposed two-state solutions.

        On the Raeed Salah issue, I am averse to excluding people who hold unpleasant opinions from visting Britain – I extend that principle to cover Geert Wilders – because it indicates that we are so afraid of the stability of our society, that we think one person can undermine it. I agree it was a serious error to invite Salah in to speak however, but we can’t throw away hard won civil liberties purely out of fear.

        I have to disagree with you on the press. It is true the Mail has a tendency to print lies about most topics, but its fixation on Muslims doesn’t strike me as accidental. Nor does the fact that the Sun has printed stories of dubious veracity – to say the least – about Muslims, excuse them from any responsbility for stoking prejudice. The barrage of stories implying Muslims are a foreign element has, as a report published a couple of years ago showed, encouraged a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment. The conservative press have an Islam problem, as real as the liberal press may have a Jewish problem.

        I completely agree that all bigotry is abhorrent and we must stamp it out, and that goes for anti-Jewish bigotry too. But I simply don’t share your view that it is wide-spread in left-wing circles. There is an unfortunate tendency to conflate anti-Israeli statements and anti-Jewish statements. Sometimes the two overlap – like the cartoonist you mention elsewhere – but I don’t see evidence of a wide-ranging tolerance of anti-Jewish violence. Issues like Israel-Palestine polarise opinion, but it is this polarisation that must be tackled, not the conceit that pro-Palestinians like myself are all judeophobes and pro-Israelis like yourself islamophobic. The real solution is to start neutralising the dangerous sectarian passions that populate such discussions.

        • Fine, apart from your penultimate sentence. You make an incorrect assumption. I am pro-Israeli AND pro-Palestinian. It is not an either-or. Both have valid arguments. I do not take sides, except where it is to highlight racism, anti-democracy or terrorism. I have written pieces about Islamophobia too, you know.

          Broadly though, I think we agree though about polarisation, which you yourself are highlighting above. I think therein lies a lot of the problem, that there is a tendency to see people we disagree with about something as “on the other side”.

          Btw again, you are suggesting something I didn’t say. I don’t think there is a widespread tolerance of anti-Jewish violence. But I think there is a widespread tolerance of anti-Jewish speech and writing, and it is mostly on the left. Left unchecked, it leads to verbal and physical abuse, as you can see in the figure of Carole Swords, Respect chair in Tower Hamlets, recently convicted for just that.

  • jonathanmorse

    The killer struck me as mad, literally, like the pilot who went mad on his plane yesterday thinking that there was a bomb on it. Mad, irrational, perhaps lost, but perhaps also encouraged by the racism of the campaign. If he was mad, shouldn’t leftie’s be forgiving, just as right wingers are presumably forgiving of that soldier who, after 2 tours in Iraq and a PTSD diagnosis, was sent to Afghanistan only to kill many families with children. Shouldn’t lefties not be shouting how bad he was, as if to prove their anti-anti-semitismism?

    • jonathanmorse

      On second thoughts (I have been wondering about his strange (to me) behaviour). Perhaps he only has a problem with black and/or muslim soldiers fighting France’s wars. He attacks, waits for a response, gets none, kills again, still no reaction, so he kills the one group the French will react to – a Jewish school – so that they notice what his message is. Not anti-semitism but media studies.

  • jonathanmorse

    Also he killed black soldiers before he killed the Jews. It was from that attack that they got the evidence to find him. Had they responded as quickly to their killing they’d have got him before he got to the Jewish school.

  • Jeremy_Preece

    Thank you Rob. I would also go on to say that not only are
    most Muslims equally appalled by the evil that is carried out in their name, but
    that in the cases of political correctness and those trying to ban Christmas
    (Winterfest etc.) that it is the Muslim community who have often spoken up for
    the Christian churches. This to my mind is real tolerance and diversity at


    You also have to be careful and remember Islam is not one
    single entity. In Iraq
    for example, all three elements at war with each other were different shades of
    Islam. The Kurds are Islamic as are the Turks who desperately want to suppress
    any Kurd nationalism.   



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