Thursday, 30 November 2017

Why can't Anti Semites just grow up?

Sometimes I just despair. The Evening Standard reported that a local Labour Party member has been suspended from the party following a series of anti semitic tweets.

Adam Langleben posted a series of tweets showing a whole series of tweets which are clearly inflammatory and anti semitic. I've known Adam for nearly as long as I've been writing this blog. We don't always see eye to eye on everything (who does), but he is a sensible bloke and he is not fixated on Israel or Jewish issues. He is clearly proudly Jewish and supportive of Israel, but in all of the hundreds of conversations I've had with him over the years, I can only recall two conversations on what may be deemed "Jewish issues". One about Ken Livingstone when he was being suspended from the Labour party for anti semitic comments and one about Adam's perceived view that the hard left Momentum supporting element of Labour seemed to be a safe harbour for anti semitism. For the record, I was disappointed with Livingstone. I think his two terms as Mayor brought all manner of fantastic things to London, especially the first term. The Oyster Card, Congestion Charging and winning the Olympic bids are three. I was a fan, but I feel that Ken has virtually destroyed his reputation with a seemingly never ending stream of unfortunate comments on all things Jewish  (for the record I'm a Roman Catholic. I don't and wouldn't belong to any "friends of Israel" group because I have no ties at all to the country. My heritage is Irish and Australian and I don't belong to any groups supporting these nations, so I have no desire to join any other groups. I personally don't see it is helpful for politicians, without family ties to a nation to join "friend of" groups, especially in areas where there are deep racial/religious divisions. It means they have vested interests and it becomes hard to become honest brokers).

In the Middle East dispute, I have sympathies with both sides. My father was working in Palestine and the Middle East until the end of British rule. He always viewed the Stern gang and Ergun as terrorist groups, who murdered British servicemen. As a former RAF officer, he thought they were beyond the pale. On the other hand, he often travelled on Pilgrimage to the Holy Land once Israel was established and was strongly of the opinion that modern Israel was the safest, most developed, most liberal and least corrupt country in the region. His main base was Beirut and he blamed the Palestinians and Yasser Arafat for the civil war that nearly destroyed the city. Having said that he had huge sympathy for the ordinary Palestinians who lost their homes and livelihoods and ended up in refugee camps. My father spoke fluent Arabic and as chief pilot for a construction company working in the oil industry, he had a far greater knowledge of the region, the conflict and the issues than anyone I've ever met.

Shortly before he passed away in 1987, we had a long discussion about the situation. He said that having flown over Palestine many times, as well as other Arabic lands, there was no question that the Israeli's had massively improved the country. He contrasted this with Libya. He'd been active in the North African campaign in WWII and said that once the Italians had been expelled, the infrastructure improvements they'd built had been left to rot. The Israeli's had irrigated land and grown food on previously barren lands. For him the contrast was the key fact. Israel today is not Palestine in 1948. His view was that with all the oil wealth and empty land in the Middle East, the Arab nations could easily have resolved the issues with Palestinian refugees. To some extent this is still the truth. It seems that the Arab Nations are far keener to supply arms and ammunition to Palestinian groups than aid  and expertise to actually make Gaza and the West Bank a pleasant place to live. It should be clear to all and sundry that supplying Rockets to Hamas in Gaza is not doing any good for anyone.

As to Israel, have they followed the best policies to resolve the conflict and show good will? I think the question of illegal settlements shows that there is a lack of good faith. One other thing which my father also regularly spoke of. The Israeli armed forces and secret services are second to none. As an ex forces man, he was a huge admirer of their prowess. He specifically went to Israel the year after the six day war as he was fascinated by the subject. He was also mightily impressed by the Entebbe Raid. He was also a fan of Mossad and their relentless hunting down of war criminals. My father lost too many friends to think that on the run Nazi's deserved anything but a bullet or the noose. He'd read books and explain just why the Israeli tactics and strategies were so effective. His view was that as the Arab world was committed to the total destruction of Israel, the Israelis effectively had a free pass on the tactics they used to fight back. He felt that while the UK did not practice state sponsored assassination, Israel would be insane not to, given the stated position of the Palestinians and their Arab backers.

Of course things have changed since 1987 when my father died. The UK now has a fully operational program of state sponsored assassination. Unlike Mossad, it is not highly trained killers ambushing opponents. We use Drones in foreign countries, usually assassinating people who bear no clear and present threat to the UK. We have lost any high ground we may have had. We launched a war in Iraq that has seen hundreds of thousands die and splintered a country into many parts, all of which are far more dangerous to us than the Saddam Hussein regime. This was done following a concerted campaign by a Labour Party Prime Minister to lie and mislead Parliament. Do you remember the term "shock and awe". This was the title for a bombing campaign of the city of Baghdad by the completely overwhelming air power of the UK and USA. This when Iraq posed no threat to us and those at the top in the UK and USA knew.

Which brings me back to our Anti Semites in Barnet. They really need to grow up. Anyone screaming at Israel for anything should take a long hard look at what we've done in the last 20 years since New Labour became the government of the day. Critising Israel when we are complicit in a blood bath based on lies is just pure hypocrisy. Israel still potentially faces an existential threat, which is only expedited by it's military and secret services. I have no issue with Israeli's such as Gilad Atzmon, who is a big supporter of Palestinians, having a row with Adam. They both sit on different sides of an argument I don't want to stick my nose into. I just don't like people with no knowledge of the area and no ties to it pontificating.

I have concentrated on the issues with Israel primarily in the blog up until now. To me, the issue of Israel and the Palestinians is a bit of a fig leaf for a more general issue which is that some people don't like Jews. The succession of Tweets Adam Langleben posted show me something that I think we all know. Bigots of all shapes and sizes are really just very immature people who need to grow up. Homophobic images, unamusing charicatures and implying that there is a holocaust "brainwashing program" are simply rather sad.

When I started working in the building trade aged 18, the man I worked for had been a captain in the British Army and one of the first British Officers to enter Belsen. He told me that when the British entered the camp, they got a film crew in. They shot thousands of hours of footage to document the crimes that had occurred there. The reason? So that in 70 years, when all of the eye witnesses were dead, there would be a permanent record so that people could not say "it was all made up". At the time such a suggestion seemed crazy. I went to Orange Hill School, which had  a strong Jewish presence. Many had lost relatives, others had relatives who had escaped. Many of these friends I still see. I simply cannot fathom how someone can insult the experiences of such people and their families. I can sort of understand how juvenile teenagers in the Mid West might watch a crackpot video on Youtube and be swayed, but I genuinely thought people in North West London were a bit more sensible.

Another theme in these tweets is the concept that "rich Jewish bankers control the world". Sadly for all of my Jewish friends, they are strangely excluded from this cartel. Some have done well for themselves, some haven't. Strangely, they seem to have the exactly the same concerns, problems and dilemmas that I have. They worry about their kids, they worry about their jobs, they worry about their relatives and they worry about their football team. Rather like I do. I mentioned the hundreds of conversations I've had with Adam Langleben. I said we'd discussed Jewish Issues a couple of times. We've spent far more time discussing inequality, injustice, the incompetence of Barnet Council and the sorry behaviour of certain Barnet Tory councillors. As Barnet has a large Jewish population and many have families affected by the holocaust, I would expect Adam to be vocal on these issues in Council, where appropriate. Just as I'd expect a Barnet Councillor of Muslim heritage to be vocal about Islamophobia, such as we saw at Golders Green.

A key point for me is that of all the Barnet Councillors, Adam is perhaps the one I've spoken to most. There is a very mundane reason for this. We used to see each other on the daily commute. We've grumbled about late Thameslink services and about the issues of the day. As I stated we don't always see eye to eye, but he's probably been on more marches, attended more public meetings and done more grunt work than any other councillor I can think of. Some of the Twitter following his actions comments seem to imply he's a stooge of some sort for some dark vested interests. To me this is yet another incarnation of the rather immature view that some people have that anyone who disagrees with them must be part of some a big conspiracy. If Adam is part of a big conspiracy, it seems like an awful lot of work to put in to ensure that Barnet Council occasionally put up a holocaust memorial or pass a motion suggesting a Two State solution is the way to go in the Middle East.

Whenever I hear conspiracy theorists on such subjects as Jewish conspiracies, I think of McCarthy in America. Many decent people were hounded for completely spurious reasons. For some reason, some think that it is OK to make inciteful comments about the Jewish communty. It isn't. Sadly the internet age has spawned a whole army of armchair warriors, who see dodgy Youtube videos as a form of education. They need too blame someone else for their woes and they gain energy from spewing bile.  It is not OK. Such people really need to get out more. They need to let the scales drop from their eyes.

If you want to end injustice, start here. If you post such tweets, all you do is alienate all reasonable people. I think it is brave of Adam to post such things. I am not a Labour member, but think it is vital that the party gets to grip with this oozing sore on their party.


Anonymous said...

Wasn't you're mate Conway a right wing skinhead back in the day?

Rog T said...

He was a fashion skinhead for a couple of months back in 1978 as I recall, but he was never right wing. The NF hijacked the Skinhead movement which was orignally a bunch of blokes who liked Jamaican Ska music. As a proud Paddy, it wouldn't have fitted his background at all.