ISIS, Trolls, and the Language of Hate

In a powerful New Year’s video for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Kemal Pervanic, a Bosnian Muslim,  remembers how he ended up being interrogated and tortured in a concentration camp by his favourite teacher during the Yugoslav Wars.    He  asks his viewers to learn the lessons of history, and bear in mind the possibility that such things are not unique to any particular time period:  ‘If you speak to anyone out there right now, they’ll tell you that they’re crazy if you tell them that something like that may happen. But now after I lived through such events, I know that it can happen to anyone.’

It certainly can, especially when the hateful thoughts and fantasies that people carry around in their heads individually are weaponised or become social currency. Consider the New Year’s message from ISIS claiming responsibility for the atrocious Reina nightclub massacre in Istanbul:

‘In continuation of the blessed operations that Islamic State is conducting against the protector of the cross, Turkey, a heroic soldier of the caliphate struck one of the most famous nightclubs where the Christians celebrate their apostate holiday.’

In some translations, ‘apostate holiday’ has been translated as ‘pagan feast’, but it doesn’t actually matter much because these are words that debase those who utter them, and debase humanity itself.  It’s tempting to treat such words with the same appalled disgust that you might give to a serial killer who boasts of his crimes to the media to enhance his profile and mystique.

Morally-speaking this statement is on the same level of gibberish. No one ‘blessed’ the mass murder of random 39 nightclubbers – at least no one with any credibility beyond ISIS’s nightmare netherworld.   Murdering men and women in a nightclub is no more ‘heroic’ than John Wayne Gacy murdering young boys.

A man who has abandoned all known religious and secular traditions of mercy accumulated over centuries of war and conflict can never be a hero – unless he inhabits a moral universe in which all moral codes are inverted and turned upside down.  Going to a nightclub does not constitute an ‘apostate holiday’ or a ‘ pagan feast’ and no one has any moral right to kill people who go to one, whether they are Christians or members of any other group.

This should be obvious, and it is, even to ISIS.  Because ISIS is not mad.  There is always a strategic purpose behind its seemingly barking rantings and its most vile acts. In this case Erdogan is probably right that ISIS wants to destabilise Turkey and demonstrate to the Turkish people that the state that is now making war on ISIS in Syria can no longer protect its own citizens within their own borders.

So on one level the act and the justifying statement is a demonstration of ‘power’.  But the ISIS message is also designed to disguise the disgusting and repellent reality of the acts they purport to describe.  They are maledicta – words of hate – intended to render entire categories of people worthy of extermination.

This is what language can do, when it is used for such purposes, and it has always been thus, whether it was Spanish clerics describing seventeenth century Moriscos as vermin or Hutu radio stations in Rwanda denouncing Tutsi ‘cockroaches.’

Such dehumanising language is not limited to one ‘side’ in the 21st century’s media-drenched conflicts.  Consider these responses to a Channel 4 News report on refugees forced to sleeping in a Croatian cemetery near the Serbian border:

Hey rag head, no we hate Muslims they are cockroach’s (sic). They are evil vile and are the spawn of Satan himself. There will be no peace on earth till these savages are exterminated, just like a cockroach

Animals !! Burn theme (sic) alive , look in the eyes of this people , they animals (sic)

Some of those who posted these comments are Serbs, but others have joined from the English-speaking world:

No respect for the dead even less for the living Muslim scum

Men men Mrs Isis terrorists coming to rape the women of Europe

Disrespectful Muslim zombies

There is no doubt that the massacres carried out by ISIS in Europe over the last two years are intended to invite exactly this kind of response.  ISIS documents have clearly identified whipping up hatred towards Muslims who inhabit ‘the grey zone’ as a strategic goal.  They dream of a global ‘civilisational’ conflict that will leave Muslims nowhere else to turn to but them, and they have many people on the opposite ‘side’ who are only too willing to oblige them.

We like to use the word ‘trolls’ to describe the men and women who make below-the-line comments like the ones I’ve quoted, and there are many more where they came from, and in the last few years they have also been appearing above the line.  One of them has just been elected president of the United States.  Another has just been awarded a $250,000 book contract by Simon & Schuster.

Over here we have women like Katie Hopkins, who calls refugees ‘cockroaches’ in a national newspaper, and has now retweeted a neo-Nazi Twitter account in support of her claim that she is not ‘racist’.   Hopkins has said ‘ I genuinely believe “racist” as a word has been used so much.  I’m sorry for the word racist in a way. I love language.

Nothing I have ever read of Hopkin’s self-aggrandizing trolling suggests that she loves language – or anything at all for that matter.  She would be one more of the sick jokes that the 21st century keeps playing on us, were it not for the fact that she echoes and repeats in a marginally more acceptable from what trolls below the line are also saying.

That is why the mainstream media has fallen over itself to court her, not because she has anything coherent, intelligent or thoughtful to say about anything, but nowadays it seems to matter less and less what people actually saying as long as it attracts enough clicks or produces a minute or two of ‘good television’ or ‘good radio. ‘

Hopkins might think that she is ‘standing up to Islam’ or whatever it is she thinks she’s standing up to, but people like her are the gift to ISIS that keeps on giving, and so are the wretched hatemongers foaming at the mouth about Muslim invasions and ‘rapefugees.’

Perhaps the single most important lesson that we can draw from history is that very few people listen to the lessons of history.  And now, in 2017, it’s incumbent upon all of us, whatever background we come from to try harder, and reach back into our best traditions, not simply in order to ‘tolerate’ each other, but to find our way towards a coexistence that keep marginalise the murderers, the trolls and the haters.

Because if we don’t do this, we will never get out of the mess we’re in, and we will be laying the foundations for a future of endless war and endless violence that will make any kind of coexistence impossible.

 

 

2016: The Year of Living Fearfully

There was a time – it seems many years ago now – when governments in the Western world told their populations that things were getting better, and that they were helping them to get better.   In those days voters by and large believed them, and made their political choices from amongst a cluster of political parties who they were familiar with and who mostly sounded and looked the same.

Voters may not have liked or trusted politicians individually but they recognized the parameters they were operating in.  They knew that they were right-of-centre or left-of-centre or somewhere in between. Anything further out than that and the majority of voters would usually say no.

For some time now these assumptions have been crumbling in different countries and at different speeds.  It’s difficult to put a particular date on when this disintegration started.  Some might trace it to the 2008/09 financial crisis and the grotesque fraud known as ‘austerity’ which followed.

But you could go further back, to the rampant ‘end of history’ arrogance that provided accompanied the shift towards globalisation at the end of the Cold War; when a capitalism that believed itself to be victorious and unchallenged believed that it could do anything it wanted; when even liberal governments adopted conservative nostrums and regarded the whole notion of an enabling state as a historical anachronism.

Or perhaps we could see the origins of our current predicament in the Reagan/Thatcher years, when the exaltation of ‘the market’ and the glorification of wealth came to trump (pardon the pun) any other social considerations.

Whatever the timetable,  2016 will go down in history as a watershed year when the old political establishment that had largely accepted this consensus was rejected by an  unprecedented electoral insurgency that was dominated by the right and extreme right. This was the year in which millions of people in the UK voted for perhaps the greatest  assembly of snake oil salesmen in the history of British politics, largely on the basis of post-imperial fantasies and pipe-dreams.

Given the positions taken by Tony Blair and George Bush over Iraq – to name but two examples – we can all take the notion of ‘post-truth politics’ with more than a pinch of salt.   Lying didn’t begin in 2016, after all.  But what is alarming about 2016 was the fact that politicians could lie through their teeth, and people would often know or sense that they were lying, and they would still vote for them if only because they weren’t the liars they were used to.

This was a year when emotion and magical thinking triumphed over rationality, common sense and even material self-interest; when millionaires and billionaires presented themselves as the voice of the common people and anti-establishment rebels; when millions of people voted for giant walls, imaginary jobs, ‘control’ and other things that were difficult if not impossible to achieve, and which the ‘rebels’ who were offering them never really intended to achieve.

It was also a year in which you could be a racist, sexist, misogynist braggart and people were still prepared to make you president of the United States; when voters in the UK opted to leave the European Union largely because of ‘concerns’ about immigration that were steeped in misinformation, and xenophobic and racist assumptions that Leave politicians cynically manipulated and played on.

All this should be deeply alarming to anyone on the left/liberal spectrum who doesn’t believe that these developments were some kind anti-establishment rebellion or a revolt against neoliberalism.  Revolts they may have been, but electoral insurgencies against the ‘establishment’ don’t necessarily benefit the left and may in fact contribute to its destruction – or at the very least, its irrelevance.

Many factors contributed to making 2016 such a weirdly morbid and demoralising political year, but its consequences are now glaringly clear to anyone who wants to look: that the Western world is now in the throes of a reactionary nativist/hyper-nationalist ‘counter-revolution’ with a distinctly rank odour of white privilege and white supremacism wafting into the mainstream from its fringes.

To point this out doesn’t mean that all the voters who voted for the grotesque political monster that is Donald Trump were racists, bigots or white supremacists, but millions of voters were prepared to ignore the racist and bigoted sentiments that Trump mobilised so brazenly,  because they didn’t care about them or because other things mattered to them more.

The same in the UK.  It’s rather pointless – and tedious – to have to refute the Leave argument that ‘not everyone who voted for Brexit is racist or a xenophobe.’ Obviously not, but it is difficult, if not impossible, to imagine that the Leave vote would have triumphed without the barrage of dog whistle messages about immigration that accompanied the campaign.

These alarming and disturbing tendencies are not likely to abate anytime soon, and further shocks may follow in the coming year, so it is incumbent upon us to face up to them and not take refuge in ‘the revolution is just around the corner’ or ‘first the liberals then us’ utopianism – or is it just opportunism?

One of the main reasons why the right triumphed in 2016 is because it was able to mobilise fears and anxieties that the old political order has not bothered to address or has not known how to address.   For some years now fear has become the dominant political emotion of the 21st century, which politicians of various persuasions have sought to mobilise.   The Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman has coined the term ‘liquid fear’ to describe the anxieties that he believes underpin the current ‘crisis of humanity’ in the Western world.

For Bauman, the crisis is driven by a ‘tangible feeling of anxiety that has only vague contours but is still acutely present everywhere.’  These fears are manifold.  Fear of terrorism – often translated into fear of Muslims or simply fear of ‘the Other’.   Fear of immigrants and refugees. Fear of war, violence and political instability.  Fear of open borders.

Today, as Adam Curtis has often pointed out, politicians have largely abandoned the notion of a better future, and like to present themselves as managers of risk, preventing the bad from becoming even worse and promising to  ‘keep you safe’ even when their decisions are clearly not making anyone safe.

On the contrary we live in an age of persistent and constant insecurity, which our rulers often seem determined to encourage.  Whether we are beneficiaries or victims of globalisation, we all inhabit an economic system that is inherently unstable, chaotic and prone to shocks and tremors such as the 2008 crisis, that can capsize the futures of millions of people in an instant.

Having largely abandoned the notion of an enabling state, governments and political and financial institutions from the IMF to the EU have adopted and accepted policies that appear to be intent on reducing more and more people to a state of permanent insecurity and precariousness.  Since 2008 austerity has pushed more and more people – except the rich and powerful – towards a common precipice where they are told that they will have to work longer, for less, or try and find some tenuous foothold in an economy based on ‘flexibility’ while the struts and safety nets that still pay lip service to the common good are systematically pared back and dismantled.

In these circumstances, no one should be surprised that millions of people have rejected what they see as the politicians who have presided over these developments – or at least been unable to prevent them.

The tragedy is that they have chosen politicians who are unlikely to bring them anything better and are more likely to make things even worse.  There are many things that will have to happen to turn back the nativist tide, but one of them must surely be to reduce the fear and insecurity that has led so many people to turn to the pseudo-solutions offered by this dangerous new generation of chancers, demagogues and charlatans.

This shouldn’t mean emollient talk of ‘hope’ – let alone fantasy revolutions and utopias. Utopia is not a solution to the dystopian present that is now unfolding before our eyes. To my mind the left needs to think outside the usual channels if it is not to vanish into irrelevance.   We need practical and viable polices and solutions; a new notion of the common good; broader coalitions, alliances and discussions that do not simply involve the left talking to itself.

This doesn’t mean aping the right.  You don’t have to fight reaction by becoming reactionary yourselves.  You don’t right racism and anti-immigrant scapegoating by pandering to it.

Nationally, and internationally, the crises and problems that confront us in the 21st century require collective solutions, not walls and even harder borders – whether mental or physical.

Trump, Farage, Johnson and so many of the ‘populists’ who have made 2016 such a grim year are offering a kind of certainty and security.  They won’t succeed, even on their own terms, because they are liars, frauds and demagogues, and because their ‘solutions’ are unrealisable.

But already they have made the world a nastier and more evil place.  ‘Their world is crumbling, ours is being built, ‘ crowed the Front National in celebration of Trump’s victory in November.

That is one possibility, and you would have to be naive and cynical to discount it.   To prevent this outcome, it must surely be our task in 2017 to combat the forces they have helped unleash,  and reduce the toxic political emotions that are leading us towards a disaster that we may not recover from.

 

 

Taking Our Country Back: Brexit and the Seeds of Hate

There was a time, in the country that so many Brexit voters would like to take ‘back’, when it was commonplace to have signs in the windows of rented accommodation that read ‘no dogs, no Blacks, no Irish. ‘  We have spent decades moving away from the society where such discrimination was semi-respectable;  through painstaking work on the ground; through slow shifts in attitudes; through open resistance to racist violence and intimidation from the men and women who have frequently had to fight for their place in British society; through myriad acts of solidarity by the many individuals and organizations who have welcomed them and stood alongside them.

Did we made racism disappear from the UK?  Are we a ‘post-racial’ society?  No, because racism can never be entirely eliminated from any society, and keeping it at bay requires a constant effort, and a constant willingness to pay attention whenever it manifests itself.   Nevertheless, we made considerable progress towards creating a society in which overt racism was marginalized and drained of its lethal legitimacy and respectability. .

As a result of the Brexit referendum, that achievement is under its gravest threat since the rise of the National Front in the 1970s.    In little more than 48 hours since Friday’s result, it is already becoming disturbingly clear that immigrants and foreigners in the UK are now facing a vicious and widespread epidemic of racism and xenophobia that is unapologetic and openly celebratory.

Reports are pouring through social media from up and down the country of verbal and even physical abuse of anyone foreign, speaking in a foreign accent, or who looks ‘foreign.’  On Facebook I have seen stories of an 80 year old Italian woman who has been living here for 50 years, who was told that it would be better to go back to her own country; of a woman attacked on the tube by a man who became enraged when he heard a foreign accent on the tannoy; of a Polish man and his son beaten senseless and left in the street; of leaflets in Huntington put through letterboxes telling ‘ Polish vermin’ to go home.

Social media is filled with tweets like these:

Italian person I was w/ last night was assaulted for asking how someone voted. Knocked out w/ a bottle, lost a tooth, stitches. I’m scared.
Disgusting RT @fionaand: Older woman on the 134 bus gleefully telling a young Polish woman and her baby to get off and get packing.Horrific.
Getting my nails done when a man pops his head in the door & shouts at the therapists “you lot better fuck off home” aarggh!
In the aftermath of #Brexit, neighbors we’ve never spoken to before confront us with ” Do you even speak English? #PostRefRacism
Gloucester : ‘this is England, foreigners have 48 hours to f**k right off. Who is foreign here? Anyone foreign?’
Our neighbour is a deputy head and she said there were Polish kids crying because they were scared that they were going to be deported.

There is a lot more where this came from here and here  Today the Independent reported hundreds of hate incidents.  Since Friday, the website Thisiswhatyou’vedone uk has received dozens of reports of verbal and physical abuse directed at foreigners and immigrants or men and women perceived to be immigrants.  Many of these attacks have cited the Referendum and the decision to leave the EU as a justification and a carte blanche, such as the reports of strangers stopping people in the streets to tell them to tell them  ‘ We voted Leave, it’s time for you to leave.’

To date not a single major politician has condemned these incidents.  The Brexit politicians, who did so much to stoke up and pander to anti-immigrant hostility in the last weeks of the campaign, have been absolutely silent about it.   Clearly not all those who voted Leave were racists and xenophobes, but racism and xenophobia were crucial and indispensable components of a campaign that persistently played on fears and prejudices about immigration, whether these ‘immigrants’ were EU workers, putative Turkish immigrants, or the refugees who Nigel Farage said were a threat to the ‘security of British women’, who he portrayed in his atrocious poster.

Not all Leavers voted because of immigration, but many clearly did, and the Leave campaign’s flagging up of immigration in the last two weeks of the campaign had a decisive impact in shifting the momentum away from Remain.   It is now becoming clear that these developments have unleashed forces that will be very difficult to put back in the box, and that many of those who voted Leave did so in the expectation that the immigrants they feared and loathed would a) stop coming and b) leave the country.

The explosion of racism and xenophobia that we are now witnessing is not simply the result of the campaign itself, but the campaign has crystallized and brought to the surface all the toxic currents that have percolated through British society for the last fifteen years or so in response to ‘mass migration.’

Of course those who fanned the public’s ‘concerns’ about immigration always insisted that they were not ‘racist’, just as Leave campaigners get uppity if you suggest that their campaign had anything to do with racism.  But here’s the thing; racism isn’t just about skin colour or biology.  It doesn’t only apply when you talk about ‘race’ or accuse Jews of polluting the German ‘reservoir of blood.’

Racism can constantly adopt new justifications, new disguises and assumptions, in its attempt to marginalize and discriminate.      If you spend decades telling the population – as various politicians and our disgraceful tabloid press have done – that immigrants are a problem, that they are benefit scroungers and health tourists, thieves and criminals, intruders, parasites, cultural aliens, and a threat to our security, then you can’t be entirely surprised when the dregs of the nation take to the streets to demand ‘repatriation’or push leaflets through peoples’ doors calling them ‘vermin’ or demand to know why foreigners ‘don’t speak English.’

Johnson, Gove and Farage all pandered to these sentiments, and it is clear that some members of their audience now feel more empowered and more legitimized than they did before, and that ‘taking their country back’ means driving out anyone they don’t think belongs to it   The result is a truly dangerous situation, for immigrants first of all, and also for the culturally and ethnically diverse society that we have so painstakingly constructed.

No one can be surprised that Farage & Co have nothing to say about this, but sections of the left have also disgracefully continued to marginalize or play down the importance of racism and xenophobia in driving the Leave campaign, or else, as John Pilger did, they have simply ignored them altogether

The rest of us can’t afford to be so sanguine.   We need to remember the words of Linton Kwesi Johnson once wrote back in the 80s: ‘ Asian/West Indian/ an’ Black British/stan firm inna Inglan/inna disya time yah/far nuh mattah wat dey say/com wat may/we are here to stay inna Inglan/in disya time yah.’

Now, in these new times, we can add Poles, Romanians, and many other nationalities to that list, and we need to stand firm with them, because the monsters are out of their box, released by the outrageous frauds and liars who played their dark political games in order to con the nation.

It’s up to all of us to put them back, and show our solidarity with the men and women who have made this country their home, who have us much right to live in it as anyone else.

They may not be part of Brexit country, but they do belong to the nation that the rest of us inhabit, and we need to fight for them, and alongside them, for their sake, and our own.

Interview with Jackie Walker

Few people who pay attention to such things will have failed to notice the stridently McCarthyite atmosphere that has descended on British politics since the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party last year.  Needless to say, these developments did not originate from Corbyn himself.   A spectrum of opinion that includes the Tory Party, rightwing Labour MPs, liberal newspaper columnists and pretty much the totality of the British media do not like Corbyn, and they like the left-wing constituency that voted for him  even less.

For the past eight months they have been trying actively to dam these waters, or at least to poison them so that no one will want to swim in them.  Anything will do.   One word or sentence out of place; one randomly-plucked screenshot, and you’re likely to be hauled up as a supporter of Daesh, a terrorist apologist,  or part of the dastardly leftist/jihadist alliance.

Now – aided and abetted by Israel firsters who claim to be supporting Israel even as they assist it down the giddy road to fascistic self-immolation – Corbyn’s enemies have discovered that the left is infected with the ‘virus’ of antisemitism.  Nowadays, no one actually has to ‘prove’ that you’re antisemitic – in the old sense of the term as someone who hates Jews and wants to harm them.  They just have look through your Facebook posts or Twitter posts.  A careless or loose word in the heat of an argument; something you thought was a joke and – gotcha! – you are guilty, and Corbyn is guilty too.

And it doesn’t matter, by the way, if you don’t think you’re antisemitic; your accusers know it when they see it – and even when they don’t see it.  Experts in meta-textual analysis, all they have to do is extrapolate from what you has said; or quote what someone else has said that you’ve said, and they’re ready to tell the world what you really thought and meant regardless of whether you thought or meant it.

That’s what political debate has become in the UK these days.   And when it comes to Israel, boy you better watch out – at least if you’re on the left, because increasingly anti-Zionism is accepted as synonymous with antisemitism not only by Israel and its supporters, but by an ignorant and lazy media that can’t be bothered to find out the difference, and by rightwing Labour MPs who really don’t give a damn, as long as  they can use such claims to suggest that Jeremy Corbyn has ‘tolerated’ hatred of Jews within the Labour Party.

Such claims may be nonsensical, but nowadays in British politics, nonsense can take you a long way, and there is no more  egregious example of how cynical and downright dangerous this dynamic has become than the suspension of Jacqueline Walker from the Labour Party, following accusations of antisemitism.

For those who don’t know, Walker  is a woman of African-Jewish descent, who suffered vicious racism while growing up in care homes and foster homes in the UK.    She is also a writer, an activist, and a steely and indefatigable antiracist campaigner, and the founder of Kent Anti-Racist Network (KARN).

Walker is also the vice-cheer of the steering committee of Momentum, and a strong pro-Palestinian campaigner.    Her suspension follows two comments on Facebook that were leaked to the Jewish Chronicle earlier this month.   Readers can read them in full here.   Some readers may disagree with what she said, or quibble about her historical claims or her  wording, but I cannot see how these comments amount to antisemitism – except in the minds of people predisposed to believe it.

Astonishingly, Walker has also been suspended for using the words ‘historic homeland’ in scaremarks to refer to the state of Israel.  This is not pedantry or even stupidity.  Most anti-Zionists would use exactly the same punctuation: to do otherwise would be to accept uncritically Israel’s own definition of itself.  So accusing Walker of antisemitism for doing this is effectively demanding that she stop calling that definition into question.

All these developments clearly have ramifications far beyond the smouldering civil war within the Labour Party.  I spoke to Walker on Facetime this week about her predicament. She looked tired, and described herself as ‘very stressed’ by the accusations thrown at her, and by the negative fallout that has resulted from them.. This isn’t just the usual Twitter pitchfork mob and Facebook abusers, or the newspapers that have been holding her name up like a sinner from a Nathaniel Hawthorne novel.

Walker’s partner Graham Bash is Jewish, and his family has not spoken to him since her suspension.  She also has family in Israel, the Caribbean and the United States, and she has received criticism from these countries as well.  ‘ It’s gone kind of mega-global,’ she says, ‘  and the context of that is that there are all sorts of people who think they know me and know what I’m like who are now feeling totally free to make all sorts of comments about me.’

These accusers include that well-known anti-fascist newspaper the Daily Mail, which ran the kind of piece you would expect the Daily Mail to run about her. Why did she think she had been singled out for such treatment?

‘Oh, I think without doubt because I’m the vice-chair of Momentum.  You know, if you look at it in terms of the antisemitic paltriness of the claims against what I’ve said, I mean they’re really scraping the barrel….I’m sure that what they did was think about who they could look at, who’s on the left, and who would make a good target, and then they targeted my Facebook.’

Walker’s record as a campaigner for Palestinian rights also added to her target appeal. The Facebook comments that resulted in her suspension were given to the Jewish Chronicle by an  organization called the Israel Advocacy Movement (IAM), a seemingly two-man operation whose website describes its mission to counter ‘  the increasing hostility Israel suffers at the hands of the British public, caused by huge volumes disinformation [sic] circulated by Israel’s enemies.’

These enemies include the anti-poverty charity War on Want, which the IAM claims was ‘one of the driving forces behind boycotting and demonising Israel in the UK. They spend a huge amount of their resources attacking the Israel, [sic] while paying little attention to the most impoverished nations in the world.’

Such is the organization that the Jewish Chronicle and the Daily Mail took its sources from and no wonder, since the IAM has a stated strategy of ‘providing Israeli advocates with free or cheap materials to promote the cause’.

You don’t get much cheaper materials than those used against Walker, and no one would expect the Great British Press to question the legitimacy of such sources.  The Labour Party Compliance Unit also seems to have rushed to judgement, as it has done in most of the antisemitism accusations of recent weeks.   No one seems to have considered what Walker  actually meant or the context in which it was said – and until last week she wasn’t even told  what she has been accused of.

Despite these these murky procedures, Walker  refuses to criticize the Labour party leadership:  .

‘ I don’t know about the actual workings of what’s happened between the leadership, the Compliance Unit, Iain McNicol and everybody else.  I haven’t got a clue about that, but what I know is that I am absolutely resolved and happy to support the actual leadership of the Labour Party.  It hasn’t shaken me from that at all.  In fact, if anything it’s made me feel it’s even more important that we change how the Labour Party works.’

Despite Walker’s loyalty to the leadership, she has no illusions about her political enemies:

‘ Are we seriously saying my accusers in the IAM are actually concerned about anti-racism. and equality for all people? … I haven’t seen any of them on anti-racist rallies or supporting anti-racist actions. I would very much take them more seriously had they had anything matching, for example, my record with a commitment to antiracism. I mean, if you feel seriously about antiracism, it’s not just about who you are. So I don’t just care about Jews and people of African descent, I care about everybody. That’s what being an antiracist is.’

This is not the kind of definition to find much favour amongst Labour’s finger-pointing witchhunters – let alone David ‘ a bunch of migrants’ Cameron, because it isn’t politically useful.   Walker, like Norman Finkelstein, is shocked and disgusted by the instrumentalisation of antisemitism for purely political purposes:.

‘ It’s a disgrace, the media is against the left. Where is their interest in the people who are doing Hitler salutes down in Dover, marching on the streets of Dover once a month, the group that call themselves Hitler Was Right? Let’s see some of these great campaigners who are against antisemitism, let’s see them on the streets of Dover and actually talking about the real antisemitism that’s happening in this country.’

Wasn’t there a danger that the deliberate conflation of antisemitism with anti-Zionism, coupled with the attempts to use antisemitism to shut down critical voices like hers,  ran the risk of inadvertently fueling antisemitism by making it impossible to criticize Israel openly?

‘Exactly.  But you see I think there’s also a section of people who in a way, want to stoke that fire. Because they want to give European Jews a sense of terror, so they want to make them have a sense that they are not safe.  It doesn’t matter where they look – even on the left, in the Labour Party, you know, there’s antisemitism, and the only way to get away from it is to go back, using that term ‘going back’ to a country most of us have never been born in and have no real association with. and we see that in operation, don’t we?’ 

We do, not least from Binyamin Netanyahu himself, last year, and now Walker, to her own incredulity and dismay,  has become another useful instrument in this morbid process.   That doesn’t mean she is accepting her role of victim passively.  On the contrary, she has been attending public meetings and vigorously defending herself whenever she can, but the experience of public vilification and the suspension from her political home have clearly taken their toll: :

‘It depends what time of day you get me, and how much sleep I’ve had, and often what the last conversation has been.   At the moment I’m getting massive amounts of support and very little sleep, so there’s a contradictory relationship, and I think that’s pretty much going to carry on for the next few months really.  It’s not the way I want to live my life and I really do find it an invasion of my privacy and an invasion of my life as a victim of racism all my life and as an antiracist campaigner, not just personally but professionally to be put into this position.   I think whoever has done this to me should really, really feel ashamed of themselves.’

They should, but then if they could feel shame they would not have done this in the first place.   Last week, Walker  spoke at a public meeting in Kent, where members of the fascist ‘English Patriots’ group heckled her outside and called her a ‘hypocrite’ and a ‘racist’ and jeered that ‘ Labour sacked you.’

This is where the ‘left antisemitism’ fraud has brought us: to a situation when principled and passionate antiracists are called racists by fascists.    And despite Walker’s  loyalty, I can’t help feeling that a party that treats activists like her in this way, and that can’t find the courage to stand up against the vicious, bargain-basement witchhunt that is now unfolding,  will never be able to fight the even bigger fights that lie ahead, and perhaps doesn’t deserve to win them.

But regardless of what you think of that,  this is about much more than the Labour Party itself.    And that is why I urge you to support her. She is fighting back and we should join her in that fight.  Sign the petition demanding her reinstatement here.  Hear her speak. Like her Facebook page.

And let us all do what we can to bring these witch-hunts to an end.  McCarthy got away with what he did because too many people simply didn’t have the small courage to say no – and call him out  for the liar and the bully he was.

We need to do the same to the liars, bullies, opportunists – and Zionists, who are so grossly manipulating antisemitism for their own political purposes,  and we need to start now.