Racism in the mask of anti-imperialism

Across the West, ‘Marches for Palestine’ have given cover to some of the vilest anti-Semitism we’ve seen in decades.

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill
chief political writer

Topics Politics World

Yesterday in London the left marched alongside a mob that was celebrating the mass murder of Jews. They came in from their gentrified suburbs, macchiato in hand, and mingled with keffiyeh-wearing bigots who were using a megaphone to taunt Jews with stories of their annihilation. These lowlifes hollered the Arabic battle cry, ‘Khaybar, Khaybar, oh Jews, the army of Muhammad will return!’. That’s a reference to the 7th-century Battle of Khaybar that took place in what is now Saudi Arabia, when Muhammad and his henchmen slaughtered Jews, including women and children, for their ‘treachery’. To hear this vile cry on the streets of London in 2023 is an outrage against our nation. Jew hate is an emergency now.

It was on Saturday’s ‘March for Palestine’ that the menacing medieval chant rang out. No doubt leftish chin-strokers will gloss over it by saying it’s just an impassioned Arab saying, not something we should take too literally. Please. To scream with glee about an ancient massacre of Jews just three weeks after a modern massacre of Jews has one meaning and one meaning only: to take public pleasure in the killing of Jews. And to hint that we need more of it. That woke activists who will blacklist you from polite society if you say ‘women don’t have penises’ will not make a full-throated condemnation of literally genocidal cries in central London is a new low. There should be no coming back from this.

It was a small group of people in a very large protest, others will say. And? Imagine there was a demo against mass immigration at which ‘just’ a few score people started chanting for the lynching of black people. No big deal? Or picture a protest against the building of a new mosque at which ‘just’ a few handfuls giggled as they made mocking references to the racist barbarism visited upon the Muslims of Christchurch, New Zealand in 2019. Chill out? That there has not been any serious self-reflection on the left following yesterday’s demo means they either think they’re so beyond moral reproach that they shouldn’t even be called out when they mingle with Jew-haters, or that making fun of dead Jews is less bad than making fun of other dead minorities. Which is it?

Yesterday’s march was an ugly, reactionary affair. It was London’s third weekend featuring a virulently anti-Israel march, masquerading as a pro-Palestine march, since the Hamas pogrom of 7 October. One-thousand four-hundred people murdered by an army of anti-Semites for the crime of being Jews in Israel and London’s so-called progressives beat the streets to damn… Israel. To spit bile at the nation that just suffered one of the worst acts of racist terrorism of modern times. Even to imply that Israel had it coming, being a Zionist-Nazi state full of colonial-settler scum. The speed with which Britain’s left turned the worst act of anti-Jewish violence since the death camps into yet another opportunity to bash the Jewish State really has been awful and galling.

There was yet more anti-Semitic branding of Israelis as ‘Nazis’ at yesterday’s demo. ‘Zionism = Nazism’, said one placard. ‘Jews know genocide’, said another, next to the claim that Israel has dropped ‘12,000 tons of bombs’ on Gaza. Masked men chanted ‘Allahu Akbar’. There were black Islamic flags. ‘From London to Gaza, we’ll have an intifada’, Islamists chanted. An intifada in London? What can that mean other than attacking supporters of Israel, Zionists, Jews? (The Second Intifada of 2000-2005 took the lives of more than a thousand Israelis, many in suicide bombings and rocket attacks.)

We’ve seen similar bigotry dolled up as radicalism in the US. Some campus leftists have openly celebrated the monsters who massacred Jewish women and children on 7 October. The chilling slogan ‘Glory to our martyrs’ was projected on to a building at George Washington University. At New York University protesters made a particularly chilling chant. ‘We don’t want no Jew state, we want all of it’, they said. Jew state – tell me that isn’t racism; tell me that’s just politics. At Tulane University in New Orleans a Jewish student who tried to stop protesters from setting fire to the Israeli flag was whacked on the head with a flagpole. It’s funny how ‘anti-Zionism’ has the exact same consequences as anti-Semitism: the public beating of Jews. In London, too, we’ve seen mobs of Islamists scream at and chase people who wave the Israeli flag.

The idea that ‘anti-Zionism’ is different to anti-Semitism is completely untenable now. The mass gatherings of ‘anti-Zionists’ we’ve seen across the West have surely exposed how meaningless that distinction has become. When ‘anti-Zionism’ involves mocking massacred Jews, libelling Jews as Nazis, describing the murder of Jews as ‘resistance’, beating Jews in public and chanting about the destruction of ‘the Jew State’, you know it’s racism. You know it’s the oldest hatred with a makeover. You know it is racial contempt for the Jews dolled up as an edgy critique of the Jewish State. This was horrifically brought home by a chant on the streets of Stockholm. ‘No Zionists on our streets!’, a huge mob cried. What can that mean? Sweden is not a Zionist state. It has no Zionist officials. It means Jews. It means ‘No Jews on our streets’. It is a desire for a pogrom hiding its shamefulness behind a veil of politics.

The sinister streak in so-called anti-Zionism was grimly captured at another demo in the UK on Saturday, in Dundee. Chris Law, an MP for the Scottish National Party, gave a speech in which he criticised both Israel’s ‘indiscriminate actions’ in Gaza and Hamas’s murder of Jews. The crowd went ballistic. They seized the mic from him. They screamed in his face. ‘Say genocide! Condemn Israel!’, shouted one man. Even showing sympathy for slaughtered Jews is a risky business now. Solidarity with the victims of anti-Semitic terror is verboten in these supposedly ‘anti-Zionist’ circles.

What are Jews in Stockholm, New York or London meant to do when mobs are calling for the erasure of ‘the Jew State’ and the expulsion of ‘Zionists’ from our streets? Stay home? Many are. It should worry everyone who cares about equality and decency that some Jews feel they can longer freely traverse their own towns and cities. The ghetto has returned in spirit if not in fact. I strongly disagree with those who say we should ban ‘pro-Palestine’ marches. There is no problem in the world to which censorship is the answer. We must defend freedom for Jews too, though. If we have reached a situation where the liberty of our Jewish citizens is being curtailed by hate, then we have a serious problem. One whipped up by the left, aided by Islamists, and assisted by the yellow-bellied silence of too many in the political class who are so scared of the mob that they won’t speak up for Jews.

The British left loves to reminisce about the Battle of Cable Street of October 1936, when the working classes in London’s East End stood shoulder to shoulder with local Jews against a march by Oswald Mosley’s fascists. ‘I’d have taken action, too’, they say. Well, mini Cable Streets are breaking out across Britain right now, with open expressions of anti-Semitism and Jews feeling cornered by bigotry. And the left is taking action, that’s for sure: they’re on the streets on the side of the anti-Semites.

Brendan O’Neill is spiked’s chief political writer and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. Subscribe to the podcast here. His new book – A Heretic’s Manifesto: Essays on the Unsayable – is available to order on Amazon UK and Amazon US now. And find Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Politics World


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