Monday 24 April 2023

It's time Diane Abbot was kicked out of the Labour Party


Racism in the modern western world has become the unforgivable sin. Diane Abbot wrote a letter to the Observer and swiftly had the whip removed from her. She later apologised and claimed somehow that the letter misrepresented her thoughts. It read

Tomiwa Owolade claims that Irish, Jewish and Traveller people all suffer from ‘racism’. They undoubtedly experience prejudice. This is similar to racism and the two words are often used as if they are interchangeable. It is true that many types of white people with points of difference, such as redheads, can experience this prejudice. But they are not all their lives subject to racism. In pre-civil rights America, Irish people, Jewish people and Travellers were not required to sit at the back of the bus. In apartheid South Africa, these groups were allowed to vote. And at the height of slavery, there were no white-seeming people manacled on the slave ships.

Race is complex. We ought to be able to write about it in a way that reflects this complexity. There clearly is a difference between racism based on skin colour and other forms of racism. Irish people, Irish travellers and white British people are indistinguishable in terms of what they look like. They are all descended from the same or similar mixture of ancestors. But they may experience hatred because of who they are and their belonging to an identifiable group.

An Irish person can be identified by a name or an accent an Irish traveller by a lifestyle. Both in Britain and the USA people from Ireland have been treated as inferior not because of how they look but because of who they are.

This is similar to the way in which some Scottish people, including many SNP supporters treat English people who have moved to Scotland. It’s also similar to how some people in the Central Belt treat people who are either Protestant or Catholic.

We can debate whether this is racism. After all everyone involved is the same race. But it hardly matters to the victim if he is hated because he is Irish, a Protestant, English or a Scot. What matters is the hatred. Call it what you will.

Being hated because of the colour of your skin is different from being hated because you are Jewish. A black person walking down the street in London is visibly black. A Jewish person may be indistinguishable from everyone else. He may of course wear clothes that identify his Jewishness.

It is true that a Jewish person may not have had to sit at the back of the bus in the South prior to Civil Rights. It is true that Jewish people did not face the same discrimination in South Africa during apartheid as black people did. But this just shows that racism is complex.

Jewish people do not all look the same. It is racist to suppose that they do. There are Jewish people who look Middle Eastern, there are Jewish people who look European and there are Jewish people who look African and from other races too, but this does not mean that hatred of Jewish people or anti-Semitism is not a form of racism.

Jewish people in the USA, the UK and other countries faced racism not because of what they believed but because of what they were. It may not always have been possible to tell by looking at someone whether they were a Jew, but as Gregory Peck demonstrated in Gentleman’s Agreement (1947) merely by adopting a Jewish identity he found himself unable to stay at certain hotels, unable to get certain jobs and unable to access certain services. If this isn’t racism what is?

Throughout recorded history there is one group of people who has been subjected to more deadly racism than any other. It is the Jewish people.

Deadly racism against Jews did not begin with the Nazis. There were massacres of Jews in the Middle Ages. Jews were expelled from countless countries including England. There were continual pogroms in the areas where Jews settled in Eastern Europe and finally 6 million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust.

Diane Abbot wants to put black women like her at the top of the hierarchy of racism. But black people have not been systematically murdered throughout history because of who they are. It is true that the transatlantic slave trade involved the deaths of many black people, and many suffered and died as slaves afterwards. The Middle Eastern slave trade also involved the castration of many black people. But the idea of slavery was not to kill those enslaved. A dead slave is worth nothing to its owner. The idea was to keep slaves alive as long as possible and for those slaves to give birth to new people who also would be slaves. The fact that there are black people in the USA and the Caribbean today shows that there was no attempt at genocide. Quite the reverse.

The massacres, pogroms and finally the Holocaust had a wholly different idea. The idea was to eliminate the Jewish people. The method of determining who was and who was not a Jew was based on ancestry. The Nazis certainly thought that Jews were a race, and it was because they were a race the Nazis wanted to eliminate them. How then can anti-Semitism not be a form of racism?

Today Jewish people are still faced with the threat of extermination. Organisations like Hamas, the Iranian Government and others would prefer that Israel ceased to exist and that few if any Jews lived in what is now the state of Israel. The Jewish people living there today would either be expelled or massacred. The same old story all over again.  Many people on the far left of the Labour Party in Britain sympathise with these aims.

Racism is complex. Not all racism is based on appearance or even skin colour. There are people who identify as black who are indistinguishable from southern Europeans or people from the Middle East. Jewishness is complex, but the vast majority of Jews believe they can trace their ancestry to a people who were first written about in the Tanach [Old Testament].

It is because of this ancestry or race that they have been subjected to more racism than any other group of human beings. How dare Diane Abbot compare it to people with red hair.