One of the speakers at the Palestine Solidarity Campaign demo on 11 May was Glyn Secker, the secretary of Jewish Voice for Labour. His speech has been widely condemned on social and other media (e.g. the Jewish Chronicle) for containing antisemitic tropes.
Superficially, there was nothing wrong with the main thrust of Secker′s speech — condemning the Jewish communal leadership for standing aside from the rise of the far right and the actions of the (hard-right) Israeli government (″When will they condemn the IDF slaughter of the unarmed at Gaza? When will they join the anti-fascist movement against Yaxley-Lennon aka Robinson?″) Maybe it was that general message that the crowd heard when they applauded Secker. However, a closer reading of Secker′s speech is merited.
Firstly, it was constructed around deliberate slippage. Secker said that the Zionist Federation as an entity ″embraces” the English Defence League. Not so! One very marginal individual in the Zionist Federation, Jonathan Hoffman, a few others perhaps, have linked up with the EDL, but there is no evidence of a wider ″conspiracy″ between the two groups.
Secker′s speech displayed the standard Manichean world view of the kitsch left, on the conflict in Israel-Palestine as on other international issues. Here schematic connections are drawn between the (local) reactionary policies of the Israeli government, other events around the world, and global political trends (the shift to the right). In such a mindset, allegations of antisemitism in Labour have to be a right-wing conspiracy. And so Secker′s observations were curdled with hyperbole, paranoia, lack of self-awareness and refusal to be affected by the evidence — in this case, of antisemitism in Labour.
In fact, Secker added to such evidence, saying Labour Friends of Israel were a ″fifth column″ in Labour! Does he not realise that phrase would be inescapably offensive to many Jewish people? The posture seems much easier than engaging with the increasing evidence of antisemitism from Labour members, going beyond the conspiracy theory and false flag posts being shared and liked on social media. Or empathising with someone like Luciana Berger, who experienced appalling antisemitism and then accused of ″playing victim″ by Labour activists.
The best that can be said of Secker’s left milieu is that it is extremely obtuse and crude in its political-intellectual approach. Yet it is not hard to critically assess evidence of antisemitism in and around Labour and the PSC, and at the same time criticise and oppose the actions of the Israeli government.