IT’S A SILENCE THAT SPEAKS VOLUMES. I mean, I hadn’t heard a word, not officially that is, from the Constitutional Unit though, to give them their due, I’d been on holiday two days when the story broke. Might be the eccentricities of our privatised post - but you’d think if The Unit really wanted to contact me, they might have tried to find, among countless emails sent from the Labour Party asking for money and support, a phone or email contact. They haven’t, and obviously didn’t.
And maybe you’d think someone in The Unit would have informed me before the Jewish Chronicle, giving me news of my suspension first so I could (at least in part) be prepared for being unmasked as a racist.
So – how did it happen? Seems like someone using rules no one seems to know much about got a call from the nice reporter on the Jewish Chronicle, that well known friend of the British left and beacon in the struggle for equal rights (regardless of colour or creed) across the globe.
And notwithstanding my well known record of fighting racism, my experience as a victim of racism and my ongoing vulnerability (being a black, Jewish activist living in an area with a UKIP council where fascists march the streets regularly not 20 miles away), The Unit took decisive action in defence of anti-racist activists everywhere and suspended me.
So, how has it been since?
Well, quite a trip but I’ve made decisions. I will never apologise for being an Internationalist, for holding all life as precious, for not valorising one genocide, one holocaust, over any other. And if you ask if I think anti-Semitism is a major problem in the Labour Party I would give almost the same response as the one I was suspended for – 'No' but with one amendment: anti-Semitism is not a major problem, the suspension process is.
I’ve been told I should perhaps be careful of what I say. After all, my words have already been twisted, mashed and mangled. Leaving aside the Jewish Chronicle, papers like the Guardian and Mail have accused me of crimes as heinous as supporting the leader of the Labour Party. Commentators on TV and social media have fallen over themselves to carefully select half sentences and taken out of context quotes to support their own slapdash, anti-Labour, anti the present leadership, rhetoric. People who know nothing of me, and have barely read more than libelous headlines from the Jewish Chronicle (“Labour suspends Momentum supporter who claimed Jews caused an African holocaust”), have decided that I’m just one of many ‘Jew-hating luminaries’ on the left. Their bile is only matched by the sight of our local fascist thug grinning at me on a Facebook post, gloating at what he sees as my ‘sacking from the Labour Party’. Many thanks, Constitutional Unit.
Then there’s the, at times, craven, at other times complicit, response from some that also breeds a silence. The fear in my CLP is palpable; McCarthyism lives and with the same purpose - the destruction of the left. In this way Israeli propagandists and their fellow travellers, who conscientiously use every minute of their working day and probably more, to uncover racists as rabid as me, are left with a clear run to get on with their dirty work.
But what explanation for this increasing convergence between Zionists, the right of the Labour Party, the Tories and our right wing media? Of course, most want to destabilise and undermine the left - but they’re after much more. Is it coincidence that Sadiq Khan, new London Mayor, full of his new found fame, has already met with the Israeli Ambassador for talks that it is suggested may lead to greater trade links with Israel? And let’s face it, the forces of reaction have succeeded to the point where we find ourselves, even on the left, discussing whether we dare use the term Zionist ever, in any situation, again. Really?!
Can you imagine if we were talking about China in relation to Tibet or… anywhere else in the world. ‘An attack on freedom of speech’ we would protest! ‘Why don’t people speak up?’ And that’s what we should be doing now – all of us, whatever our political allegiance.
We have a Commission into anti-Semitism, but let’s ensure it takes on the concerns of oppressed and under-represented groups in the Party as well, otherwise we may fracture, not unify, sowing the seeds of an alienation with non-Jewish minorities which could cost the Party dear in future. I call on all representatives and individuals from minority groups to contribute to the Commission with enthusiasm and diligence.
As for myself, I will not be silenced. After all, I’m not just campaigning for me. I will continue to speak against the present process, against the particularity of its attack upon the left. I will continue to speak in defence of all minorities, including Jewish people, wherever I can. I will fight for the ideals of free speech, for the validity of anti-Zionism as a political perspective– ideals which have been a fundamental part of my commitment to the labour movement.
‘Do not go gentle into that good night’, Dylan Thomas said of death, and while suspension from the Labour Party is by no means the end of all things politically or otherwise, in this I take his advice very much to heart.
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Submissions to the Commission should be made before 10 June http://www.labour.org.uk/index.php/chakrabarti