Tedious trade union turncoats

This is a cross post of an article by Julie Burchill which was originally published in the Jewish Chronicle on January 21, 2010
One of my dearest Jewish compadres, the young writer Emma Forrest, once said to me — after observing me simultaneously talking to my cat, reading Heat magazine, drinking a blue cocktail at noon and watching the live streaming of Big Brother — “Wow, you really are a goy, aren’t you?”
I thought of this recently when I cancelled my plan to attend the University and College Union seminar in Brighton on antisemitism because said cat was under the weather. But, all in all, I think it was for the best. As my husband put it: “If the antisemites attack the Jews quietly, you’ll defend them loudly, and you will look like the nutter!”
He wasn’t wrong. The world of left-wing antisemitism is indeed such a parallel universe of pretzel logic and inverted values that even a mild-mannered, scrupulously fair, middle-of-the-roader like myself can be tarred with the Zionist-thug brush just for venturing the opinion — in a teeny-tiny, pleasantly rural-type voice — that Israel is not the worst country in the entire world when it comes to human rights.
My mind roamed back to last summer when, after a meeting of the excellent Trades Union Friends of Israel, an Israeli comrade came up and spoke to me in Hebrew because my prolonged snarling at antisemitic hecklers was of such a sustained level that she couldn’t believe that any well-behaved British Jew — let alone a gentile!— would react in such a way.
It’s becoming quite a habit — swerving conferences on the A-S word. Last month, I went all the way to Jerusalem in order, as it turned out, not to attend the Global Forum on Antisemitism, choosing instead to go out on the famous 99 tour-bus, where for four hours I veered wildly between tears and cheers as we visited the sites of much Jewish sorrow and joy.
It’s not that I don’t want to know how bad antisemitism is/was. It’s that I’ve known since I was 12 years old, when I saw a photograph of Shoah survivors in a newly liberated death camp in my dad’s The World At War magazine, felt the planet shift beneath my feet and offered up the silent prayer (I was an atheist at this point) that, if I could be on their side, the side of the Jews (I wouldn’t even meet one for another five years), then I would become a believer.
The deal being done, I didn’t need to be drawn a diagram of Dachau. I still haven’t seen Schindler’s List. I don’t watch TV programmes about newly discovered facts concerning the Third Reich — not even my brother-in-law’s effort, which was called something like Abba’s Nazi Secret. (Poor Frida, the brunette, was unlucky enough to have had one of the scumbags as a dad.)
I suppose I haven’t really moved on, intellectually, from when I was 17 and broke ranks to run at the National Front, as they were marching through Lewisham, screaming: “You hate Jews, you will die!” and coming this close to being crushed by a police horse.
But then I have not changed sides, either, unlike a lot of other so-called left-wing people who certainly have — by becoming the kind of antisemitic fascist who has driven so many good socialists out of the UCU.
As the philosopher Eve Garrard wrote two years ago in her resignation letter:
“There has been a constant deployment of some of the most traditional stereotypes of antisemitism, thinly concealed under the fig-leaf of anti-Zionism. Repeated (and demonstrably false) claims have been made that Israel is committing genocide, and is comparable to the Nazis… It has been explicitly asserted by Union activists that those members who resist this demonising of the Jewish state, and who are concerned about the double standards being deployed in the boycott project, are manipulatively trying to distract others from Israel’s crimes… this Union is no longer a fit place for those who think that Jews have the same rights of self-determination, self-defence, and national identity as other peoples do, and I hereby resign from it.”
So, on balance, for once, I’m quite pleased with myself (for being a dumb old Commie redneck, stuck in the one-size-fits-all socialism of the past).

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