Socialist Worker

Who is behind rising racism across Europe?

by Kevin Ovenden
Issue No. 1881

SUCCESSIVE WAVES of immigrants arriving in Britain have faced racism. Every week in Britain there are attacks on asylum seekers.

Blacks and Asians still suffer from systematic discrimination in education, housing and jobs. Blacks are eight times more likely to face being stopped and searched by the police than whites.

In Britain and across Europe Nazi organisations like the British National Party (BNP) or the French National Front are at the heart of stoking up racism. As well as racism against blacks and Asians, these parties also have an older form of racism at their core. Virulent anti-Semitism remains central to the perverted worldview of neo-Nazis in Europe, the US and elsewhere.

BNP Fuhrer Nick Griffin wrote a few years ago: 'For the last 50 years the vision underlying all the vile sickness of this age of ruins has been the so called 'Holocaust'. The New World struggling to be born cannot do so until this lie is publicly exposed, ridiculed and destroyed.'

This anti-Semitism is coupled with wider public anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim racism.

The BNP's magazine Identity explained to the bootboys last year the need to target Muslim immigrants: 'Which enemy is it in our political interest to be seen to be opposing more vigorously at the moment? To a party aiming to win seats in London, the West Midlands and the former mill towns of northern England, the answer should be pretty obvious.'

Nazi bomber David Copeland, who killed three people and injured hundreds more by planting nail bombs in Brixton, Brick Lane and Soho in London, said in a confession to police, 'I bombed the blacks, Pakis, degenerates. I would have bombed the Jews as well if I got a chance.'

This shows the need for the utmost unity in fighting all forms of racism.

The experience of a Jewish teenager reported in the Jewish Chronicle last year underlies it. He first saw two white youths attacking an Asian man: 'They were making monkey noises and slapping him on the head. Then they saw me and said, 'Now here's a Yiddo.' They smashed my glasses and punched me.'

But what some groups have claimed recently is that the real threat to Jewish people is a new form of anti-Semitism which, they say, comes from Muslims and the left. A new report on anti-Semitism in Europe published last week was used in this argument.

This ignores the fact that discrimination against blacks and Asians is still the dominant form taken by racism in Britain and around Europe.

While discrimination against asylum seekers is backed by governments around Europe, nowhere in Europe does anti-Semitism receive state support. 'That's not to say Europe is prejudice free,' says Anneke Mouthaan, founder of Dutch group Another Jewish Voice. 'The continent has simply found new targets. Last century it was the Jews-this time round it's the immigrants.'

The survey of anti-Semitism in Europe contained almost no statistics, but it may well be right in suggesting some rise in incidents over recent years from a very low level.

Establishment anti-Semitism persisted in Britain after the Second World War. In the 1950s some British private schools restricted the number of Jews to a fixed quota. Anthony Lerman, former editor of the Anti-Semitic World Report, writes, 'In the US, admissions policies aimed at curbing the number of Jewish students at virtually every private institution of higher learning, and many public ones too, lasted well into the 1950s.' Some prejudice remains today-often characterised as the 'kind of anti-Semitism found at the local golf club'.

It goes without saying that socialists and anti-racists condemn and organise against every racist incident, whoever it is directed against.

But many governments and commentators have tried to drive a wedge between those fighting anti-Semitism and other people who suffer under racism. In particular a right wing lobby who support George Bush and Israeli leader Ariel Sharon have tried to blame Asians, Arabs and blacks for anti-Semitism.

These 'neo-cons' draw support from the traditionally anti-Jewish Christian fundamentalist right. Yet they say Europe is awash with a 'new anti-Semitism', for which they cite principally condemnation of the actions of the Israeli government and state.

Bush supporters in Britain-usually writing in right wing papers such as the Daily Mail and the Telegraph-repeat the claims. Most recently they claimed it is 'the left' who are covering up the 'biggest threat' of racism.

These arguments have been taken up and repeated in the Guardian, and they are frequently heard in the National Union of Students. This argument is not merely a smear on the anti-war and anti-capitalist movements internationally. It also toys unforgivably with Jewish people's fears of a resurgence of anti-Semitism.

Often instances of anti-Semitism are thrown together with criticism of the Israeli state. Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League in the US says, 'We are careful to say that not every criticism against the state of Israel is anti-Semitic.'

But then he adds, 'Let me say anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism, period. It is pure, simple, unadulterated anti-Semitism.'

In other words criticism of the fundamental nature of Israel, which is voiced in Israel itself, is declared 'anti-Semitic'.

The result is to devalue the danger of genuine anti-Semitism and to try to cover up the very real crimes of the Israeli state.

Some people do accept the argument that Israel is 'the Jewish state'. This means that some people, including some Muslims, make the mistake of blaming all Jews for the actions of Israel and for the horrors inflicted on people across the Middle East.

But the war in Iraq was always about the two central concerns of the Bush gang-oil and US power. Successive US governments have been happy to see fury at its role in the Middle East deflected onto its ally Israel. They support Israel because they see it as a 'watchdog state' looking after their interests in the region.

One great success of the global anti-war movement is that it has cut through the smokescreen thrown up by the supporters of US imperialism. It has squarely targeted the neo-conservative warmongers and united large numbers of Jews alongside Muslims and many others.

In so doing it, it is winning large numbers of people in Europe and the Middle East away from seeing the world in the communal terms our rulers use. The increasing numbers of Jewish people prepared to attack what Israel is doing have speeded that process enormously.

It is this that the neo-conservatives and their supporters want to break.


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Features
Sat 13 Dec 2003, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1881
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