Darren Adam is Leading Britain's Conversation.
26 September 2017, 14:44
This is James O'Brien powerful monologue on anti-semitism - and why the Labour Party is wrong to claim it's not happening within their party.
James was discussing the topic after speakers at the Labour Party conference were accused of making anti-semitic remarks, with one delegate saying they should be allowed to debate whether the Holocaust happened or not.
After years of doing this job, James said he has developed a deep understanding of both sides of the Middle East debate.
The creep of the carpet slippered fascist is getting louder and louder in this world at the moment and if I was Jewish I'd be terrified.
So when I read, what three or four years ago, about French people fleeing France to go to Israel. People talking about how likely they were to move. I didn't get it. I thought, oh come on it's a bit of an overreaction. you're being a bit silly. I may have framed slightly rude thoughts than that about a kind of cult of victimhood. But I know now how close we are, how near some people can be to letting their hate rule them.
And if I was Jewish, I'd know that history has taught me, I will be in the front of a queue of people to get hurt. So when you look at the modern state of Israel through that lens of persecution and Holocaust, you don't have to be particularly bright to realise that it will be defended on a level that defies logical analysis.
It's fear of death that prompts slavish devotion to Israel, or Zionism as these people call it, both negatively and positively. But we live now, you can see it on the social media pages of this radio station, the levels of bile and hatred, admittedly directed mostly towards Muslims or immigrants in general and fostered and inflamed and whipped up by people who get paid to do it, by the same people that pay me, you know why Jewish people and Israel have a relationship that nobody else really can understand. It was the country that would protect them when it happens again. Not if it happens again, when it happens again.
And it breaks my heart to tell you that at the age of 40, I didn't think it ever would happen again. I couldn't even have begun to conceive of circumstances in which it might. But at the age of 45, I think it will probably happen in my lifetime. unless we find a way to link arms and stand together.
What would happen now at Cable Street, if Mosley turned up at Cable Street with his blackshirts? Do you think the working classes of the East End would stand up to repel him? Or do you think they would cheer him down the road? I don't know. I'd like to think we'd still link arms and repel him and I know that the Box of Trolls and social media can be a very distorting lens, but I also know that vile, vile hatred is not as far from the surface of outwardly normal and ordinary people as I thought it was.
Think of the calls we took after Brexit. How many calls did we take from people saying 'I can't believe the way my colleagues are talking to me. They keep saying I don't mean you. Oh I don't mean you, but they're saying stuff out loud now that they never would have said before that little shift in perception of what is acceptable and what is not'.
Some people choose to call it political correctness. We know that it really is just civilisation and good manners, but I never knew frankly, until the lid came off, how many people were chomping at the bit to be bilious, vicious and vile to you because you're a Jew or a Muslim or a Pole or a Romanian or a Frenchman or a German. I just didn't know. Naive? Whatever. Call it it what you will. And it's more insidious in my social class than anywhere else.
This is the most vicious element of the far right ideology that's currently enjoying its time in the sun in this country and elsewhere, they pretend that it's working class. They pretend that it's economic anxiety.
They pretend that it's some sort of... do you know what, I don't even know for sure whether or not this will work. I probably haven't got the paper with me, have I? But I bet you if you open the Daily Mail today, there'll be somebody in there trying to blame what's happened in Germany, the rise of the far right on people who warned against the rise of the far right. I bet you any money at all. 'If you'd listened to their concerns about immigrants, you wouldn't have this resurgence of the Nazis'. No, if you hadn't fed their concerns about immigrants, you wouldn't have this rise of the Nazis. Because guess what's happening in Germany.
Do you need me to tell you the demographics of who voted for the AfD and where the highest areas of immigration are? Do you need me to tell you that the highest levels of voting for the far right party were in the areas where there's next to no immigration? You don't, do you? Because if you live next door to these people, then you generally know that they're just like you and me.
But the button that gets pushed by the demagogues and the hate preachers is a button that Jewish people never ever forget. And that's why, I think, I get it now.
Which brings us to the Labour Party and they see Israel's furious self-protection, built I believe, maybe I'm being naive- I'm going to open up the phone lines, by all means you can come at me from any angle on this, I'm from standing naked before you, this is vulnerable for me- but it's important because the Labour Party should be the people who link arms to protect minorities from persecution.
The Labour Party, the people of the left, should be the ones who focus upon commonality, the words of Jo Cox, 'What we have in common, not what makes us different'.
So you try to understand how the Labour Party could have become some sort of home for anti-semitic thinking and you should try to understand, because if you don't understand you can never address. If you don't explain, you can never expunge.
And it comes from a perception that Israel behaves with regard to the Palestinian people, with regard to the Gaza Strip, with regard to Lebanon, it comes from a perception that they behave in a profoundly aggressive and oppressive fashion. And they probably do deserve that description in an objective universe, down the lens of objectivity.
I used to sit here and say yes they have launched a glorified firework over the wall, but look how many missiles have been fired in return. And I still objectively believe that's a grave, grave injustice.
But I guess what I'm telling you is that I can understand both sides better than I could when I started and what these misguided, dangerous Labour supporters do is completely overlook the fact that protecting Israel, in the minds of most Jewish people, is protecting their children from the next Holocaust.
It took me years to get this and I wouldn't have got it if I hadn't smelt Holocaust on the wind in my own country, with regard to a different minority. The way that some people are describing other minorities in this country, you get it now, or I get it now.
That's why Israel is so protectionist. Because it was the place you could go in the knowledge that whatever happened on the world stage, your neighbours would not be at your door with torches by teatime if the wind changed.