Speech at Lewisham Momentum on behalf of MBC, Monday the 20th June 2016
I speak today on behalf of Momentum Black ConneXions, which was formed in December 2015. As an independent, autonomous, Black Power organisation, we are Momentum because we support the values of Jeremy Corbyn. We are also Politically Black because we uphold ‘Black’ in the best tradition of its long-held political definition in the historical and contemporary experiences of our communities of resistance against racism in its various manifestations and in defence of all human peoples and mother earth rights in and beyond the UK. ConneXions describe an important positioning reaching out and connecting to our communities in recognition that without that, there can be no Momentum. That is why we are Momentum Black ConneXions, MBC.
On the question of anti-Semitism and from as always, a political Black perspective, my starting point is that I recognise African Hebrew Israelites as being the original Jews from what is now, Palestinian land. That is to say, even before the existence of Palestine, there were before our enslavement, African Hebrews. Indeed, there is a growing movement demanding recognition of that fact. Primarily, this is because of the scriptures where it makes clear that the descendants of Noah through his son Ham, was black. Ham had a son named Cush, which means “black” in Hebrew. Cush is the most common term designating the colour of people or lands used in the Bible. The Greek and Latin word is Ethiopia ‘the land of the scorched faces’ and in classical literature, Greek and Roman authors describe Ethiopians as black. (Genesis 10:6-20 – Hams descendants are located in North Africa, Central Africa and in parts of southern Asia, Psalm 105:23-27 and Psalm 106:22 – mentions the “land of Ham” in Egypt, and Psalm 78:51 – connects the “tents of Ham” with Egypt). Therefore, many of us do not think that Jewish people were White or Caucasian in the beginning. The four sons of Ham include Cush (Ethiopians/Cushite & Nubians), Mizraim (Egyptians and Khemet) and Phut (Ancient Somalia) and Canaan (Arabs/Palestinians). All of Ham’s sons settled around the continent of Africa including the so-called Middle East and thus Ham’s sons are the people of the African continent.
The Israelites are the descendants of Noah’s son Shem through Abraham, indeed who was the father of Isaac. Isaac, the father of Jacob, had 12 sons and those children of Jacob were the children of Israel. Jacobs name was in fact, changed to Israel and his sons, the 12 tribes of Israel, are the patriarchs of the Israelite nation.
I start here on this important question on anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism, Labour and the Left to ask you before I go on. Is my position anti-Semitic for even suggesting such a thing or is it anti-Black and Afriphobic, if the relationship between being the original Jews and being African Hebrew, is denied? Who decides in an anti-Semitic debate, which perspective should be valued or discredited? Who has the right to say what? Moreover, who is ‘entitled’ to be offended?
Although I am not here to give you a history lesson, this is highly significant if we look at the structure of Israel today. From a race point of view, there is a clear hierarchy if not officially, certainly culturally, within the modern state of Israel that speaks to White supremacy and ultimately, you have to understand, MBC considers White supremacy as lying at the heart of Western Imperialism. That is to say, even if we do not consider Palestinians for a moment, Eastern Europeans Jews (The Khazars), then Western European Jews are treated as being of a higher social status than that of Arab Jews with Falasha or Ethiopian Jews, regarded as the lowest. Within the disgraceful treatment of Palestinians, African Palestinians have also spoken of the dual levels of racism they experience for being both African and Palestinian.
African Hebrews from America began arriving in Israel in 1969, claiming to be God’s representative on earth. In the now famous Operation Solomon, around 20,000 Ethiopian Jews were airlifted to Israel in 1991 (Sudan airlift was in 1984) and call themselves Beta Israel (House of Israel). The Israeli government, unsure where they should fit into Israel’s Law of Return that grants every Jew, automatic citizenship, moved them into remote desert towns and left them on temporary visas without permission to work. After being marginalised for nearly four decades, citizenship is being granted now.
This could be viewed as progressive except, the African Globe reported in July 2015, that Israel was at war with its Black Populations. Indeed, on the 3rd May 2016, the NGO, the Public Committee against Torture in Israel (PCATI), flagged up data that showed torture and abuse by police as being more likely not only against Palestinians but also with minorities like Ethiopian Jews and African migrants. Now, if that was not bad enough, according to the Israeli news source Haaretz (27.1.2013), Israel Health Minister Ron Gamzu, admitted that for the past decade, the Jewish State has forced sterilisation on Black Ethiopian Jews by injecting a long-acting contraceptive drug (Depo-Provera) so causing a staggering 50% birth rate decline within that 10 year period.
Women have testified to this happening to them against their will or knowledge and as a community, they protested. This act is rooted in the belief that their social status is due to their inferior genetic makeup and in literal terms, would qualify as an attempt at genocide not to mention an attack on female sovereignty. Although the Israeli State has admitted to the practice (in 2013), they continue to deny doing anything wrong.
Therefore, any discussion we have concerning anti-Semitism has to be contextualised within the way that Black people are being treated even when they themselves are orthodox Jews who willingly fight in the Israeli Army. What I will not do, is to continue having a conversation that seems to be devoid or erodes these discriminations against Black people and in effect Jews against Jews, at the hands of Israeli’s whilst we consider at the same time that anti-Zionism might be the new anti-Semitism? I must add that only 150 individuals have been ‘recognised’ as refugees under the UN Refugee Convention. Yet, there are an estimated 45,000 African Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Israel. Many of them live on the streets of South Tel Aviv and racial hatred is very high against Blacks where we are described as the ‘infiltrators’. Miriam Regev, who, as a Moroccan Jew and current Israel’s Minister of Culture and Sport, said as recently as 2013, that we, as African, are akin to “cancer to the country” and although that made international headlines and was typical from this particular minister, there was no particular outcry indeed, 52% of Israeli’s Jews identified with the Ministers contention. Can you imagine if I or Ken Livingstone, or Jackie Walker or any of the similarly suspended had said such a thing and I dare not even mention the obvious comparisons to forced sterilisations?
The reason why it is so crucial to contextualise race within an anti-Semitic discussion is that if we are not careful, we as Black people will simply implicate ourselves in greater levels of oppression with those that are actually colluding with our oppressors. I am suspended from the Labour Party but I know not why precisely, but do know it is during the heat of a Witch-hunt by Zionists. I follow another Black and Jewish woman who was suspended called, Jackie Walker and frankly, she should be sitting here next to me tonight. As a Black woman, her Jewishness was called into question in a way that I doubt would have occurred had she been White. What am I to think knowing Zionism seems to hate Black people and those who want to defend and resist all forms of racism? Alternatively, let me put it another way, I know of no pro-Zionist who has run to my defence. Does it really mean I am anti-Semitic if I call for the reinstatement of Ken Livingstone? If someone calls for my reinstatement, will they be suspended too? Only the Jewish anti-Zionist left of the left-wing, have been concerned for me and they are not even represented on this panel tonight because my request for such a speaker was refused on the basis that there would be too many speakers!!!
Nor is it just in Israel where anti-Racist struggles have potentially been undermined. Consider, for example, Counterintelligence who described in the Executive Intelligence Review (1979) that when the National Party of South Africa, came to power in 1948, the country’s Zionists – newly hegemonic over South African Jewry, offered their “friendship”. The true dimensions of this relationship concealed the myth that a special relationship ought to exist between these two “peoples of the Book” – Israel and Afrikanerdom on the basis that each faced threatening neighbours and a hostile world. Now when you consider what was happening to Africans at the time that is for us, perverse. South African Zionists then went on to occupy important positions in the Israeli foreign ministry (Cape Town-born Abba Eban and Arther Lurie, and Michael Saul Comay for example). South African Shmuel Katz became the Prime Minister’s information adviser and Katz was first dispatched to Palestine in 1936 as Secretary to the South African government’s honorary commissioner in Jerusalem. What followed was, two Israeli banks involved in the dope-for-diamonds trade and terrorism, opened South African branches in the early 1970s. Japhet Bank opened an office in 1971; Bank Leumi followed suit in 1973 after its U.S. subsidiary contributed $2 million to a secret loan to the South African Finance Ministry in 1972.
I do not have to tell you the type of foreign policies that existed in South African’s Apartheid System but Zionism was not on the face of it, focused on the liberation of African people….to say the very least. Against that background and the current attitudes towards Black people here in the UK and in the State of Israel, I hope you will appreciate that when we see this current movement that would appear to be trying to blur distinctions between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, this should signal alarm bells for Black people. It means we are in trouble for we face losing important Left wing, anti-Zionist allies in the blurring of these lines….or else why blur them at all?
So where are we in 2016 in relation to the Labour Party and the Left? There are now 40 seats (over 6%), of MPs in the House of Commons / House of Lords from ethnic minority backgrounds (Labour 23, Conservative 17, LibDems are all white). However, that includes the likes of Iain Duncan Smith M.P. who describes himself as ‘White Japanese British’. That is not to deny his right to his own ethnic identity but it is to suggest that politically, his position is unlikely to serve the interests of an ethnic minority group unless it coincides with the broader mainstream right-wing conservative political interests, for which he is recognised. In any event, there are 6% from an ethnic minority population of 13% (ONS 2012). That means 40 seats instead of what could be 85 seats. The number of ethnic minority female MPs in the House of Commons has nearly doubled from 11 (1.5%) in 2010 to 20 (3%) in 2015 so that is good news. However, the number of Black MPs from that Labour 23 that is actually of the Labour Left is of serious concern to MBC.
In 2010, there were 22 Jewish MPs. (13 Conservatives and 9 Labour). There has already been a Jewish Prime Minister in this Country (Benjamin Disraeli) and in Ed Miliband, we had a Jewish Labour Leader. The Jewish population in the UK was in 2010, 280,000 (0.46 %). There are 650 seats in the House of Commons so, proportionately, Jewish entitlement appears to be only 3 seats, which means, of course, that other groups must be under-represented, including Muslims. The UK Muslim population is 2.4 million (nearly 4%) so proportionately, they would be entitled to 26 seats but they have only 8 seats. If Muslims were overrepresented to the same extent as our Jewish communities (i.e. eight times), they would have 200 seats, with no doubt, heightened Islamophobia in our wider society, to go with it.
However, one of the difficulties for Labour and the Left is that it does not necessarily understand what a Political Black Perspective is. Some of the Left still believe a race perspective can be reduced to social class categories and that advocating our right to affect Black Power is divisive, separatist and unnecessary. An open public debate on White Supremacy is as uncomfortable for the Labour Left as it is for any political party on the Right. It was recently inferred by the press that I was ‘divisive’ for running a Black-only MBC group on Facebook so actually, in current times it would appear that we are going backwards for there was no fear of appearing racist in printing that. Should we be raising questions about women-only or LGBTQ-only Facebook groups in 2016? White supremacy lives in fear that Black Power means a White overthrow, but it does not. The same criticisms would not be levelled at Anglo/ European-Jewish only groups because they would fear the accusation of anti-Semitism. I would suggest, Jewish communities working together for their political interests, is acceptable in a way that is not for us as a Black people. Nor have we seen Black Labour Party members in the higher echelons of the Labour Party in the same way that we have seen Jewish members for example. Yet, arguably, on the question of numbers, the Labour Party is far more dependent on Black Votes. The Labour Party could not succeed in Lambeth, without their Black supporters. Yet the Labour Council now preside over a borough that has the highest inequalities in England and Wales (Runnymede Report on Inequalities, March 2016).
What is missing in the Labour Party is a commitment to a Political Black Voice rather than a ‘quota’ of MPs. We are concerned with the substance. Representation is of course, crucial but not at the cost of dumbing down Black Politics. Besides, everyone can have Black Politics, regardless of who you are. Just as the Jewish lobby have insisted on a review on anti-Semitism, we notice that similar comments can be made about Blacks and/or Africans with it barely being noticeable. Reparation for the African Holocaust is still not seriously considered. In Kiswahili, we call the African Holocaust Maangamizi and speak to the continuum of chattel, colonial and neo-colonial forms of our enslavement. If for example, someone were to say Africans themselves are implicated in the Maangamizi, there would be no expectation that that should be offensive and it certainly does not conjure up the fear that it be racist?
My worry is that the Left have become afraid, afraid to appear anti-Semitic and afraid to defend a Political Black Perspective. Too many, whether Left or Right, are afraid to condemn the illegal occupation, the racist policies and the war crimes as Israel’s interest become conflated with British interests. It has become dangerous to speak up. I believe Jeremy Corbyn wants to and has done so but he does not yet have a Labour Party that mirrors him, and might never have.
In my support for him in fighting against racial injustices, I have been suspended because I must not offend presumably, the pro-Zionist lobby though it is alright not to tell me what I have been suspended for exactly and it is alright if they appear to act in a racist way in doing so. Jackie Walker and now me? What are the odds? I am committed to the Labour Party, Momentum, Lambeth Momentum and Momentum Black ConneXions as I recognise the interconnections, but I cannot say at this time, that they are ready to be committed to the likes of me.
Acting General Secretary
Momentum Black ConneXions