Anti-Semitism - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:23 pm on 20th June 2019.

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Photo of Lord Finkelstein Lord Finkelstein Conservative 12:23 pm, 20th June 2019

My Lords, I declare my interests as a member of Northwood and Pinner Liberal Synagogue, a columnist on the JC and a consumer of the products of B&K deli in Hatch End. I thank many noble Lords for wonderful speeches: the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, the super-magnificent noble Lord, Lord Pickles—that is his official title—the noble Lord, Lord Harris, for his superb speech and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester. On one occasion, I ran into the Peers’ Writing Room, smashed my leg on the table and, I am rather ashamed to say, exclaimed, “Jesus!” very loudly. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester looked up and said, “Can I help you?” Today, he did exactly that.

I will start with one of the most interesting books I have read this year, The Communist Party of Great Britain: A Historical Analysis to 1941. Published in 1995, it was written by Andrew Murray, one of the closest friends and advisers of the leader of the Opposition. Mr Murray defended the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact and described the fall of the Berlin Wall as an,

“historic setback for human progress”.

This was not the end to the illumination that his book provided. The most useful parts were those that explained the centrality to his thinking of Lenin’s theory of imperialism. This genuinely opened the door to me: I felt that I finally understood the mystery that I had been puzzling over. I have so many wonderful, lovely progressive friends, and great admiration for Labour Members of this House. I know that, like me, they puzzle over how so many progressive, compassionate, humane people can be prey to anti-Semitism.

I think I do get it now—at least a little bit—and, necessarily briefly, I will share it with the House. Lenin argued that capitalism is economically sustainable only because companies seek profits abroad. They then need Governments to protect their foreign investments through military adventure. So imperialism protects capitalism, and to bring down capitalism you have to bring down imperialism. So anti-colonial resistance movements—Iran, Chávez, Hezbollah—are the core of the anti-capitalist movement. Why does this lend itself to anti-Semitism? First, because anti-imperialists such as JA Hobson have always seen Jews as the owners of finance houses on whose behalf racist imperialism is conducted. In other words, these particular anti-imperialists are anti-racists who blame Jews for racism. This is an explanation of the mystery of how people who claim that they are anti-racist can in fact be anti-Semitic. It is the Jews’ fault.

Secondly, anti-imperialists now see the great world empire as the United States, see the Middle East as the centre of this empire and see Israel and Zionism—the Jews, in other words—as the great creators and symbol of this imperialism. In other words, left anti-Semitism is not a few stray tweets and a gaffe or two. Nor does it belong to all members of the Labour Party. It is a system of thought that belongs to a strand of progressive thinking which can only be eradicated by challenging the central tenets of that thinking.