Jewish Socialist 74 Editorial

After George Floyd’s horrific murder at the hands of police in Minneapolis in May this year, the Jewish Socialists’ Group issued a statement incorporating the powerful words of one of our sister organisations in America, the Boston Jewish Workers’ Circle. They said: “We are full of grief and outrage over the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade and all black lives lost to police brutality and white supremacy. As a multiracial Jewish community committed to racial justice and a better world for all, we mourn together, we protest together, and we recommit ourselves to work together for racial justice within ourselves, our communities, and our country.”
The solidarity protests that mushroomed here in Britain through Black Lives Matter (BLM) compelled us to ask what our communities were doing to challenge not just acts of hate that periodically target Jews, the LBGT community and others, but also the daily structural racism that blights the lives of Black and other minority communities. The Board of Deputies indicated support for BLM concerns but then gave a platform to Tory Home Secretary Priti Patel, who used it to attack Travellers. Liz Fekete and Janet Darley tackle the questions around community responses head-on in this issue.
One political casualty of the Floyd murder was left-wing Shadow Cabinet member Rebecca Long-Bailey, hastily sacked by Labour’s new leader, Keir Starmer. She had retweeted a newspaper interview with her constituent Maxine Peake, a well-known actress and activist in progressive causes, not least antifascism. Peake regularly speaks at annual memorial events commemorating the International Brigades. In one sentence Peake said that American police learned the “knee on the neck” technique from Israeli state forces. She knew that tactic was widely used against Palestinians and that thousands of American police have been trained by Israeli counterparts, but there was no evidence that Minneapolis police learned this tactic from Israelis. America’s use of violent restraint techniques against Black citizens long preceded Israeli training.
Long-Bailey was accused of spreading a “Jewish conspiracy” allegation. She hadn’t. Nor had Peake. Ironically their accusers made the common mistake of antisemites: they conflated Jews in general with the Israeli state. And the Israeli state is far from innocent when it comes to exporting Homeland Security “pacification” and surveillance methods and systems. Jeff Halper, an Israeli activist for justice for Palestinians and a recognised authority on such exports reveals Israel’s true role.
Marek Edelman, who died in 2009, fought for justice in a very different context. He was second-in-command in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, but his struggles for freedom and democracy continued in Poland after the war. This autumn marks the 40th anniversary of Poland’s independent trade union movement, Solidarnosc. David Rosenberg tells the lesser-known story of Edelman’s revived activism especially in the 1970s and ’80s through the Workers’ Defence Committee and Solidarnosc.
This year we sadly lost another Jewish fighter for justice, Denis Goldberg from South Africa, whose activism against the apartheid government resulted in a long prison sentence. Like Edelman, Goldberg never stopped fighting for freedom and justice. Andrew Feinstein, who served as a Jewish ANC MP, remembers Goldberg’s life . 

Posted: 3 October 2020  |  Published in: Jewish Socialist No 74