Tuesday 3 December 2019

To Slur with Love by Danny Finkelstein

The key issue of the politics around  'antisemitism in the Labour Party' is whether all incidents in public political life are - or are not -  being judged by the same standards. 

The idea bandied about by political philosophers is that the law and politics treats people equally. Once a principle has been founded, then that principle is supposed to be applied fairly. The same standards are supposed to be used to judge a pauper or a prince (ahem ahem). 

We are entitled to ask, are the same standards being used to judge 'antisemitism in the Labour Party' as with all other examples of antisemitism in other political parties? We are entitled to ask, are the same standards being used to judge 'antisemitism in the Labour Party' as with all other examples of racism in other political parties?

That's what it comes down to: are the same standards being applied? 

I can answer this. I don't think they are. I think that the antisemitism, Islamophobia, discrimination and persecution that has gone on around the Tory Party are not being judged by the same standards.

One example: most people in the media judge Corbyn's actions in 'the mural case' to have been antisemitic. As that's the public judgement, let's go with that for the moment: public piece of art, Corbyn approved of it.

Now let's do the same with the recent unveiling of the statue for Nancy Astor. Astor was an, anti-Catholic antisemite: public piece of art, most politicians approved of it.

In case A, Corbyn is an antisemite. In case B, the politicians are given a free pass. 

A much greyer area is around so-called slurs. These are the use of stereotypes and 'tropes' that often have long histories. Some people use these deliberately, some unconsciously. If we were in less contentious times, we would all be helping each other with these. Anyone, like me, who has read oodles of English Literature or grown up in the 50s, has been surrounded with these since birth! I can remember my dad coming back from a meeting at the teacher training college he taught at, and told us how someone started talking  about a 'nasty little Jew'. We said, 'What did you say?' and he said, 'I said, "Are there any other kinds of little Jew you know?"' 

He was quick like that.

So: slurs. Let's have a bit of slur-equality. For example, Lord Finkelstein, amiable son of Holocaust survivors who has migrated from the SDP to the Tory Party, is very keen to point out on twitter that I am 'atypical' (ie not typical) in my political views in comparison to other Jews. He did this in between expressing great affection (love, almost) for my work. 

Break that down: if I'm not 'atypical' there must be a 'typical'. Really? Is there really a 'typical Jewish view of politics'? Really? 

Just imagine if I put that out on social media, that there's a 'typical Jewish view of politics'! Or Corbyn? Can you imagine the shitstorm? 

This is a perfect example of the 'not by the same standards' rule doing the rounds at the moment. 

One person's slur is another person's observation.