Equality feels like oppression

A clear plastic box of seedless white grapes, with the origin shown as Spain.
Spanish grapes … will be a lot less plentiful after Brexit, like much of the food we eat.

There is a saying in social justice circles that when you are used to privilege, equality feels like oppression. Earlier this week I saw a thread on Twitter which demonstrates this experience very nicely. It was about the prospect of a unity government, potentially led by Jeremy Corbyn (who has been anti-EEC and anti-EU in the past but opposes a “no deal” Brexit) to ensure that the Tories cannot lead the country out of the EU with no deal at the end of October by default, by continuing to reject the last government’s deal and failing to reach a new one (which the EU have said repeatedly that there will not be). A no-deal Brexit will mean tariffs on all goods entering the country, including the foodstuffs we buy in the shops daily which is produced in other European countries, as well as major delays at all cross-Channel ports leading to shortages of food, medicine and other products. This would be a disaster for everyone, and a matter of life or death for some.

Tom Doran, self-professed “friend of the Jews”, was the author of the thread. He begins:

Nobody who is not extremely rich could regard something like this as less of a disaster than Jeremy Corbyn becoming PM, especially if he is not leading a majority Labour government (and even if he is, it will not be a majority Corbynite government, as there is not a Corbynite majority in the parliamentary party) but a coalition designed to renegotiate Brexit or oversee a second referendum.

“Nobody thinks it’d mean gas chambers”? Nobody seriously suggests Jews will come to any physical harm under any Labour government, and Corbyn’s own record in serving his Jewish constituents attests to this.

The fact is that Boris Johnson, whose racist attitudes (as well as his lackadaisical attitude to the truth, decency to other people including his family and to the responsibilities of public office) have been expressed again and again in various public fora, is prime minister and has been promoted again and again and allowed by the Tory party access to a parliamentary seat, cabinet positions, the mayoralty of London and finally the keys of 10 Downing Street itself. Jeremy Corbyn’s offending is much less (in personal terms, approving of a mural with anti-Semitic overtones that are noticeable only by the educated) and many of the accusations against his supporters are spurious or even malicious. Boris Johnson’s prejudices clearly target ordinary people of colour, Muslims and others; the accusations of anti-Semitism in Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party are targeted at elites and the state of Israel on account of gross and unashamed human rights transgressions, not ordinary Jews living in this country.

His second paragraph (which I suspect some Jews will not thank him for) demonstrates what this is all about: the mainstream Jewish establishment has the ear of powerful people and they fear losing it and being treated like any other group of people in society. As the threat of violence and vandalism against Jewish schools and synagogues comes not from the Left but the Far Right, which Corbyn condemns, it is inconceivable that the government will attempt to restrict the deployment of security at these places. As for ‘slander’ against Israel, the facts are enough. Calling the oppression of the Palestinian natives ethnic cleansing or genocide is (at the moment) inaccurate, but in no other context is this kind of language deemed to be racist even when it is not quite accurate. It will be a positive change for the truth to be spoken about Israel by an influential western government and for them not to receive the over-indulgent treatment they get now.

When other minorities are attacked for their ethnicity or faith, they have never been able to be confident that their government stands with them: what we get are half-hearted condemnations and suggestions of how the victim or their community was to blame and what they should do to satisfy those who attacked them. We have experienced attacks from the front pages of newspapers, from political platforms, and from hooligans in the street; our people are treated with suspicion and have been subject to infiltration and spying by education and health workers on Prevent and anti-FGM pretexts.

But I’m not saying all minorities should be treated badly. I have every confidence that a left-wing Labour government will be less tolerant of hate or hostility towards any minority. While the Far Right do attack Jews for their ethnicity and various militant atheists and fanatics of various religions attack them for their faith, there is no suggestion that Jeremy Corbyn in number 10 would tolerate any violence against Jews or change the situation regarding customs like no-stun slaughtering or circumcision (both under attack from different quarters who have a “religion is no excuse” attitude). Every minority has much to fear from the consequences of a no-deal Brexit, because a burgeoning far-right movement will have vastly greater numbers of recruits if there are job losses, food shortages and other privations resulting from economic isolation and people will be looking for someone to blame other than themselves.

If we accept that Jeremy Corbyn or the Labour party under his leadership is racist, we have the choice of a racist who is seeking to drag the country into the abyss and one who intends to stop him doing this. The insistence (particularly by the Lib Dem leadership, who have always traded on their ‘implacable’ opposition to Brexit) on avoiding coalescing with Corbyn on those grounds would be understandable if there was not already a racist in 10 Downing Street. The only conclusion I can reach is that certain minorities are considered more deserving of racist treatment than others and that these tend to be the less white and less anglicised ones. People believe they are taking an anti-racist stance when actually they are taking a racist one, and one that threatens disaster for everyone who is not very rich and does not have an escape route.

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