Racism in the RMT
The RMT promotes the boycott of Israel to what end?
By David Greenstein 7/11/2011 ( Updated 16/11/2011)
A prolonged anti-semitic outburst by a senior RMT official Steve Hedley at an event promoting the boycott of Israel raises yet again the question as to the motivation of some pro-palestinian activists in British trades unions. Are calls for boycotts of Israel and constant allegations of discrimination and even apartheid levelled against Israel to be seen just as expressions of sympathy for a sometimes oppressed people, or is this constant singling out of Israel for criticism (many jewish people would say it is demonisation) an example of an updating of antisemitism for a new age when it is not allowed to openly express prejudice against a racial group, an age where at least in the western world, it is unacceptable to directly attack jews?
As with many conflicts around the world, the palestinian, arab - Israeli conflict is not one where right is all on one side. Both sides feel right is on their side, have committed mistakes, and both sides need encouraging to accept the legitimacy and existance of the other. It is a foolish man who calls for boycotts of one side and talks of apartheid, of nazi policies related only to Israel. What then of the demand by palestinian president Mr Abbas who has called for every jew to be expelled from the West Bank (known to jews and described in the bible as Judea and Samaria)? What of the Palestinian Authority that publishes maps of Palestine that cover the whole territory of Israel within the 1949 armistice lines, that uses palestinian media to incite against the existence of Israel?
What of the anti-semitic incitement in official palestinian media and the manifold and ongoing acts of terror by palestinians against innocent israeli civilians? If Israel is to be criticised then surely acts of incitement and terror against israelis must be given the same treatment? If this does not happen then the reason why must be explained.
Just as we have to be worried that palestinian workers and workers from the arab minority in Israel gain their rights, we should also be interested in the welfare of israeli workers and have solidarity with them.
In the SOAS-RMT meeting promoting the boycott of the only democracy in the middle east, the only country where arab workers can organise union activities freely, where arab citizens enjoy full civil and religious rights including social, educational and medical benefits, one might still have expected some nuancing of the debate.
If one really cares for the welfare of palestinians, why not then also call for a boycott of Lebanon where palestinians are not allowed to own land, hold government posts, or even live outside camps? Why not a boycott of Kuwait which threw all palestinians out (after Arafat sided with Saddam Hussein in the occupation of Kuwait)? Why not a boycott of Egypt which only intermittently allows the border with Gaza to be opened? Why not a boycott of Jordan that is taking citizenship away from palestinians?
Is it really true that no country in the world other than Israel is reprehensible enough to justify it being boycotted? Not Russia for the massacres perpetrated in Georgia in 2008, or China for its ongoing ethnic cleansing in Tibet? Sudan for its genocide in Darfur? Sri Lanka for the massacre of 20,000 Tamil civilians and its continuing ethnic cleansing of Tamils? Turkey for its recent massive bombing of Kurds, and Sudan again for its continuing atrocities and ethnic cleansing in South Kordofan. What about Iran which hangs gays and christians who convert from islam? When Iran stones women to death for having committed the crime of being raped (raping them again before execution) is Iran still better than Israel?
And what about Saudi Arabia where to openly practise as a christian is to commit a crime? Saudi women may be flogged for driving a car. Still not worse than Israel? Israel is the only country in the middle-east where the christian population is actually increasing. Contrastingly in the islamic world christians are subject to persecution and ethnic cleansing (in Egypt the army last month committed a massacre of Copts); in Iraq a million christians have in the last 10 years been driven out of the country, Pakistan, Indonesia....). In Israel there is freedom of expression and religion. Even islamist agitators like Sheikh Salah are tolerated there (The British government is at the moment trying to rid itself of that unwelcome guest).
Anti-zionists without exception deny being anti-semitic. They even say that being anti-israel excludes the possibility of anti-semitism. In a further twist of logic they will argue that attacking Israel is proof that they are not anti-semitic! Mr Hedley prefaced his rant by ridiculing the possibility that HE was antisemitic. It is just another (jewish) trick to stifle 'criticism' (demonisation) of Israel.
So Mr Hedley, why is it that no other country is condemned as regularly as Israel by british trade unions, by your trade union the RMT? Why are you active in attacking Israel? Do you attack other countries with the same fervour as you do Israel? Why do you feel yourself able to rage at a jewish member of an audience whilst serving him up with antisemitic abuse?
Neither the RMT nor Mr Hedley responded to my attempts to clarify Mr Steve Hedley's use of traditional anti-semitic tropes regarding jewish people at his SOAS meeting. For example I asked if Mr Hedley maybe regretted his use of these inferences to jews controlling the media, an anti-semitic reference that goes back to the nazi period, and maybe even further to that of Tsarist Russia.
Indeed Hedley attacked a jewish person at the meeting as a 'modern-day Nazi'. It is one sign of the new anti-semitism that jews and Israel are constantly compared to nazis, not just stereotyped as bad people, but as the very worst of people. Has Mr Hedley ever used such terms to describe the islamist fanatics of Hamas in Gaza who fire rockets into Israel on an almost daily basis? (Only a few days ago a rocket was fired indiscriminately into an israeli city killing a civilian. Recently Hamas fired a laser guided anti-tank rocket at a yellow, clearly marked school bus, killing a teenager ). Silence from Mr Hedley and the RMT.Mr Hedley continued his haranguing of the jewish member of the audience, saying he is, "an absolute disgrace to the Jewish people!".
When Mr Steve Hedley was asked if he felt better he replied: “Better than you, obviously. But then again you’re one of the Chosen People so you might feel better than me, huh?”
So here again Mr Hedley reveals himself. He believes that his target thinks he is racially superior to the gentile Mr Hedley, being after all part of the "Chosen" race. It is no great leap of (Hedley's) imagination to then link the jew as belonging to the "master race". The jew is now beyond the pale, a "modern day nazi" and therfore worthy of Hedley's bile.
Mr Hedley has now despite his protests to the contrary revealed the true reason behind his activism against jews and Israel. So Mr Hedley do you really expect people to believe now that you are anything but a jew hater, an anti-semite?As Eve Garrard and Professor Johnson explain that the concept of "chosenness" has been twisted by anti-semites as a tool with which to beat jews. The concept of chosenness meant having the burden of learning and keeping the many precepts and laws of judaism. The concept was never understood by jews as meaning that they were better than other people.
Apart from his antisemitic beliefs, does Mr Hedley believe he should condemn Hamas which in its founding charter calls for the murder of jews wherever they can be found? Indeed at SOAS where Mr Hedley served out his antisemitic abuse the Palestine society showed a Hamas film calling for the killing of all jews.
Palestinian terrorists have murdered and maimed thousands of innocent israeli civilians. They are admired within their society. The palestinian president Mr Abbas allows incitement against jews and the glorification of murderers of israeli civilians. This is maybe not surprising, as Mr Abbas financed the murder in 1973 of the Israeli olympic team. Mr Abbas coincidentally wrote his Phd thesis denying the holocaust, yet there is no criticism of him. The palestinian president is considered a 'moderate' among his people and in the west.
Palestinian televsion daily broadcasts the glorification of 'martyrs' who killed israeli civilians. This example is the praising of one of the terrorists released by Israel recently in return for Gilad Shalit. The PA TV host says, "We are outside the home of the patient, heroic fighter who is resolute, overcoming his chains, desiring freedom - Abbas Al-Sayid, the lion of the prison cells."
That 'lion' planned the suicide bombing of a pensioners' Passover meal. 30 people died as they celebrated the Passover.
Were Mr Hedley to have the interests of palestinians at heart, he might attempt to divert palestinians from the path of terror and its glorification to that of conciliation and of living with israelis, of coming to terms with the existence of Israel. He might try and convince palestinians that rather than attempt to destroy Israel, they should negotiate with it, try to develop their links with Israel for the benefit of their economy and society. The RMT union might also rather than promote boycotts of Israel, involve itself in forging peace between both peoples. Fostering cooperation, not hatred is the only way to peace. But that's not what Mr Hedley seems to be about.
Bob Crow and Hedley might remember that boycotts of jews have a long and ignoble history in europe. The word 'nazi' that falls so easily from Mr Hedley's tongue springs to mind. The nazis began the holocaust with boycotts of jews. They then proceeded to beat up jews. At least Mr Hedley can not be accused of contemplating that as his conviction for violence was recently overturned. -
After watching the video footage of Mr Hedley's antisemitic outburst I emailed the RMT asking for its and Mr Hedley's response to allegations of racism and antisemitism against him.
I wrote: "Apart from the comments themselves, watching Mr Hedley's body language whilst he seemingly harangues jewish participants reminds me of fascists he professes to disdain. As a jewish person I am very much reminded by what seems to me his menacing body language of film I have seen of SA (nazi)thugs of the 1930's. "
Mr Hedley is uncharacteristically silent over his behaviour. Likewise Bob Crow and the RMT. Maybe as reportedly happened regarding the prosecution of Mr Hedley for violence last year, Mr Bob Crow is still 'unaware' (since this article was written Mr Hedley has indeed published his own account of the events leading to his anti-semitic outburst on 'London Calling', a somewhat tepid expression of regret that does not deal with the points I have made in this article). I would still be interested in knowing why Mr Hedley, supported by the RMT union singles out the Jewish State, the one country in the middle-east where arab citizens are free for a boycott. Mr Hedley has to my knowledge condemned terror attacks on innocent israeli citizens. I'm all for supporting palestinian workers. What about jewish ones in Israel? Do they have no right to go about their daily business without fear of a bomb blowing up, or a rocket landing. Does Mr Hedley find it acceptable that a million residents of Israel, jewish and non-jewish alike have to spend days in bomb shelters? Is it okay for him that thousands of israeli kids such as those in Sderot are undergoing psychological treatment because of the incessant Hamas rocket attacks against their communities? Richard Millett replies to Mr Hedley's account on his blog.
If someone of the moslem faith had been called a 'modern day nazi', or a 'disgrace to islam' or had any other similarly derogatory phrases used against him, as were used against the jewish man, i'm sure the RMT union would have taken the matter very seriously (quite rightly so). So why is the RMT so deafeningly silent about this attack on a jewish person?
More than ever British Trade Unions need to be involved in protecting workers rights against the multi-pronged attack on the working classes by the Liberal-Conservative alliance.
Racism against any group of workers and antisemitism within the trade union movmement, under whatever guise is intolerable. It is criminal, divides workers and undermines the society that socialists are working to create. Fascists and racists must not be tolerated within the union movement.In the absence of a proper explanation and an unreserved expression of regret by Steve Hedley the London Transport Regional Organiser of the RMT (official representative of tube and bus workers in London), it is hard to believe he is anything other than a racist and antisemitic bigot.
Mr Steve Hedley might read and try to understand the short piece by Eve Garrard about the "chosen people", as well was other articles about modern antisemitism already published on this site and linked to below. I hope that Mr Hedley reads and reflects as to just how far of the mark his derogatory and racist comments are. Mr Hedley might also think about just where the sort of demagoguery and language he used led to in Germany in the not too distant past.Eve Garrard on 'chosenness'
Alan Johnson has also written about what the concept of "chosenness" means and how it has been twisted in order to attack jewish people.
He quotes Israeli novelist David Grossman who, "has written movingly of the Jews ‘spiritual, moral mission, to be a “light unto the nations,” to be the voice of the weak and oppressed everywhere.’ The mission, he points out, is not to dominate, but to ‘see in every person a great creation, unique and unrepeated, in the spirit of Isaiah’s prophecy and the prophecies of modern thinkers such as Franz Rosenzweig, Martin Buber, and George Steiner.’ Now one can respond to that by urging Israel to live up to its moral mission. Or roll one’s atheist eyes. But one can’t call that beautiful idea – which of course, thanks to the Jews, is our western idea – ‘obscene.’ " Links reporting Mr Hadley's anti-semitic outburst:-
Hurry Up Harry's report of what happened
'Engaged' report of what happened
Victim's account of the verbal attack and threatened physical violence whispered in his ear (with video clips)
Workers' Liberty's response:
"Workers' unity, at home and across the world, is our strength. It is for this reason that we must speak out about the poison of anti-Semitism in the labour movement - Jewish workers, Jewish union members, have their place in our movement every bit as much as all other workers. Anti-Semitism serves only to divide us."
If you wish to make your feelings known to the RMT click here
That's Funny You Don't Look Anti-Semitic - An anti-racist analysis of left anti-semitism by Steve Cohen
A letter by Anthony Julius to UCU:-
This letter followed claims of institutional antisemitism by the UCU union, of bullying and harrassment of its jewish members
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