Content Block

News, Society 30/09/2016

Jackie Walker's supporters have one question to answer

Jackie Walker on Russia Today (YouTube)

The controversial activist's views are tolerated in Labour. Why?

Jackie Walker, the vice chair of left wing campaign group Momentum, is Britain’s leading “All Lives Matter” activist. For Jackie, no tragedy can be acknowledged unless all tragedies are acknowledged. No one can own their sadness. No one can claim their pain.

Of course, by “no one” here, we mean “no Jew”. This week, at a Labour conference fringe meeting apparently held to teach people not to say hateful things about Jews (Britain, 2016), Jackie, apparently part-Jewish herself, attacked Holocaust Memorial Day, saying it should not be exclusively a Jewish event. The fact that Holocaust Memorial Day isn’t an exclusively Jewish event was no barrier to Jackie’s biting critique. Those Jews want all that Holocaust to themselves, was the suggestion.

The Holocaust remains the moral touchstone of the modern world, defining what we understand as evil. It is barely a historical fact anymore, even though men and women bearing camp tattoos still walk among us: it is a parable, a lesson, a universal truth. And as such, if you don’t like Jews, it grates that it is part of their story more than anyone else’s.

Like a not-as-clever-as-she-thinks-she-is white woman posting an “All Lives Matter” meme, or a whinging Men’s Rights Activist demanding to know when is International Men’s Day, Walker, with her ignorant complaint about Holocaust Memorial Day has revealed something about herself: there is no reason to question the phrase Black Lives Matter unless you have a problem with black people. There is no reason to complain about the idea of International Women’s Day unless you have a problem with women. And there is no real reason to question the validity of Holocaust Memorial Day unless your problem is with the people who suffered most during the Holocaust.

The fundamental aim is to delegitimise people’s experiences, Jewish experiences. The same impulse lay behind Walker’s insistence, at the same meeting, that there is nothing out of the ordinary about security arrangements at Jewish schools compared to other schools. This is demonstrably untrue, but serves the same purpose: your experience is not real, your feelings are not real – you are, in fact, lying about your lived experience and that of your community.

In a dialogue published in Standpoint magazine in 2009, Howard Jacobson alluded to this impulse, saying: “They're whittling away at the Holocaust and they're doing more than that with Israel. And one day, if they have their way, whoever they are, these people, there will be no Holocaust either. No Holocaust. No Israel. No Jews.”

This is not the motivation of every critic of Israel, or even every anti-Zionist. But Walker’s statements were not about Israel. Or Zionism. They were about Jewishness – Jewish history and Jewish children. Most on the left understand this, and have called for Walker to be removed from her position in Momentum and in the Labour party. Those who still support her have a simple question to answer: what is your problem with Jewish people?

Padraig Reidy is the editor of Little Atoms. He is Director of Editorial at 89up and has written and ghostwritten for The Evening Standard, The Guardian, The Observer, The Irish Times, The Daily Telegraph, The New Statesman, The Sun, and The Irish Post.