Only a few people know this. My grandfather was a Catholic Conservative, a French Gaullist, and a policeman during WWII and a resistant.
When the War broke out, like many other young men, he was sent to the front, but in June 1940, when the French Government decided to give full power to Marechal Petain and his fascist friends, my grandfather decided to continue the War until the French people recovered their freedom.
He rejected the Nazis and all of those who in France preferred Hitler than Leon Blum, the ex- socialist PM that won the election in 1936. He rejected both antisemitism and fascism that he saw as an “anti-France”, the enemy within that destroyed entire families, sent thousands of French citizens to their death in concentration camps with the help of the French government, the police and the French Militia.
His political beliefs naturally became my mother’s own political beliefs. Racism, antisemitism and fascism have no place in France. And when she married my father, a communist and a trade unionist, this became my own too.
When the French far-right made its first return into mainstream politics since 1944, in the mid-1980s, I was still a child, and yet I remember the damage they caused. In a context of massive unemployment, with millions of proud working-class people like my father, losing their jobs, the Front National used the French Muslim as scapegoats.
Meanwhile, both Socialist Party and Communist Party in government had betrayed millions of workers by refusing to implement their 1981 manifesto. Even worse, they started to blame French Muslims for “stealing French jobs”, instead of accepting that they had failed to deliver.
Our local community was divided, with the fascists making their first gains. Our family was divided too. I still don’t talk to part of my family as they too joined the FN.
And then the first “ratonnades”, a form of pogrom against Muslims, began. But very quickly, it also turned against the Jewish community, with Jewish cemeteries and synagogues being attacked. The truth is that when we allow one discrimination to happen, we allow all of them to happen at some point.
My parents refused to back down and taught me that fascism must be fought. That’s how I become involved in politics, to fight against the far-right, racism and anti-Semitism.
But as racism and anti-Semitism in our society are mainly fed by the failure of our economy to provide jobs and a future to millions of working class people, I became a socialist too.
That’s why I believe that any socialist who isn’t ready to fight against both racism and anti-Semitism, no matter where it’s coming from, is simply not ready to fight for a better world.
It is impossible to be a socialist and tolerate racist or antisemitic views including when those views are shared by members of our own camp. They must be challenged and not tolerated. Racism is a poison that, if not dealt with seriously, can only lead to the division of our class.
So, when I decided to join the Labour Party in 2009, ad then to support Jeremy Corbyn in the last two leadership elections, I wanted a party that will help us to reshape “Britain for the many not the few”, as we say. But I also know this can only be achieved if we are serious about fighting any form of discriminations.
I have a confession to make: I am a member of both Momentum and Jewish Labour Movement.
It is my belief in democratic socialism that has pushed me to join Momentum but it is my belief that socialism can’t be achieved of we tolerate any kind of discrimination, that made me join the oldest Socialist Jewish organisation affiliated to the Labour Party. And I must say, I am proud of it. I am glad to be a member of both Momentum and Jewish Labour Movement as they can help us to reshape our party, and win the next general election.
Now, I am sure if you are still reading me, you will want to know what I think about Israel and Palestine, and some may even question whether I am a Zionist.
Is Israel any different than any other nations? The answer is no. If you believe that, then you will have to explain how France who waged an horrific colonialist war in Algeria, who still discriminate its French Muslim citizen by banning the Burqa, is any different than Israel. How Saudi Arabia, with its war in Yemen, killing thousands of civilians and organising a famine, is any different than Israel.
Whenever your reason to think that Israel is rogue and terrorist nation is, you will have to include many other countries, as many of them do behave in a similar way. Have a look to what Myanmar’s government is doing against its Muslim’s minority, and you will see they aren’t any better.
So why not organise a boycott of both Saudi Arabia and Myanmar, in the same way as some section of the left do with Israel? Aren’t the mass murder of Yemenite’s civilians or of the Muslim minority in Myanmar not worth a boycott too?
You may argue that any of these countries have invaded the West Bank or organised the blockade of the Gaza Strip. Yes, that’s right, but and here is my point, I am not scared to say that the colonisation of the West Bank is wrong and must be denounced, for what it is really: a colonisation.
I am also not scared to say that what is happening in the Gaza strip isn’t right either. But the blockade of the Gaza strip has been organised by both Israel and Egypt since 2007. Therefore, if you consider that what the Israeli government is doing here is criminal, then you must also condemn the Egyptian government. After all, they aren’t better and have helped Israel in their task. So why not condemn Egypt too?
Now, you could also argue that what the Israeli government does, supporting the colonisation of the West Bank and organising the blockade of the Gaza strip, means that any good socialist should support the Palestinian People, and you would be right.
However, not all Palestinian movements are on “our side”, and we should not support a terrorist organisation such as the Hamas or the past actions of the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade in the West bank.
Let’s agree that the amnesty deal of July 2007 between Israel and the Palestinian Authority regarding 300 al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade members was worth supporting it. It was a step towards peace.
So, if like me you don’t want to support the Hamas, and think that any step towards peace in the Middle East must be supported, then the conclusion we must draw is that everything Israel does isn’t automatically evil.
The truth is that Israel is a divided nation, and is as divided as the movement for Palestinian liberation is itself. If you, like me, do deeply care about Palestine, you will know that there are massive differences between the two main Palestinian organisations, Hamas and Fatah.
One is an Islamist radical organisation; the other one is a member of the Socialist International. These two organisations are different and have been at war with each other between January 2006 and May 2007 in the Gaza Strip.
Now lets’ talk about the elephant in the room: Benjamin Netanyahu. I am no friend of his and his party, Likud. But my opposition to them has nothing to do with Israel itself. I consider Israel to be no better or worse than any other nations on earth. Israel isn’t special and doesn’t deserve to be treated differently.
The current Israeli government is a right-wing conservative alliance, supported by far-right fundamentalist Jewish organisations. These people aren’t on my side and will never be. But all Israelis don’t agree with them. Yes, there are left-wing parties in Israel, opposed to Netanyahu and we should be supporting them.
I will give you one: Meretz. A left-wing party member of the Socialist International, that like we in the Labour Party supports the two-state solution, religious freedom and wants peace with the Palestinians. Guess what? they define themselves as a Zionist, left-wing, social-democratic party.
And yet they have nothing in common with Netanyahu and his right-wing racist government and are Zionists. Tough but true. You can be a Zionist, believing that Netanyahu must be politically defeated and advocate for a “two-state solution”.
In other words, Meretz isn’t that different than Momentum or the Labour Party, but I am sure you may have heard of them before, or may not even have thought it was possible to be left-wing Zionist, socialist, and yet be appalled by what the Israeli Government is doing.
If you, like me you believe in peace, and you want both nations – Palestine and Israel – to live in peace as brothers and sisters. But for that we must find who within the two countries are our allies. We can’t just let our lack of knowledge of what is the real balance of power between different political forces guide our anger.
When my grandfather, a conservative, Catholic policeman decided to continue fighting against the Nazis, he did it because he thought that France had to continue the fight against this evil, because the Jews weren’t responsible for our defeat, but the then ruling class was.