That is what is known as a rhetorical question, the answer to which – if you really need one – is an emphatic ‘No!’
Is Andrew Neil Islamophobic? That is less of a rhetorical question. It is one which requires digging down into the meaning of the question.
Is Andrew Neil the kind of Islamophobe who is incapable of questioning his own rhetoric, then dropping some phrases when he realizes some of it may be unhelpful, will in fact create a political climate that encourages violent Islamophobes to flourish? The answer to that question is an equally emphatic ‘No!’
However, is Andrew Neil guilty of levels of ignorance that he does need to address, ill-considered prejudices that allow others to allege that he does have a problem with Muslims, problems that could be seen to contain a racist dimension or two? That is an open question. It is one to which I cannot give him blanket support. Let me be clear on what exactly I’m saying here.
Andrew Neil is not a racist. Not in any meaningful sense. He has been caught making a joke that in the mouths of others might be seen as proof of racism, but it was delivered to someone who probably considers him a friend, and in the company of friends we do get away with things that can look very damning when taken out of context. Andrew Neil is not, let me repeat, not a racist.
What about Islamophobia? That is sometimes deemed to have zilch to do with racism given that Islam is a religion that non-Muslims can convert to. That is true. But there is a statistical link between Muslims and ethnic minorities in countries like Britain that cannot be ignored. Science teaches us that the world is not about unchanging, fixed ‘things’, but processes that change, bit by bit, when quantitative changes cross threshholds to become qualitative ones, when emergent properties manifest themselves, when what was not previously racism becomes that.
The relationship between religious bigotry and racism when it comes to Islam is almost identical to prejudice against Jews. Non-Jews can also convert. This works both ways, of course. But anti-Semites like Hitler never allow for people to escape their Jewish origins, for it’s in the blood, as far as they are concerned. This is a mark of just how stupid these people are, as is the violent assaults on Hindus and Sikhs for their alleged support for Islam. Racists are idiots and proud of it.
Andrew Neil has played a part in reining in Islamophobes in the British Establishment, doing so on more than one occasion. And that makes him far more responsible than many broadcasters who never stop seizing opportunities to demonize the entire Muslim community regardless of how they are as terrified of the violent extremists and terrorists as are the rest of us. So, credit where it’s due, Comrade Neil.
While I recognise Andrew Neil is not racist when it comes to Muslims, he is far less generous when it comes to conceding that Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters are not anti-Semitic. Corbynistas allegedly have a problem with Jews? Andrew Neil really should know better. He can get a clean bill of health when it comes to the allegation of racism, but not when it comes to blind prejudices based on ignorance. Willful ignorance? That remains to be seen.
Andrew Neil is making many unsubstantiated allegations about Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters. And that is inciting pig-ignorant Blairite bureaucrats, a toxic legacy left over from Tony Blair’s counterrevolution as boss of the Labour Party. These bitter losers are launching a new witchhunt against socialists, some of them Jews, Jews known to be champions against anti-Semitism. Andrew Neil is complicit in this witchhunt. It is time he is made to eat his words.
Andrew Neil alleges it is ipso facto proof of anti-Semitism for anyone to refer to ‘The Jewish Question’. Actually, it is nothing of the sort. Andrew Neil really needs to do his homework.
I have a book in my private collection called ‘The Jewish Question: a Marxist Interpretation’. Is it an anti-Semitic rant I own merely to do research on anti-Semites who see Jews as a problem? Nope. It was written by Abram Leon, a Jew, a Jew who died in one of Hitler’s concentration camps, and was written in secret while he languished in Auschwitz. Is Andrew Neil going to jump to the conclusion that this book was a diatribe written by a ‘self-hating Jew’? I’d like to see him try to prove that.
The ‘Jewish Question’ prior to the Holocaust was referred to often by Jews on the left, and it referred to what to do about racism directed gainst Jews. Incidentally, Winston Churchill was happy to give Stalin good publicity while he locked up supporters of Leon Trotsky, who were often victims of vicious anti-Semitism due to the large number of Jews among the Left Opposition, and later the United Opposition lead by yet another Jew, Zinoviev, oppositions that tried to restore Lenin’s support for a secular state that granted freedom to believers of all faiths and none while the British Establishment was doing deals with anti-Semites like Stalin and assorted fascists all across the world. That is a fact.
Abram Leon’s book is a work of considerable historical research, of scholarship and of social analysis that struggles to explain where this quite specific form of racism came from, how it has mutated across millenia, and how Jews and non-Jews can unite to fight anti-Semitism, as we do every other form of divide and rule, of scapegoating, of distractions used by the ruling elites as a means of keeping themselves in power, laughing all the way to the bank while we squabble endlessly amongst ourselves.
Since the Holocaust, then the creation of the Jewish state of Israel, the use of the term ‘Jewish Question’ has changed. Most of the left – especially those of us who are not ourselves Jews – no longer use that term; not if we know what is good for us. It is far too obvious how it will be misconstrued in the hands of a skillful polemicist.
A lot of the best jokes take the form of racist jokes, but actually take potshots at racists, not the victims of racism. The same is true of sexist jokes, and of homophobic ones. But you need to have an audience who gets the context. Forget about that and are asking for trouble.
Gerry Downing has demonstrated he is extremely politically tone deaf, someone who didn’t care how his use of the term ‘The Jewish Question’ would be misconstrued. That is a sign of his immaturity. But it is not necessarily proof that he is anti-Semitic, and I’d like proof on that score before I agree to any action taken against him.
There is also the question that links anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in the modern world, each feeding off the other: Israel.
There is all the world of difference between anti-Zionism on the one hand and anti-Semitism on the other. The state of Israel is based on the historic ethnic-cleansing of Palestine of non-Jews, then the theft of land of generations of non-Jews, with zero prospect of the return of that property to its rightful owners.
Jews like Abram Leon fought all forms or racism and religious bigotry. They fought (and those still alive continue to fight to this day) the collective punishment of anyone belonging to an ethnicity regardless of whether they feel any affinity with their so-called cultural heritage or not.
It is not Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters who have questions to answer when it comes to the apartheid state of Israel, or for that matter the NATO member Turkey which is carrying out similar ethnic cleaning policies towards the Kurds, with all democratic rights being crushed, just like in Israel. Those with questions to answer are broadcasters at the BBC, at SKY News, Channel4 News, ITV and Channel5, ‘journalists’ who bury the truth of what Israel is doing to non-Jews, and Turkey to the Kurds, with the reduction of communities to second-class citizens, collective punishments. And Andrew Neil is guilty when it comes to that coverup. Very much so.
Andrew Neil having something to hide vis-a-vis Israel’s apartheid policies may have a bearing on why he is so keen to raise false allegations about Jews like Abram Leon, Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Marx or Leon Trotsky spreading anti-Semitism by their references to ‘The Jewish Question’, rather than their using that term merely to debate with others in the socialist movement about the origins of this form of racism, and how we can all combine (Jews and non-Jews alike) to put an end to it along with every other form of racist scapegoating.