Solidarity with Malia Bouattia

Socialist Resistance stands in full solidarity with NUS President-elect Malia Bouattia, who is facing spurious charges of antisemitism. It is clear to us that the motivation for these untrue allegations is that she is a Muslim woman in a prominent public position, and that she has the temerity to oppose Israel’s ongoing oppression of the Palestinian  people.

These allegations are based on selective, out-of-context quotes from Ms Bouattia’s statements, designed to present the false impression that she is attacking Jews rather than the Israeli state and its supporters. In fact, it is these supporters who, by habitually conflating Jewish identity with support for Israel and Zionism, are displaying the real antisemitic attitude.

This is only part of a series of attacks on Muslim students. The ‘Prevent’ program, which Bouattia has rightly placed herself in firm opposition to, has the potential to put Muslim students (amongst other groups) under watch for simply disagreeing with government policy and the actions of the British state.

Malia Bouattia is not the only target of such attacks. Bradford West MP Naz Shah (who has been described by Bradford’s Rabbi as “a friend of the Jews”) was forced to resign as PPS to Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, and was later suspended from the Labour Patty, after retweeting a comment about relocating Israel to the US mid-west,  which would not be out of place in political debate in Israel.

Although these attacks were motivated in part by Islamophobia and sexism, it is not only Muslim women who have been targeted in this manner. Veteran anti-fascist and anti-Zionist activist Tony Greenstein has been expelled from the Labour Party for alleged “comments”. He has not been allowed to know the charges against him, but they have been revealed to the Daily Telegraph and the Times, both of which were later obliged to retract and apologise for alleging that Greenstein was an antisemite.

The purpose of these false allegations is twofold: to embroil opponents of the neo-liberal agenda, particularly supporters of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party, in a time-wasting attempt to defend themselves and their views; and to delegitimise effective support for the Palestinian struggle and criticism of the Israeli state.

Socialist Resistance reaffirms our support for the right of the Palestinian people to return and self-determination, and our solidarity with all those unjustly smeared and penalised for taking such a stand. Antisemitism, like all forms of racism (including Zionism) has no place within the labour and socialist movement; but opposition to Zionism is not antisemitism.

  1. Malia Bouattia doesn’t deserve racist attacks from the right, but from the left there’s plenty to criticise. It’s not just a few quotes taken of context, her politics need scrutinising.

    I actually have much more sympathy with Naz Shah, who apologised for her mistake. Anti-Semitic tropes (if she used one) are sadly too common in Muslim communities (if you don’t know this, I’d say it’s because you don’t have enough contact with Muslims) but it doesn’t have to be a big deal, people can learn and move on. She should not be driven out of Labour.

    With Malia Bouattia it’s a different story. Crude anti-imperialism and anti-zionism make up Malia’s core politics, and everything else follows from that. For example, Prevent is just a zionist plan to spread Islamophobia so the west can continue to colonise Muslims lands. What crap. On it’s own anti-imperialism just isn’t that radical – haven’t we learned anything from the Syrian conflict?

    Without believing that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, how could anyone on the left support CAGE? That group, far from displaying ‘nuance’ as Malia puts it, supports the Afghanistan Taliban and al Qaeda. The latter in particular is a CAGE favourite. This is no smear, Moazzem Begg is quite open about it.

    Yesterday an al Qaeda affiliate claimed responsibility for the murder of a prominent LGBT activist in Bangladesh, only the latest atrocity in their endless global catalogue. The aims of al Qaeda are identical to those of ISIS.

    British people are involved in both al Qaeda and ISIS – in their hundreds. Islamist extremism is very real. The idiotic anti-Prevent campaign imagines that it’s all a conspiracy to distract everybody from austerity. They haven’t considered that just because Britain exports most of its jihadis and has done for decades, it’s still a problem, just somebody else’s problem.

    Perhaps Ms Bouattia wouldn’t deny the problem, but would want us to understand the ‘context’. Apparently Islamists just have to slaughter secularists , gays and minorities because, you know the Iraq war. Jihadists have no agency of their own, they are forced to do it because of the west’s bombing of what Malia calls ‘Muslim lands’ (a particularly ignorant formulation from someone from Algeria. As the MENA is cleansed of its religious minorities, what does it say about you if you believe in ‘Muslim lands’?).

    Really, these excuses for fascism are ludicrous, and are part of the reason the left has lost so much credibility. The argument that it’s racism and oppression of British Muslims by the state causes some of them to join ISIS or al Qaeda is especially spurious. Pakistani Christians, African-Americans and Palestinians are three groups I can think of who arguably face more repression than British Muslims, but you don’t see them joining ISIS large numbers.

    Face it – the ideology of the Islamic Right is a problem. Prevent and more police repression are certainly not the answer, but neither is treating Muslims as children who have no responsibility for their actions.

    When will SR support progressive voices in Muslim communities who are trying to battle these rightwing ideologies?

    There are a lot of Jewish people at the forefront of struggles against the Zionism. Why? For a variety of reasons, including that many Jews hate what’s being done in their name.

    Although some British people don’t know this, there are many Muslims openly struggling against Islamism. They hate what’s being done in their name. Like with anti-Zionist Jews, they are often criticised by establishment figures in their communities. Progressive Muslims, critical Muslims, agnostic, cultural and some ex Muslims are like the anti-zionist Jews in their communities, and taking a lot of flak for it, along with the occasional death threat.

    A difference is, despicably, when it’s Muslims, the left joins in, vilifying and labelling these Muslims coconuts and Uncle Toms, Native Informants. Any attempt to build a popular movement against the Islamic Right is shut down with allegations of Islamophobia. The student ‘left’ takes part of this and promotes the most reactionary voices (CAGE, and even HT and MPAC) who silence people who recognise that Islamists, along with the far right and the state, pose a threat to Muslims.

    Malia is very much part of this. She even says that opposing Islamism itself is Islamophobia – where have we heard this kind of silencing smear?

    You can criticise zionism without being anti-Semitic, you can criticise Islamism without being an anti-Muslim bigot. The left should be doing both; it’s generally not.

    What’s happening now is that there’s rightwing vilification of Malia Bouattia and a knee-jerk left wing defence of Malia Bouattia, around the anti-Semitism issue, and her actual politics aren’t even being considered. Not everything is about Israel.

    • Your comment shows precisely why this strong statement from SR is fully justified. It’s full of rambling innuendo (‘perhaps Ms Bouattia wouldn’t deny the problem, but would want us to understand the ‘context’’ – in other words, you’ve just made up an opinion which you attribute to her. And who the hell wouldn’t want to understand the context in which things happen?). ‘She even says that opposing Islamism itself is Islamophobia’ – no she doesn’t. She said that opposition to Islamism could be used as a cover for Islamophobia, a different thing. Since the AWL was the original source of the smear campaign against Bouattia, this kind of sub-AWL stuff should be sent packing by serious socialists.

      • My comment should have included links to Malia Bouattia’s articles rather than only giving my opinion on her words.

        This and other articles and speeches available on the net can give a sense of her politics. It’s worth trying to understand the new student movements that show a lot of welcome militancy, but also some deeply reactionary tendencies.

        Serious socialists should think about the consequences of convincing another generation of young people from Muslim backgrounds to identify primarily as victims in a nonexistent war against Muslims. This is harming, not helping them.

        • You are obviously not a Muslim living in Birmingham who has been experiencing the daily attack on us our faith our culture and our grievances apparently they do not even exist. First there was the Spy cameras encircling the Muslim communities than there was the Trojan horse episode than David Cameron made his speech in Birmingham our meetings and events are closely monitored even our flyers can be censored. Incidentally Malia”s article in your link is spot on

        • Thanks for supplying that link, so I can now dismiss your opinion on the basis of the information you have supplied yourself. The fact that you travesty that article as offering ‘excuses for fascism’ gives a frankly disturbing insight into your view of these questions. It’s the sort of thing I’d expect from Jim Denham or Nick Cohen. Not something that serious socialists will pay any heed to. I certainly don’t intend to.

    • This is a truly magnificent piece of analysis. Anyone who actually does care about Muslims would actually want serious democratic socialist reform of the Middle East as opposed to the post modern anti imperialist my enemies enemy is my best friend nonsense that passes for Left wing politics of late. It is so faux radical and middle class !!

      • Thanks for that compendium of content-free cliches, straight out of the Nick Cohen playbook. The parting flourish about ‘middle class’ is especially nice (what is the ‘middle class’ part of this imaginary leftist ideology you refer to? Pray tell).

  2. I left this comment under this article when it was posted in the facebook group of the National Campaign Against Fees & Cuts. Copying it here:

    Really disappointing.

    People being concerned at casual talk of “zionist lobbies”, and Naz Shah’s talk about forcible mass relocation of the entire Israeli population, are not “spurious” charges of antisemitism, and I think Socialist Resistance needs to take pause and rethink here.

    Nor are these sorts of statements slips of the tongue, where people need to just rethink their language. They are reflective of a very common strain of problematic thought on the left, which responds to the crimes and colonial policies of the Israeli state by exceptionalising Israel and Israeli patriotism/nationalism, and treating that nation and its people in a way that most leftists would treat no other oppressing state.

    And to simplistically denounce zionism as straightforwardly racist, like this article does, is hugely problematic. For sure, as socialists we are against nationalism, patriotism, and affinities to states – we should be for the erosion of national barriers and identities. In that sense we should be “anti-zionist”. But we also need to sensitively understand how those identities and affinities form and where they come from, seek to break them down by arguing for internationalism rather than by storming them from above, and in the mean time we have to vigorously defend democratic rights. We create a world without nations democratically. Recent research says that 93% of British Jews feel some affinity for the nation of Israel. In some sense, therefore, they are “zionists”, and SR says they are racists. However, the overwhelming majority of these “racists” also support an independent, free state of Palestine, and believe that the Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory are part of the problem. And it shouldn’t be surprising that a population that has experienced such levels of violence, pogroms and displacement reacts with affinity for what many saw as a “liferaft state” after the Holocaust? Does it really illuminate anything, do anyone justice, or advance the causes of Palestinian liberation or of internationalism, to approach all of these people as racists, lumped in with conscious antisemites and other bigots?

  3. Ben It is David Cameron who conflated what Naz said about Israel and Zionism with forcible mass relocation. The truth is that the Palestinians have already been forcefully moved out of their homes over several decades and that expropriation of their lands continues to today. When Zionists from across the world have the right of return to a land they have no connection with whereas Palestinians still holding the key to the homes that they lived in before their forceful expulsion by the Zionist entity are not allowed to return.

    Zionism is not about nationalism but about colonization of another’s land and the creation of a new entity based on perceived race. Its ideology is to acquire Palestine exclusively for the Jews.

    Here is the quote from Wikipedia “Zionism (Hebrew: ??????????, IPA: [t?sijo??nut], translit. Tziyonut, after Zion) is a nationalist and political movement of Jews and Jewish culture that supports the re-establishment of a Jewish homeland in the territory defined as the historic Land of Israel (roughly corresponding to Palestine, Canaan or the Holy Land).[1][2] Zionism emerged in the late 19th century in central and eastern Europe as a national revival movement, in reaction to anti-Semitic and exclusionary nationalist movements in Europe.[3][4] Soon after this most leaders of the movement associated the main goal with creating the desired state in Palestine, then an area controlled by the Ottoman Empire.[5][6][7]”

    As you can see, Zionism evolved in Europe and had no connection with Palestine except the Zionist desire to find a homeland for themselves away from European Anti-Semitism.

    There are common elements between the US and Israel, in the sense that both were a creation based on expropriation of the natives and , in the case of the US, an eventual extermination of the indigenous peoples of what today constitutes United States. Many of the colonial settlers occupying Palestinian lands in the West Bank actually originate from the US.

    In today’s climate the current attacks on some of our Muslim leaders resembles the McCarthyism of the middle of the last century where any criticism of the US policies were deemed un-American. Today, any criticism of the Zionist state of Israel is deemed anti-Semitic. If you know your history, your geography and any idea of languages you will know Arabs are themselves Semite.Arabs are also sons of Abraham. But that does not matter as even some Jews are, in today’s climate denounced as anti-Semite.

    Today, as a Muslim I now know how those with progressive ideas, like Charlie Chaplin would have felt in the middle of the last century. And when even your own friends disown you it makes it even worse. Also, it does not bode well for the world we live in and where it is going. Racism is definitely on the up and it is much more aggressive and violent against the Muslims. Witness the election debates in the US. Our own European Xenophobia against those escaping wars in the Middle East.

    Finally, to put it in context, Naz made those comments when the Israeli army was in the process of bombing Gaza that within a few weeks killed over 2,000 Palestinians. Most of the damage that Israel caused still remain unfixed.Gaza remains under siege People are still living in make shift shelters in Gaza. While Gaza was being bombed David Cameron’s administration refused to stop arms supplies to the Israeli Defense Force. This is the real exceptional ism that Israel is being held up to when Israel gets all the support it demands while violating international law. It is Iran that we applied sanctions to for its nuclear program. No such action has been taken against Israel that is the only nuclear armed state in the Middle East.

    I just hope one day we will be able to have substantive debate on the issues that confront Palestine rather than this suffocating accusation of Antisemitism that is so often thrown around without regard to the very serious issues of life and death Palestinians face daily.

  4. Redbridge Thanks for the link to Malia’s statement on Prevent.You suggest you think it contains deeply reactionary tendencies but you dont say what you think they are. I dont see that – I see someone standing up against the deeply reactionary Prevent agenda – something which precisely does what you criticise the left as doing – treat Muslims as a single homogenous community which you rightly say they arent.

    • Hi Terry,

      Malia’s article above defends working with CAGE, a salafi jihadist support group. Opposition to CAGE is deemed Islamophobic. You don’t find this reactionary?

      As to Prevent, I don’t know that it homogenises Muslims, but it may stigmatise them. It’s primarily targeted at people who seek to commit violence in the name of Islam, so there is likely to be extra scrutiny placed on Muslims.

      Prevent is a counter-terrorism strategy, not actually designed to be a means to spread Islamophobia or criminalise brown bodies, as claimed by its opponents in the student movement. If the government wanted to whip up a war against Muslims, don’t you think they would have more means to do it? The state is trying to tame a monster it helped create, through its policies abroad as well as decades of support for domestic Islamists (some of whom it now refers to as ‘nonviolent extremists’).

      There is plenty to criticise in the strategy; it’s a genuine danger to free speech, it’s an outsourcing of the state surveillance and security role across society, it represents further chipping away at civil liberties and risks harming our ‘cosmopolitan conviviality’ just like so many other current repressive measures such as the 2016 Immigration Act do.

      But the student anti-Prevent campaign misrepresents it and spreads misinformation and outright lights about Prevent. The false stories (such as the one about the ’terrorist house’) are repeated even when found to be lies. This is contributing to hysteria. In the article I linked to Malia Bouattia writes “Muslims in Britain will find themselves fully pathologised, criminalised and targeted by every arm of the state and private sector.” This is nonsense, and spreading this type of thing helps no one but Islamists (and therefore the far right). 

      The NUS factions associated with Malia Bouattia seek alliances with CAGE, MEND, and other Islamist outfits because of their political convictions. From what I can see Malia’s politics are rooted in the anti-Marxist post colonial critiques that locate the source of oppression not in class society but in white supremacy and colonialism. A lot of the new student activism seems great. But these movements can seek dodgy alliances when ‘anti imperialism’ and ‘anti zionism’ are supported without above any critical examination of the nature of the so-called anti-imperialist movements. It’s not just Malia Bouattia, there’s a whole trend for this sort of politics.

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