Sunday, September 27, 2015

"Anti-gentrification" or antisemitism?

The idiotic "anti-gentrification" protest in East London, which targeted a cereal cafe' in Shoreditch for the terrible crimes of being a hipster hangout and selling bowls of cereal (certainly fair trade ones) for £3.20, leaves me feeling pretty disgusted.

The problem of a lack of affordable housing is very real, in London, Beijing and all the world's big cities. But it's not going to be resolved by attacking small independent businesses catering to people who belong to subcultures which the protesters don't like. It's also silly to attack "outsiders" in an area which has been a haven for immigrants for centuries.

But what makes me really worried is the language used in the manifesto calling for the protest. Here's the opening lines:

"Stand up to gentrification!

Our communities are being ripped apart – by Russian oligarchs, Saudi Sheiks, Israeli scumbag property developers, Texan oil-money twats and our own home-grown Eton toffs. Local authorities are coining it in, in a short sighted race for cash by “regenerating” social housing."

Israeli scumbag property developers? I am not well informed about how many Israeli property developers are active in London, but I am pretty sure that they are not such a big presence compared to other countries. Note also that the word scumbag is not used for any of the other categories. No "Russian scumbag oligarchs", no "Saudi scumbag sheikhs".

Let's not mince our words: the reason why Israelis are specifically mentioned, alongside Russian oligarchs, Saudi Sheikhs and "Eton Toffs", is that these people hate Israel as such, and can't resist the temptation to drag the country into issues which have nothing to do with it. And quite frankly, when you have such an irresistible urge to vilify the only Jewish country in the world and its people, you can hardly complain when someone suspects that you might be motivated by antisemitism. 

Writing in the Guardian, Audrey Gillan criticizes the latent xenophobia behind the protest, but fails to specifically take note of the pointless and suspicious mention of Israel. It's lucky that the area where the protests took place is no longer heavily Jewish like it used to be. I'm pretty sure that otherwise the cereal cafe' wouldn't have been its main target.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Fantastic comments....
Lots if these left wing Gurdian reading Hanas supporting dross bags hide behind a thin veil of antisemitism.....
Israel is the only democracy surrender by unstable rabid Countries....
Wonder how many of the protesters will get their government hand out this week...?

Anonymous said...

Not sure that the inclusion of the Israeli comments is any more offensive that the other xenophobia in their 'manifesto' . The Class War movement and its has always been racist and radical so not sure it makes sense to perceive their ranting as evidence of anything more sinister other than the opinions of those few predictable individuals.

JR said...

Anti-semitism is wrong - and just like many wrong things, it's permanent. To try to make it go away would be as over-ambitious as to try to make stupidity in general away, once and for all. But there are things that can be done. One important thing is the ability to react when people give free verbal rein to the vacuum in their brain. The ability to react to and to oppose prejudice is something we need to keep training. Many people who utter anti-semitic or other kinds of hate stuff become uneasy and insecure once they face opposition with what they thought to be well within accepted boundaries.

That can't have a lasting impact if it happens only once or twice a year, and anyway, most people tend to live within environments that encourage, rather than discourage, their preconceptions. But every bit helps, and it's the bit we can do.

Jonathan L. said...

Are there any Saudi developers in the East End? It sounds like they were trying to cover all their bases. BTW Anarchists have a history of anti-Semitism going back to Proudhon and Bukunin.

Ji Xiang said...

@JR: I totally agree.

@Jonathan: Maybe it's more that Europeans in general have a history of antisemitism, which has infected individuals in all political movements.

Novlangue said...

This is trivial compared to real problems like Isis

Andrew Larkin said...

The racism was gratuitous, sure, but they have a point about the menace of gentrification. Real estate bought by foreign interests are not good for anyone but the investor. The point is to drive up prices and force poor people out, while public spaces disappear, and profits disappear overseas. Ordinary people get screwed.