A speaker at a Tower Hamlets Holocaust Memorial Day event referred to Jews as “rootless cosmopolitans” and ranted about the end of Western civilisation, the JC can reveal.
In a rambling speech, Barnaby Raine, part of the Jewish Bloc Against Zionism, told the gathering on Wednesday: “This whole Western order premised on dispossession and domination, on exploitation and expropriation, that whole order has got to go.”
He added: “As Stalin called us and then as David Ben Gurion called us, ‘rootless cosmopolitans’... That condition, different from many of the others all over the world who have been savaged in the face of violence from Western civilisation – it's not like Western civilisation came to our country and brutalised us – we have no country that is ours except [the] future.”
The phrase “rootless cosmopolitans” is commonly regarded as antisemitic and emerged in the late-1940s Soviet Union. It was used by Communist Party members to conjure up an image of untrustworthy Jews who, at the time, were being persecuted by the state. It was also used by David Ben Gurion on one occasion to describe anti-Zionist Jews.
Earlier this month, Raine addressed a Gaza rally in London where he accused Israel of committing genocide and praised “the people” of Yemen – where terrorists have been attacking Western shipping.
The Holocaust event was organised by Tower Hamlets library service. A Holocaust Memorial sign that said “Say no more genocide this Holocaust Memorial Day" was recently displayed in another library in the borough.
The council has been embroiled in controversy over its refusal to remove Palestinian flags from local roads. There was a Palestinian flag flying outside the library where the HMD event took place.
An HMD event at the same venue was cancelled in 2020 when it emerged that Glyn Secker had been due to speak. Secker once defended Ken Livingstone over his comments about Hitler "supporting" Zionism.
The Wednesday evening event was titled, “An inter-generational conversation on the Jewish Holocaust” and an accompanying description asked: “Can Holocaust remembrance ever be non-political?”
Raine was joined by David Rosenberg, a socialist who quit the Labour Party because of Keir Starmer’s leadership.
Rosenberg was a founding member of Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL), an anti-Israel pressure group established in opposition to the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) during the Jeremy Corbyn years.
In his address, Raine said: “We are living in perhaps the moment of the historic decline of that thing called Western civilisation and hundreds of years of European dominance, sustained by... being subcontracted to America. We are living in the moment of the decline of that.”
He went on: "Coalitions of people all around the world want to replace Western civilisation with something better and there is a particular kind of vantage point that Jews from our traditions might have to offer.”
Earlier this month, Raine spoke on a podium at the anti-Israel rally in central London, where he said: “We link arms with the proud people of South Africa and the proud people of Yemen".
Raine told the assembled crowd: “Let there be no doubt today we are witnessing a genocide”.
Like his speech at the library, Raine criticised the West: “This whole Western order premised on dispossession and domination, on exploitation and expropriation, that whole order has got to go.”
The Tower Hamlets employee who organised the talk said she asked Raine to speak at the event after she met him at a rally.
Also present was Rabbi Herschel Gluck OBE, who hugged Raine and told the speakers that he had been “inspired” by their words.
When contacted by The JC about his speech, Raine said he was “a proud rootless cosmopolitan".
He added: "The rulers of the Christian West – from Popes to Tsars – honed their violence against Jews for 2,000 years, eventually slaughtering us in gas chambers. Jews have long been part of hopeful movements seeking to transform our societies into non-racist, egalitarian ones where nobody is persecuted.
"My Jewish values follow from Isaiah, who tells us every Yom Kippur to let the oppressed go free.
"I drew the analogy between Jews and Black people in America... we are both peoples living in Western societies but traditionally excluded from their benefits too, whose historic oppression might then offer us a vantage point for the critique of those societies, seeking not to escape them but to transform them so that everyone can be free."
A spokesperson for Tower Hamlets said: “Our Idea Stores have a broad programme of events, activities and exhibitions where a range of views are often presented to encourage reflection, intellectual discussion and lifelong learning.
“The views freely given by individuals at such events are the views of those individuals themselves.”