I confess, when it comes to street art, I’m a bit of an amateur. I’ll walk past the odd bit of graffiti near my home, and might stop for a brief moment, but that’s about all the interest I have.
Call me old fashioned, but I prefer my art in a frame, above a mantel piece, and without the nauseating smell of stale urine abusing my nostrils.
So when I saw Kalen Ockerman, commonly known as Mear One, trending across social media, and in the UK press, I honestly had no idea who he was.
All I did know, if I was to believe what I was reading, was that he was an anti-Semite. He’d also managed to get Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, in a spot of bother.
In 2012 he painted a mural on a wall in Brick Lane, London. The piece was titled “Freedom for humanity” and depicted a group of elderly bankers or businessmen sitting around a board game that resembled Monopoly. The table was supported by crouching naked human figures. Above the group was an illuminati pyramid symbol, and to the side stood a protesting figure bearing a placard with the slogan "The New World Order is the enemy of humanity”.
It seems from a quick google search that Mear One received a fair bit of criticism at the time, as some people thought he was symbolizing Jewish people around the table, and that it resembled the kind of anti-Jewish propaganda found in Nazi Germany. It caused enough drama for Lutfur Rahman, then Mayor of Tower Hamlets, to demand it’s removal.
It appears that this is where Mr Corbyn made his fatal error. He clearly didn’t feel it was anti-Semitic and so 8 years ago, commented on Mear One’s Facebook post, that he felt the mural should remain.
Apparently Jeremy Corbyn’s support of Mear One’s ‘anti-Semitic’ art was so disgusting and offensive, that it’s taken SIX YEARS for anyone to be vocal about it. It just happens to be a few weeks before the local elections, but that. little coincidence is probably better saved for later on.
Corbyn has inevitably come out and made a grovelling apology. I’m not overly sure why, but it’s what politicians do. That apology has not been accepted, however, and now groups like the CAA (Campaign Against Antisemitism) are calling for a demonstration against the Labour leader on April 8th, in London.
It all feels a bit over that top to me.
I know anti-Semitism accusations against Corbyn are nothing new. It seems anyone that speaks out on behalf of the Palestinian people, is due a good old dollop of the anti-Semite slur. Again, that’s probably another coincidence that’s best left for a bit.
I took a good hard look at the artwork and tried my best to find any anti-Semitism in there. I even asked the fine people of Twitter what they thought made it racist. The only answers I seemed to get were that the old men “looked Jewish” because “they had big noses”.
So all Jewish men have big noses? That’s an odd assumption. What about the Romans? I thought they had big noses? Given you can marry into a Jewish family, how can that physical characteristic continue across the whole Jewish community, generation after generation? Of course it’s a nonsense, I have Jewish friends, and they don’t have big noses. If anything, the assumption that it’s anti-Semitic because they have big noses, could be considered anti-Semitic in itself.
It’s a very loose link to anti-Semitism. There must be something else to it.
“It’s because they are bankers”.
In an interview Mear One said that the images of the bankers were inspired by the Rothschild’s, Rockefeller's and Morgan’s.
The Rothschilds! There we have it, that’s the anti-Semitic part. The Rothschild’s are a major Jewish banking family. But then I thought about the other two. The Rockefeller’s and the Morgan’s are both Christian families. Mear One was inspired by one Jewish banking family, and two Christian ones?
Again, I’m scratching my head. But as I keep checking what people are saying, this story isn’t going away. People are incensed by it.
I dig and dig and this is literally the whole of it. It’s anti-Semitic because the bankers “look Jewish”, “have big noses” and he mentioned the Rothschild family.
See for me, the bankers in the mural don’t look Jewish. They just look like six old white guys. There isn’t a Kippah on any of them. No black fedora’s in sight. So if it is meant to portray some form of Jewish dominance over humanity, the artist has kind of missed a trick.
Old men have big noses. Take a look at your Grandads nose next time you see him. Noses and ears continue to grow, and a condition called rosacea, which causes the tip to become bulbous, is very common among older gentlemen. It’s a burden that I myself will have to embrace, and I’m not, to my knowledge at least, Jewish.
I didn’t really want this to turn into a biology lesson, but I thought it was important the nose part was dealt with.
So now we come to the Rothschild part. As I mentioned earlier, Mear One mentioned three banking families as part of his inspiration. So why are we ignoring the Rockefeller’s and the Morgan’s? Are we ignoring them because they AREN’T Jewish? If so, for what possible reason is there for that glaring omission? Are some people trying to find anti-Semitism in this, whether it is there or not?
For me, it’s one of four scenarios.
1. People believe that Mear One is an anti-Semite. Perhaps because of prior artwork, or comments he’s made, they feel he holds an anti Jewish stance, and with that in mind, he almost certainly means the bankers to portray Jews.
Now this may be the case. I don’t know the guy. I have contacted him to see if he is interested in an interview, to give his side of the story. Hopefully he will oblige and we’ll be able to get a little more depth to the situation. Here is Mear One's response.
2. The local elections are coming up, and a positive showing for Corbyn’s Labour will almost all but put the nail in the coffin of any of the Blairite back stabbers. They have wanted him gone since before he was even elected leader, and judging by Stephen Kinnock’s reaction to Labours fantastic General Election showing, they would rather remain in opposition than lead the Country under Corbyn.
This wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest. In the last weeks his own party members have lambasted him for daring to ask for evidence before throwing the kitchen sink at a nuclear powerhouse, in the wake of the Skirpal poisoning. Evidence we are yet to see, I might add.
3. The Israeli lobby are trying to smear Corbyn as they are terrified of him coming to power. His pro Palestinian stance would be a major stumbling block for them. The UK is the always unquestioning Allie when it comes to the Israeli regime, and they won’t want that to change.
This one will probably be the one out of the four that is filed under “conspiracy theory”. However, lets not forget the Israeli lobby have form when it comes to undermining pro Palestinian MPs. The Al Jazeera undercover documentary “The Lobby” showed how Shai Masot, an Israeli embassy official has been caught on camera in an undercover sting plotting to “take down” MPs regarded as hostile, including foreign office minister Sir Alan Duncan, an outspoken supporter of a Palestinian state.
Masot said that Corbyn was “Crazy” and that he had set up a youth-wing of the Conservative Friends of Israel in 2015 and wanted to do the same inside the Labour Party, but had been unsuccessful because of the “crisis” surrounding Corbyn's election as leader.
4. Certain people are above criticism because they are Jewish.
This is perhaps the most alarming of the four scenarios. Why is any negativity towards the Rothschild family any different to negativity towards the Rockefeller family, or the Morgan family? Why is anyone above any scrutiny because of their religion or family heritage?
Not all Jews are bankers that have caused unknown heartache to the poor and working classes. That should go without saying, in the same way that not all Muslims support ISIS and want to take over your neighbourhood with calls to prayer and force your daughter to wear a hijab. Not all Catholics support pedophile priests and forcing young girls to have babies they don’t want or can’t care for.
But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be allowed to criticize those Muslims and Catholics that do support the things I just mentioned. The same should, in my opinion, go for the Rothschild family.
For these reasons, I am still at a loss when it comes to finding anti Semitism in the artwork of Mear One. All I see is rich bankers playing with unreal wealth, amassed on the backs of hard working people across the World. That’s not racist, that’s historically accurate. Isn’t it?