This has been going on for at least three years, ever since Jeremy Corbyn unexpectedly took over the reins of the party in the midst of general dismay, beginning a Copernican revolution of Labour’s ideological praxis and theory, so radical as to be perceived to be at the cutting edge of a profound anthropological transformation. We are talking of course about the issue of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party: as undeniable as it is easy to manipulate in a toxic manner.
The episodes of public denunciation—with defections of Labour MPs, open letters by intellectuals, countless accusations in the mass media and on social media—are truly innumerable, a steady drip as inexorable as the approach of election day in the UK on Dec. 12.
The most notable among the latest salvoes is certainly that of the Chief Rabbi of the British Jewish community, Ephraim Mirvis, who wrote an article in the Times—owned by Rupert Murdoch—on Nov. 25 in which he basically called on the Jewish community not to vote for a party in which “a new poison — sanctioned from the very top — has taken root.” The Chief Rabbi urged people not to vote for Corbyn because this issue makes him “unfit for high office.”
A textbook example of confusion between the respective spheres of a state and a religious community, in the 21st century no less. Not to mention the countless, obsessive, almost pathological attacks directed at Corbyn by the Jewish Chronicle, the oldest Jewish newspaper in the world (founded in 1841), an automatically pro-Israeli paper whose chief editor, Stephen Pollard, who has serious objectivity issues after he served at every single one of the worst Daily newspaper in the country (the Daily Mail, Daily Express, Daily Telegraph): newspapers privately owned by right-leaning individuals who are sweating bullets at the idea of a Corbyn government. It is also worth mentioning that Mirvis, the head of a community that only includes a part of British Jews, many of whom are happily non-religious, is also—no surprise there—someone with avowed “centrist” and “moderate” views.
Corbyn is being constantly pilloried by the media, who are demanding that he should denounce, apologize, prostrates himself before his accusers. He had already apologized, but Mirvis’s article turbocharged once more the media’s attempts to portray him as just slightly less of an enemy to the Jews than Reinhardt Heydrich.
Everyone should calm down. The anti-fascist and anti-racist credentials of the Labour leader are irreproachable, and he has nothing to fear even from the MI6. His accusers are completely ignoring his initiatives as an MP for Islington North alongside the local Jewish community. He is accused of being a friend off the “terrorists” from Hamas and Hezbollah: while he did address their representatives as “friends,” he did so only in public meetings which aimed at furthering Arab-Israeli dialogue, in an era in which there was a widespread conviction that they should be treated as interlocutors. The same is true of his “friendship” towards the IRA. Most of these accusations are obviously aiming for a retroactive effect: as in any election campaign nowadays, one must sift through the target’s past social media feeds to find those nuggets that can be portrayed as sheer nonsense or villainy.
This is precisely what happened with the accusation thrown at Corbyn that all the way back in 2012, he defended a supposedly “anti-Semitic” mural in the East End, which portrayed six bankers caricatured as exploiting the hungry of the world, of whom only two—Warburg and Rothschild—were actually Jewish. Corbyn condemned the removal of the mural in the name of freedom of speech, possibly without having seen the mural at all—as any good liberal would have done when outraged, for instance, at the censorship of the Danish satirical cartoons in 2005.
But there’s more to the story. The Media Lens website, which analyzes the propaganda being passed off as neutral information by media outlets in the UK, found that even in the most truth-challenged newspapers like The Sun—owned by the same Murdoch as the Times—no one had ever spoken of Corbyn as anti-Semitic or racist before 2015, the year when he sprang up near-miraculously to take the leadership of the Labour Party. A search for the terms “Jeremy Corbyn” and “anti-Semitism” in the ProQuest journalistic database before May 1, 2015, yields just 18 results, in none of which is such an accusation being leveled against the then-MP. If we change the search dates to after May 1, 2015, however, we get almost 12,000 results.
Not to mention that the media is completely ignoring the various left-wing Jewish groups that have expressed solidarity with the Labour Party, whose voices have been drowned out in the concerted media barrage about the supposed danger posed by Corbyn—in which the depressing hypocrisy of The Guardian and The New Statesman even manages to eclipse the worst of the “Daily”s. In the media narrative, such organizations as Jewish Voice for Labour, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, the Jewish Socialists’ Group, Jewdas and Independent Jewish Voices are to be treated as if they don’t exist—all of whom have challenged the accusations of anti-Semitism brought against the Labour Party, which according to them are being weaponized to neutralize any criticism of Israel and the leadership of Corbyn himself.
As the rivers of ink kept flowing, the founder of Momentum, Jon Lansman, who is himself Jewish (it’s a shame that we have to point this out, but it has come to that), offered a diagnosis of the problem that perhaps comes closer and offers a better description of the reality of things. In 2017, he identified three categories of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party: “petty xenophobic remarks” (“I don’t think there’s much of that”), the real old school “blood libel” anti-Semitism (which is “extremely rare”), and the anti-Semitism which arises from debates on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, where “[w]e all understand that when that conflict heats up, it results in dreadful anti-Semitism.” It is therefore undeniable that there is some anti-Semitism among the ranks of the party. However, there is a similar proportion of it, if not more, in other parties, as shown by a 2015 YouGov survey which found the second-lowest percentage of anti-Semitism in Labour, after the Liberal Democrats.
The core issue we are facing is, once again, the ambiguity—sometimes tolerated, at other times maliciously exploited—between anti-Semitism, the hatred against Jews as Jews, and anti-Zionism, i.e. criticism of the expansionist policy of the state of Israel against the Palestinian people. It all comes as now, for the first time in the history of the UK—an institutionally monarchic and moderate country in terms of domestic politics, imperialist and pro-US/Israel/Saudis in foreign politics and pro-market in economic policies—it might actually be led by a prime minister with strong republican and socialist sympathies, in the true sense of the word: a critic of the US, pro-Palestinian, a statist and a champion of the public sector. The economic and financial establishment is experiencing a real political panic at every level, as they contemplate the risk of seeing their world turned upside down. It is difficult to describe the sheer magnitude of such a change: the word “revolution” simply cannot do it justice, in our era in which “there is no alternative” is an accepted commonplace—and the word “alien” is similarly unable to do justice to the new world that would ensue.
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