Corbyn and Anti-Semitism

Anti-Semitism has been made into one of the major issues in British politics. But anti-Semitism comes in different disguises. First is open hostility, discrimination, verbal or physical violence against Jews as Jews. There is no policy or action taken by the Labour Party, before or since Corbyn became leader that is anti-Semitic. It has adopted the IHRR definition of anti-Semitism but not all examples which raise issues of free speech on Israel and by implication Palestine.

A second form of anti-Semitism is the exploitation of anti-Semitism for political motives. This ‘playing the race card’ cynically uses the fear of anti-Semitism to manipulate public opinion and gain some political advantage. There has been a massive increase in this kind of anti-Semitism in the Zionist campaign claiming Corbyn is an anti-Semite.

Knowingly or carelessly making false allegations of anti-Semitism is massively damaging not least in spreading fear amongst Jewish people and giving aid and comfort to neo-Nazis. Promoting fear among Jewish people for political aims constitutes anti-Semitism no less than daubing Swastikas on the walls of synagogues.

The Tories, some Labour MPs and the national media are metaphorically daubing swastikas and running away, like innocent children, claiming Jeremy Corbyn did it. It has to be called out for what it is. Playing the anti-Semitic card for political advantage is itself objectively anti-Semitic. Many Jewish people are now fearful from what they have been told about Corbyn that they are thinking of fleeing to Israel.

The Times editorial (25 August 2018) provides a good example of promoting fear of anti-Semitism to undermine Corbyn. It says “There are many reasons to remove Mr Corbyn from the leadership of a once great progressive party” and then spells out the paper’s political motives.

The first is identified as “a run on the pound”. Corbyn could pose a threat to the profits of newspaper barons and corporate big business. But it is not filthy lucre that is most important reason that rich people want rid of Corbyn. The editor strikes a higher moral tone. Corbyn has to go because false allegations he is an anti-Semite disqualify him from becoming a future Prime Minister.

The Times editorial claims that Corbyn made a speech in 2013 which “used the word ‘Zionist’ as synonym for ‘Jews’ and as a term of casual abuse”. This is the opposite of the truth. Then, as now, Corbyn made it clear he distinguishes between Zionists and Jews. Many Zionists are not Jews and many Jews are not Zionists. Zionism is a nationalist political ideology whereas the term ‘Jews’ refers to religious or ethnic identity regardless of nationality.

The editorial claims that Corbyn “was singling out Jews on the basis of their ethnicity”. This is not true as any proper inquiry would easily recognise. He referred to Zionists in the audience, who may or may not have been Jewish. The Times editorial mixed up the distinction between Jews and Zionists. It then tried to impose the anti-Semitic trope, that all Jews are Zionists and vice versa, to slander Corbyn.

Corbyn spoke supporting a speech by the Palestinian ambassador. He criticised Zionists, not Jews, saying they lacked an historical perspective and did not have a sense of irony. It is an opinion which you can agree or disagree with. But it is not anti-Semitic, unless you claim that ‘Zionist’ is a code word for ‘Jewish’ which it is not, unless you are ignorant or a neo-Nazi.

This leads to the editor’s final point from the front page “The Far right comes out for Corbyn”. Neo-Nazis, like Nick Griffin and David Duke, have declared their ‘support’ for Mr Corbyn. It is a win-win for them. They can help torpedo their mortal enemy Corbyn by ‘supporting’ him and getting free publicity. They must be over the moon. They no longer need to daub their swastikas to frighten Jewish people into leaving the country because the anti-Semitic campaign against Corbyn is doing the work for them.

27 August 2018
Letter to Times editor

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