Former Corbyn Aide Gets It Right on Antisemitism, But Very Wrong on Settlements
Do non-Israeli Jews around the world have a special obligation to criticize West Bank settlements?
Yes, according to Joshua Simons, a former policy adviser to Jeremy Corbyn, whose op-ed (“Why Jews in Labour place little trust in Jeremy Corbyn“) appeared in the Guardian yesterday.
To be fair, the bulk of Simons’ piece on antisemitism is spot-on.
In modern Britain, it is no longer true that intellectuals are ashamed of antisemitism. In the eyes of the leaders of the British far left, Israel’s occupation – for some, even Israel’s existence – offers a firm moral basis for antipathy towards Jews in Israel or, more ambitiously, towards Jews everywhere.
After six months working as a policy adviser for Jeremy Corbyn, it was clear to me that the way Corbyn and those around him think about Jewish people is shaped by a frenetic anti-imperialism, focused on Israel and America. Without a hint of irony, one senior aide asked that I remove the greeting “Chag Kasher VeSameach” from Corbyn’s Passover message, for fear that Corbyn’s supporters might think the use of Hebrew “Zionist.”
He also notes how the narrative of Jews and privilege plays a role in fomenting antisemitic attitudes among the British Left.
Antisemitism among the British left continues to be about capitalism too. The familiar image endures of the Jew as the master of usury, the sedentary banker and financier, the archetypal neoliberal even. This persistent trope of Jews as the ultimate capitalists reinforces the view of those on the left who resent capitalism per se – rather than, say, unrestrained markets – and feel that Jews cannot be victims because they have money and they have Israel.
Orwell argued that antisemitism was driven by a fear that Jews were subverting the establishment. Today, antisemitism on the British left is driven by the sense that Jews are part of the establishment, not against it. That Jews are part of an elite of extractive capitalists. And, above all, that Jews are part of an imperialist elite that defends the projection of American and Israeli power.