The Labour Party’s Antisemitism Didn’t Arise Out of the Blue
JNS.org – It’s been more than two weeks into the great controversy in Britain over Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and antisemitism, and one thing is becoming clear: Everyone is ignoring the elephant in the room.
The revelations of widespread antisemitism in the party have plunged it into an existential crisis. And moderate Labour members opposed to Corbyn — a hard-left friend to Hamas and essentially all left-wing revolutionary causes — are aghast.
Yet few grasp the real nature of this crisis, which extends far beyond the British Labour Party. And that’s because few on the left are prepared to acknowledge the principal motivation behind today’s antisemitism.
The bare details are bad enough: Corbyn has been exposed as belonging to at least five Facebook groups that are cesspools of antisemitism. Members of those groups have claimed that the Jews were behind ISIS and 9/11, the Rothschilds control the world’s finances, and various other such paranoid theories.
In response to these revelations, two Jewish Labour members of a north London borough council resigned, saying that overwhelming antisemitic abuse has made it impossible to be a Jewish Labour councilor.
Horrified Labour moderates say that the party should expel antisemites and embark on an education program, but none of this would address the problem. These moderates have only just woken up to something that’s been poisoning left-wing discourse for at least three decades. Yet still, they don’t get it. Still, they won’t ask the key question: What in left-wing thinking has given rise to this obscenity?
They are behaving as if this antisemitism has arrived like a thunderbolt out of a clear blue sky. They just cannot understand how thousands of supposedly anti-racist Labour supporters are embracing deranged Jewish conspiracy theories. And that’s because they cannot admit that this derangement arises directly from the left’s attitude toward Israel — an attitude shared by Labour moderates as well as the hard left. They can’t see that their “criticism” of Israel is in fact an obsessional repudiation of reason and an embrace of murderous, colonialist propaganda.
The view of Israel predominant among “progressives” is based largely on libelous falsehoods used against no other people, country, or cause. They turn the Israeli victim into the aggressor and vice versa. They hold Israel to standards expected of no one else. They deny or ignore evidence that it actually meets those standards — as in the Israel Defense Forces’ unmatched record in safeguarding civilian lives — and accuse it instead of being a serial violator of human rights.
Above all, they support Palestinianism on the basis of the big lie that the “Palestinians” were dispossessed by the Jews. So these “progressives” relentlessly make the unhinged claim that the Jewish state is a uniquely malign global actor and then are shocked that some of them make the unhinged claim that the Jews are uniquely malign global actors.
They demand that those who support Holocaust denial be expelled. Yet these shocked souls themselves support as a “moderate” Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, who has a doctorate in Holocaust denial, explicitly venerates the wartime Palestinian Nazi-ally Haj Amin al Husseini, and uses his media outlets to transmit Nazi-style demonization of the Jews.
In my view, supporting Palestinianism, the default position on the left, is inescapably to be anti-Jew. This has been amplified by the extent to which anti-Western views have spread from the far-left to the political mainstream. It is now generally agreed by the entire political class that the young have a point in their rage against capitalism. But some of these young protesters talk in terms of a global conspiracy by powerful bankers. And these are code words for Jews.
There has been horror at a recent opinion poll that showed most Labour members remain solidly behind Corbyn and think the antisemitism crisis has been exaggerated. What on earth did anyone expect after decades of indoctrination by an education system pumping out a Marxist view of the world, which tells the young that the West is mired in racism and oppression?
The left believes it embodies virtue and thus simply cannot be antisemitic. It thinks antisemitism, however, is directed only at Jews as people. Hence its shock at the Labour supporters’ tropes. What the left cannot grasp is that the new antisemitism uses almost identical tropes against Israel, the collective Jew.
British Jews themselves are unfortunately far too nervous to make this link with anti-Israelism. At the demonstration against antisemitism held last month outside Parliament, for example, the organizers didn’t allow any Israeli flags. Failure to make this crucial link is providing Corbyn and other facilitators of antisemitism with a human shield.
Last Monday, Corbyn attended a Passover seder held by the virulently anti-Israel Jewish group Jewdas. The Times more accurately referred to this event as a “far-left Passover satire.”
Jewdas had previously tweeted: “Israel is itself a steaming pile of sewage which needs to be properly disposed of.” At its seder, Corbyn read a short prayer titled “Elijah’s Cup,” which ended, “Fill this cup with the hope that socialism and revolution will be upon us soon.”
Charlotte Nichols, Young Labour’s Women’s Officer and a member of a Reform synagogue, who took part in the seder, says that Jewdas has been “steadfast in addressing antisemitism on the left” and “all of us are proud of our Judaism, whatever we understand that to mean.”
Alas, such Jews on the left understand Judaism to mean hatred of Israel. Given this twisted attitude, they cannot begin to understand the part they themselves are playing in fomenting the antisemitism they tell themselves they are addressing. And that is a tragic and terrible threat to the Jewish people.
Labour will never rid itself of antisemitism while it supports Palestinianism. The choice it faces is said to be between Corbyn and the Jews. In fact, in my view, the choice is between Palestinianism and the Jews.
That’s a choice facing not just the British Labour Party, but Western progressives, including progressive Jews, everywhere.
Melanie Phillips, a British journalist, broadcaster, and author, writes a column for JNS every two weeks. Currently a columnist for The Times, her personal and political memoir Guardian Angel has been published by Bombardier, which is also publishing her first novel, The Legacy, on April 10. Her work can be found at her website www.melaniephillips.com.