Unfortunately, despite the fact that Shami Chakrabarti cleared the Labour party of institutional racism, and that most of the people smeared as anti-Semites have similarly been cleared and reinstated, the allegations keep being repeated. Browsing through the Cheltenham branch of Waterstone’s on Friday, I came across a book repeating the allegations. Written by David Rich and published by Biteback, the book’s title told you precisely how it was biased: The Left’s Jewish Problem, with the word ‘Jewish’ on the cover surrounded by a stylised Star of David. The blurb for it on its back cover stated that the Labour party having to conduct three investigations into anti-Semitism after the election of Jeremy Corbyn was no accident. It then went on to allege that the ‘left’ and in particular the Labour party was deeply contaminated with anti-Semitism. This was, it declared, due to the anti-apartheid campaigns launched against Israel, which saw members of the Left ally themselves with radical Islam.
I was half tempted to buy it, simply to rip it to shreds, but I decided against it on the grounds that it would annoy me too much. Plus, I didn’t want to give Rich my money for his twaddle. But I shall try and give a brief refutation of his allegations here.
Firstly, the smears have been made not because the Labour party does have an anti-Semitism problem, but because of the desperation of the Blairites in the party and the Israel lobby to hang on to power by any means they can. Which basically means smearing decent people, Jews as well as gentiles, as anti-Semites when they are nothing of the kind. Norman Finkelstein, one of the leading Jewish American critics of Israel, and the author of several books, has made the point that the Israel lobby has always responded to criticism by smearing the critics as anti-Semites, even when they’re not. And those labelled as anti-Semites in the recent allegations within the Labour party are either critics of Israel, or those unfortunate to be labelled as such simply because they’re members of Momentum. Like Rhea Wolfson, whose bid to join the NEC was blocked by Jim Murphy, a leading member of Labour Friends of Israel and the head of the Labour party in Scotland. He recommended that Wolfson’s party should not support her bid, because, as a member of Momentum, she was linked to an anti-Semitic organisation. This was despite the fact that Wolfson herself is Jewish. Mike pointed out the monumental absurdity of the claim when he stated that anti-Semites don’t usually support a Jewish candidate for political office getting into power. They don’t. In fact, they’re bitterly opposed to it. That’s part of why they’re anti-Semites. And it’s one of the reasons the allegations against Momentum and Jeremy Corbyn are stupid and malign.
Rich is right about some of the opposition to Israel having emerged from the anti-apartheid movement. In the 1960s and 1970s Israel did indeed form a close alliance with White South Africa, as they were both pariah states, where Western settlers ruled as a privilege minority over non-Western indigenous population. The alliance also shocked many Israelis, who did not want to see their country allied to and compared with a nakedly racist state. Israel too has also developed its own form of apartheid in its treatment of the Palestinians, who are subject to repeated restrictions on the personal and collective freedoms in the name of security, and where the constant goal of the state itself has been their cleansing from Israel and the Occupied Territories.
The claims of an alliance with radical Islam is rather more complex. Some idiots have indeed supported ISIS as supposedly anti-imperial forces, rather than the sadistic, intolerant murderers they really are. But the numbers who have seem far smaller than the impression given by the Right. There’s a piece over on Guy Debord’s Cat, where he takes apart the claim that there was an attempt at one left-wing meeting to pass a motion of support for ISIS. In fact, out of all the hundreds of people attending the meeting, there was only three who proposed and supported such a motion. They were roundly defeated by everyone else. Nevertheless, the Cat described how this was seized on by the Conservative press and magnified so that instead of only three, it seemed that the majority of people attending the meeting supported the proposed endorsement of ISIS.
One of those blogging about supposed anti-Semitism on the Left and in the Labour movement is Adam Lebor. The extreme Right-wing Canadian blog, Five Feet of Fury, linked to his a few years ago when it posted up a piece about how anti-Semitism is supposedly rife on the Left. His blog on its masthead explicitly stated that it was dedicated to exposing this anti-Semitism. If I remember correctly, about twenty or so years ago Lebor was a supporter of the Palestinians and anti-Israel, anti-imperialist activist. He authored a book that was reviewed in the ‘books’ pages of the Financial Times’ ‘Weekend’ supplement. This described his meetings with a series of radical Islamic preachers and leaders, whom he did support as the enemies of imperialism. One of these was a vile individual he met in London, who told Holocaust jokes throughout his interview with Lebor. I think Lebor himself is Jewish. His interviewee’s behaviour was disgusting, and reading I wondered why Lebor persisted in talking to him and supporting him, rather than simply walking out there and then. Assuming this is the same person, it seems to me that in the intervening period he has had too much of the real Muslim anti-Semites, and this has tainted his entire attitude towards the Left and those who shared his former opinions.
However, that does not mean that everyone who supports the Palestinians is an anti-Semite, or, if they’re Jewish, a self-hating ‘un-Jew’. Nor does it mean that they are allied with radical Muslims. And there is much more to this latter claim than first appears.
I think both Lobster and Guy Debord’s Cat have posted pieces about the deliberate tactics Israel adopted to marginalise, isolate and destroy the credibility and influence of the secular wing of the PLO. This was done with the intention of leaving the more extreme, Islamic faction in overall control of the Palestinian territories, so that the Israelis could present themselves on the world stage as being locked in a battle with radical Islam. It’s a battle the Israelis themselves orchestrated in order to get as much support as possible from the West as part of the War on Terror. And Norman Finkelstein once again has pointed out that while terrorism goes back to the 19th century, the term was used most commonly after 1970 to describe Arabs and Muslims by the Israelis.
As for the narrative that the European Left are allied with radical Muslims, this was all formed at least about twelve years ago. I remember reading a review in the Spectator of a book set a few decades in the future, in which the remains of the European Socialist organisations had united with the Muslims to begin a new Holocaust against the Jews. It’s a vile, malicious fantasy, of course, and the fact that the Speccie gave a review of the book without calling it such shows how mendacious and vile Boris Johnson’s mighty organ was. The lie couldn’t really be run against Labour when Tony Blair was in charge, because of his strong links to the Israel lobby. It also couldn’t really be used against Ed Miliband, as he’s Jewish. I dare say, however, that some were probably willing to try. We’ve seen how they’ve smeared other Jews since. But they had their chance with the election of Jeremy Corbyn, who threatened the Blairites’ continued hold on power and that of the Israel lobby, with whom the Blairites were deeply intertwined.
And so these vile stories were taken off the shelf, dusted off, and decent men and women with proud personal histories of fighting racism and anti-Semitism were libelled, all because they took their commitment to combating racism and imperialism sufficiently seriously that they dared to criticise and question Israel.
Shami Chakrabarti in her report into anti-Semitism in the Labour party showed Labour doesn’t have a ‘Jewish problem’. It is the Conservatives, Blairite entryists and Israel lobby, who have a problem with the grassroots Labour membership, as they’re rejecting Thatcherism on the one hand and the Neoconservatives abhorrent colonialism and imperialism on the other, an imperialism that is also intimately bound up with Israel’s cleansing of the Palestinians.
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