Yasmin Alibhai-Brown Condemns Israeli Invasion of Palestine After Smearing Corbyn and Labour

I used to have some respect for Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. She was one of the few people writing about racism who was even-handed, condemning Black anti-White racism along with White prejudice and violence against people of colour. I still do respect her to some extent. But that respect is rapidly dwindling thanks to her joining the witch-hunt and mass smear campaign against Jeremy Corbyn, his supporters, and the Labour Party in general. As I’ve blogged about before, ad nauseam, ad infinitum, the campaign had zero to do with real anti-Jewish hatred in the Labour Party. It was simply a ruse by the Tories to smear Labour, along with other lies, such as that he was a supporter of the IRA, A Czech spy, or a Commie or Trot. None of these were true. Within the Labour Party, it was down to the Blairite faction trying desperately to cling on to power and continue to push the Dear Leader’s free market, low tax, pro-privatisation and anti-welfare agenda. Which very much included the privatisation of the NHS. This dovetailed with the Israel lobby. Blair was an ardent Zionist, and his government – I think it might have been his friend Peter Mandelson – who said that Labour under Blair had ended the ‘cowboys and Indians attitude to Israel’. Blair had received generous funding from pro-Israeli businessmen through pop promoter Lord Levy, whom he met at a gathering at the Israeli embassy. And the Israelis wanted Corbyn gone and his supporters purged because of Corbyn’s principled opposition to their decades long ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. As Tony Greenstein has tirelessly shown on his site, Israel routinely smears its critics as anti-Semites as its only defence, the facts themselves being indefensible. It says much about their smears that very many of them were directed against anti-Zionist Jews, or simply Jews that criticised the Israeli state’s treatment of the Palestinians. Under Netanyahu, even liberal Zionists like B’Tselem are dangerous subversives, who must be discredited and silenced. Corbyn and Jackie Walker, a Black Jewish activist by descent and faith, were judged joint no. 2 existential threats to Israel. And the British establishment felt threatened because Israel’s our ally and western colony in the Middle East. And so all the press and media joined in with the howls and smears. Including Alibhai-Brown.

Now Corbyn has lost the election, as they wanted, and been succeeded by Starmer. And Netanyahu has announced he is going to annex a third of the West Bank. And Alibhai-Brown condemned it yesterday in her column in the I. It was, she declared, colonialist and would just annoy the Arab and Muslim worlds. Yes, yes it would. And it does. You only have to talk to British Muslims to realize how strongly they rightly feel about the Palestinians’ maltreatment. If Corbyn had won the election – and in 2017 he came very close, considering the strength of the opposition – he may not have been able to stop Netanyahu’s invasion, but he would have made a damn good try. And that was precisely what Israel and its willing allies in the British establishment were afraid of. And they included Alibhai-Brown’s employers, the I.

It is now too late for her to condemn Israel’s planned assault on the Occupied Territories. I’m glad she’s doing so, but it is more than a little hypocritical after she joined the smears and persecution of Corbyn and the Labour Party. Israel is prepared to accept some criticism of its maltreatment, if it’s only token. Boris Johnson has issued a statement against the annexation, but, unlike those of various left-wing Labour MPs, there are no penalties attached to it. Netanyahu knows he can go right ahead and there will be no consequences. Just as the Israel lobby in this country has not demanded that the Conservatives adopt the I.H.R.A. definition of anti-Semitism, or subscribe to ten pledges against it, unlike the Labour Party.

It seems to be an illustration of the kind of tactics Noam Chomsky describes in Manufacturing Consent. Capital and the establishment hold on to power by creating the illusion of free speech and democratic debate, while making sure that there is no opportunity for real, profound change. Alibhai-Brown can condemn Israel’s attacks on the Palestinians in her page, just like Private Eye could also criticise Israel for its brutalization of the Arabs. But this freedom to criticize is strongly circumscribed. The Eye was also in lockstep with the rest of the media in smearing Corbyn, as it still is. There was the carefully crafted illusion that Israel still tolerates criticism, but this is an illusion. As soon as there’s any real chance that public opinion will turn against Israel and the Palestinians aided, that criticism is silenced. And magazines and journals like the Eye and Alibhai-Brown start smearing the real opponents of Israeli policy. Of course, it’s possible that Alibhai-Brown and the Eye thank they are genuine critics of Israel, but add the caveat that they’re ‘responsible’ critics. Just as Blair pursued ‘responsible’ – in other words, right-wing establishment – policies.

But it just shows how very limited their commitment to genuine anti-colonial politics really is.

 

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