Last week, on 26th July, three different Jewish newspapers took the unprecedented step of publishing the same front page. This is the kind of step one might expect from rival newspapers only when they are all faced by an extraordinary danger. And so it would seem, since this shared article referred to the appearance of an “existential threat to Jewish life in this country”.
Ludicrously, this “existential threat to Jewish life” does not refer to the growth of far-right movements in Britain, but to the prospect of a Corbyn-led Labour government.
This demonstrates how a story manufactured to undermine a left-wing politician can, with enough of a push, spiral into the absurd and offensive claim that Corbyn and the Labour left represent some sort of neo-Nazi movement.
Why has this ‘debate’ suddenly flared up yet again?
The pretext is that Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) has not included in its definition of anti-semitism every single clause and example given by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) in its definition.
Why has the NEC decided to do this?
A fairly good rationale for the NEC’s decision would be that it ensures “that freedom of speech is maintained in the context of discourse about Israel and Palestine, without allowing antisemitism to permeate in any debate”, and that, therefore, “the [IHRA] definition should be extended to include the following statements:
“- It is not anti-semitic to criticise the government of Israel, without additional evidence to suggest anti-semitic intent.
“- It is not anti-semitic to hold the Israeli government to higher standards than autocratic nations and dictatorships around the world, or to take a particular interest in the Israeli government’s policies or actions, without additional evidence to suggest anti-semitic intent.”
Unfortunately, however, this argument was given not by the NEC during the recent furore. Rather, it was given by none other than the Blairite clone, Chuka Umunna, back in 2016, when he recommended that the British parliament should not adopt the IHRA definition of anti-semitism word for word.
Umunna now, along with all the other Blairites, is up in arms because the NEC has done exactly what he recommended in 2016. Such hypocrisy is proof that the entire anti-semitism smear campaign is manufactured purely to undermine Corbyn.
As Naomi Wimbourne-Idrissi from Jewish Voice for Labour said in a recent interview on BBC News, the IHRA definition is not an agreed international code on anti-semitism, but a “working document” pushed by right-wing pro-Israel organisations. It is deliberately designed to conflate criticism of Israel with anti-semitism.
This entirely reasonable decision of the elected leadership of the Labour Party was excuse enough for arch-Blairite Margaret Hodge to accuse Corbyn, to his face, of being “a fucking anti-semite and a racist”.
Thanks to the cavalcade of articles from the braying anti-Corbyn media, we have reached the point where an elected MP feels confident enough to berate her party’s leader and accuse him of being a racist.
Hodge’s behaviour is disgraceful and the party must not be intimidated away from taking disciplinary action. Unfortunately, Corbyn’s closest ally John McDonnell has done exactly that, publicly defending Hodge and calling for an end to the investigation into her actions.
Through the looking glass
This is a bizarre ‘debate’ in which we have many Jews and Jewish organisations (such as Jewish Voice for Labour) routinely saying that the Labour Party is not anti-semitic - and yet we are endlessly told it is.
YouGov polls indicate that anti-semitism is less widespread in Labour than in other parties. And in this surreal hysteria, almost no concrete evidence or incidents are ever actually referred to.
What has actually happened? When and where has any Labour MP made an anti-semitic remark? When has Labour ever pursued anti-semitic policies or rhetoric?
Surely, if the party were “a racist, anti-semitic party” (as has been claimed by the aforementioned Jewish newspapers), we would have an avalanche of reports from Jewish Labour members proving it to be so, especially given how favourable the media is to this story? And yet there have been - during the two years that this story has being going on - almost no such reports at all.
Scraping the barrel
Things get more ludicrous with each passing day. Today, the ‘Campaign Against Antisemitism’ has referred Labour to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and has actually said that: “The evidence shows beyond all doubt that Jeremy Corbyn is an anti-semite and the Labour Party has become institutionally anti-semitic.”
We repeat - there is no evidence whatsoever of Corbyn ever having made any anti-semitic remarks, nor of pursuing any policies even remotely harmful to Jews.
It is obviously slanderous to call him or the Labour Party anti-semitic. According to Jewish News, a dossier compiled by Jewish Labour Movement contained 252 cases of anti-semitic abuse directed at Margaret Hodge, but “a vast majority were found not to be Labour members”.
Now left-wing NEC member Peter Willsman stands accused of being anti-semitic, because he said some Jews are supporting Trump and consequently have a right-wing agenda against Labour.
It is laughable to suggest this is an anti-semitic statement. But what is interesting is that Willsman was secretly recorded by another NEC member, who has taken about a month to release the recording - conveniently just as NEC members are up for re-election. It is obvious to all that this is being done purely to deprive Corbyn of another ally on the NEC.
What this also shows is that the Blairites are desperately searching for any instance that can be spun as anti-semitism, to the point of secretly recording their supposed comrades. That this is the best example they can come up with, despite the intense media scrutiny on this topic, reveals how little anti-semitism they can actually find.
Go on the offensive
It is time that Corbyn went on the offensive. Weakness invites aggression. And since this ‘scandal’ has been totally and transparently manufactured - not for anti-racist purposes, but to undermine and remove Corbyn - any concession will be met with more pressure and absurd demands.
Nobody sincerely believes that Labour represents a threat to Jewish life in Britain. Those pushing this line are doing so dishonestly. The vast majority of Labour members and voters will be baffled by the whole thing, confused as to what the IHRA even is. All they know is that Labour is on the left and that Corbyn has always fought against racism and for the oppressed.
Corbyn must rediscover that fighting spirit and clearly explain what these attacks on him represent: not genuine fears about anti-semitism, but the fear that the ruling class has for a left-wing Labour government; a fear for the prospect of a radical Corbyn-led government that blames not foreigners or ethnic minorities for our problems, but the rich and the capitalist system as a whole.
Photo of Margaret Hodge by Chris Boland / www.chrisboland.com