There have been rumbles about anti-Semitism in Corbyn’s Labour Party almost from day one. This is important because (among other reasons) Corbyn’s enemies within the party, and Labour’s enemies outside it, promote and “weaponise” these rumbles. The latest manifestation is wickedly timed to sabotage Labour’s prospects in the upcoming elections for local authorities, devolved governments, Police and Crime Commissioners and mayors in various combinations where applicable. The Tories like this for obvious reasons; the Labour “moderates” because, one imagines, they dream of ousting Corbyn and installing a charismatic Blair clone who will sweep to victory in 2020 and implement policies that are just a little bit kinder than the Tories’ (in a flattering light) but utterly inoffensive to Murdoch and the City.
Not being either a Jew or a Labour insider – and not, I hope and intend, an anti-Semite – I don’t have personal insight into this, but the facts underlying any specific allegation generally amount to
- Conflating criticism of Israel (including discussion of whether Israel ought to exist) with anti-Semitism.
- Guilt by association, sometimes hinging on events that hadn’t even happened at the time of the association; usually accompanied by the insistence that there are some people we shouldn’t even talk to or be polite to
- Some hot and ill-considered choice of words; righteous anger about the treatment of Palestinians that sometimes gets a wider target than it probably deserves.
- Confusion on all sides of the argument between Jews, Zionists, Israelis, the government of Israel, and various factions and subgroups of these. They are overlapping categories, of course, but it’s important to be clear which is meant.
- Oh, and Ken Livingstone making provocative (even if broadly true) remarks for some opaque reason of his own.
I don’t doubt there is also real anti-Semitism, but I haven’t found much evidence of it in the public domain using the time and energy to hand. There could be systematic reasons for this, of course, including my own biases. (I might add some links to support this later, but for now it’s my own unsupported assertion.)
The story so far: the partisan Guido Fawkes blog dug up some old posts on social media by Naz Shah that could be construed as anti-Semitic in the broadest sense. She was suitably contrite and apologetic, because there is a time and a place to fight these battles; there were calls for her suspension, followed by confusion, hesitation, and then she was suspended pending investigation. Then Ken Livingstone, apparently trying to defend her, informed Vanessa Feltz (among others, I think) that Hitler had at one time colluded with Zionists to transport Jews to the area that is now Israel. Ken is historically correct, even if it’s hyperbole to say Hitler was therefore a Zionist; but it’s not clear why he thought this would be a useful thing to say. It wasn’t, of course, and he was both ambushed by John Mann on camera and suspended before the end of the day.
[Edited to add: I’m no longer at all sure Ken actually said words to the effect that “Hitler was a Zionist”, even as hyperbole or a rather poor joke. He said “Hitler supported Zionism” according to the Independent transcripts – which is a fair way of describing the Haavara agreement, but could I suppose be wrongly paraphrased by someone who thinks “support” applies to football teams. Hitler certainly did not support Zionism like a football team.
I haven’t worked out yet how mentioning the Haavara agreement was a salient response to questions on the meme posted by Shah about Hitler’s actions being legal, but it seems Ken thought it was. Some people apparently think, or affect to think, Shah meant by this to express approval for Hitler’s actions – and after thinking about this a little I can see how they make this mistake. But it is a mistake: the meme is not used to say that everything legal is safe and good, but that the law can allow powerful people to do bad things, and shouldn’t be accepted without question.
End of added part.]
If there are notable developments after that, I haven’t caught up with them yet. [Edit 3: and I’m not going to try to keep up with them in my own words, either.]
Here are some links with lots of details:
Timeline: events leading to Ken Livingstone suspension
FACT-CHECKING NEWSNIGHT ON LABOUR’S ‘ANTISEMITISM PROBLEM’ https://jamiesternweiner.wordpress.com/2016/04/28/fact-checking-newsnight-on-labours-antisemitism-problem/
Everything You Need To Know About The Anti-Semitism Fight Engulfing British Politics
Thousands sign petition demanding John Mann is disciplined for rant at Ken Livingstone
Disciplinary procedure for John Mann MP https://www.change.org/p/jeremy-corbyn-mp-disciplinary-procedure-for-john-mann-mp?recruiter=52092560&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=share_twitter_responsive
Corbyn’s Labour must be more decisive on antisemitism
Statement on “Labour’s problem with antisemitism”
From the Jewish Socialists’ Group http://www.jewishsocialist.org.uk/news/item/statement-on-labours-problem-with-antisemitism-from-the-jewish-socialists-g#.VyLuSV-Ybax.twitter
The real reason Corbyn is under pressure to root out antisemitism
How Israel lobby manufactured UK Labour Party’s anti-Semitism crisis
Jeremy Corbyn hasn’t got an ‘antisemitism problem’. His opponents do.
Guest post: Why comparing Israel to the Nazis is always anti-Semitic
Haavara Agreement: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haavara_Agreement
Does the Labour Party have ‘a problem with anti-Semitism’? No; and the accusations raise more questions than answers.
The Naz Shah Scandal Shows that the Right Has an Anti-Semitism Problem
BRITISH JEWISH VOICES COME OUT IN SUPPORT OF NAZ SHAH MP AFTER APOLOGY http://politicalscrapbook.net/2016/04/british-jewish-voices-come-out-in-support-of-naz-shah-mp-after-apology/
Brief thoughts on those trying to smear Corbyn with anti-semitism (written before the most current events)
[Edited to add more links:]
Ken Livingstone’s ‘Nazi’ Comments And Labour’s Subsequent Implosion
Labour antisemitism row: Read the Ken Livingstone interview transcipts in full
Livingstone Hitler comments ‘inaccurate’ (dishonest debunker that starts by supposing Livingstone was somehow wrong to refer to “Israel” before it existed)
[Edit 2 to add more links and fix some existing links that were fine in preview but reverted to plain text on publication]
The multiple truths of the Labour antisemitism story https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/multiple-truths-of-labour-antisemitism-story
The Labour party suspends Ken Livingstone, but Twitter isn’t buying it
How to Criticize Israel Without Being Anti-Semitic http://this-is-not-jewish.tumblr.com/post/34344324495/how-to-criticize-israel-without-being-anti-semitic
MALIA BOUATTIA, ANTI-SEMITISM AND ZIONISM: WHY CAN NO ONE CRITICISE THE STATE OF ISRAEL? http://www.consented.co.uk/read/malia-bouattia-anti-semitism-and-zionism-why-can-no-one-criticise-the-state-of-israel/
John Prescott says some ‘bitter’ Blairites are trying to sabotage Labour’s election chances
Why I called Ken Livingstone a Nazi apologist by Labour MP John Mann – John Mann. (Comprehension fail: “Livingstone claims that Hitler’s policies were Zionist. ” Hard to tell if this man is a fool or a villain; I wouldn’t want him for my MP in either case.)
Ken Livingstone must be expelled from party, Labour MPs demand http://labourlist.org/2016/04/ken-livingstone-must-be-expelled-from-party-labour-mps-demand/
And finally, for now
The Left’s hatred of Jews chills me to the bone http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/04/28/the-lefts-hatred-of-jews-chills-me-to-the-bone/
[Edit 3: yet more links]
Labour, antisemitism and where Jeremy Corbyn goes from here (letters) http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/apr/29/labour-antisemitism-and-where-jeremy-corbyn-goes-from-here?CMP=share_btn_tw
Jeremy Corbyn sets up inquiry into Labour antisemitism claims
[From here on down, seen on 30 April]
No, I haven’t read all of these fully or attentively, I don’t approve or oppose any of them, and any comments or notes I might add are early reactions subject to reconsideration.
John Mann Is Not A Hero. He’s A Bully.
My plea to the left: treat Jews the same way you’d treat any other minority
UK Labor Party Witch Hunt: “Are You Now or Have You Ever Been Anti-Zionist?” http://www.richardsilverstein.com/2016/04/30/uk-labor-party-witch-hunt-are-you-now-or-have-you-ever-been-anti-zionist/
Ken Livingstone blames ’embittered Blairite MPs’ for antisemitism row
KEN LIVINGSTONE: GOBSHITE YES, ANTISEMITE NO https://jamiesternweiner.wordpress.com/2016/04/29/ken-livingstone-gobshite-yes-antisemite-no/
THE ANTI-SEMITISM “CRISIS” – I WANT TO THANK JOHN MANN AND THE MEDIA.
Antisemitism, Islamophobia and criticism of Israel
[Edit 4: more links. Sigh. I suppose they will keep this up until the elections on Thursday. Some of the article headings are getting very SHOUTY.]
LABOUR’S ANTISEMITISM PROBLEM http://stumblingandmumbling.typepad.com/stumbling_and_mumbling/2016/05/labours-ant-semitism-problem.html
New McCarthyism: Is London’s ‘anti-Semitic’ scandal a move against Jeremy Corbyn?
[Monday. The new links seem to be slowing down, but so am I]
The Left’s problem with Anti-Semitism
Any cursory glance at social media over the past week will show you just how many of Corbyn’s supporters want to see Israel overthrown and something like the old PLO solution imposed.
I haven’t seen anything nearly so forthright. I have seen suggestions that questioning the existence of Israel in its current form may not be entirely unthinkable, plus the Shah/Finkelstein meme about relocating Israel to the USA. Which is probably not a plan anyone seriously wants to advocate.
Context from 2002: Terms of abuse
A New Low For The Labour Right https://morningstaronline.co.uk/a-d04e-A-new-low-for-the-Labour-right#.VyeWf_krK01
[From here, seen on Tuesday.]
Maxine Peake: ‘Being pro-Palestine is not anti-Semitic’ https://inews.co.uk/essentials/news/politics/maxine-peake-pro-palestine-not-anti-semitic/
[Edit 5 from here]
How to Criticise Israel Without Being a Dick
Why the Left must stop talking about ‘Zionism’ http://www.leftfutures.org/2016/05/why-the-left-must-stop-talking-about-zionism/
Alf Dubs: ‘Antisemitism, Islamophobia and racism are all equally abhorrent’
Hitler and the Zionists http://timescolumns.typepad.com/stothard/2016/04/hitler-and-the-zionists.html
Ken Livingstone isn’t on trial, Zionism is http://ahtribune.com/world/europe/862-ken-livingstone.html
The American Jewish scholar behind Labour’s ‘antisemitism’ scandal breaks his silence
Britain’s Cointelpro – How the Israeli Embassy and Guido Fawkes destabilised the Labour Party http://azvsas.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/britains-cointelpro-how-israeli-embassy.html
And that’s that, I think. It’s election day – Britain is voting variously for councillors, mayors, police commissioners and devolved governments. This issue will rumble on – the smears will continue, the Chakrabarti investigation will eventually deliver a result, and the measure of its success will be how firmly the accusations of whitewash and witch-hunt can be made to stick; some will continue to believe Labour has a minor but important problem, others will insist Labour is existentially flawed and deserves no decent person’s vote. But at this point the brouhaha has either done or failed to do the intended harm to Labour. I’d like today to give a serious setback both to the parasitic elite and its commensals in the Tory party, and to their deeply deluded (or cynical) emulators in Labour. Probably it won’t be nearly as good as that, but let’s hope it won’t be much worse.