This terrific article by Jonathan Rosenhead makes some useful comments about the reasons behind the rise of anti-Semitism allegations against members of the Labour Party – especially those supporting Jeremy Corbyn.
The original article contains a large amount of information that This Blog has already covered, so I’ll cut to the new stuff. Read the rest by clicking on the link at the bottom.
[Jeremy] Newmark is a man with a mission. It seems to be the identification and rooting out of antisemitism. And his arrival on the national Labour Party scene has coincided with the uproar about left antisemitism.
What surge in antisemitism? We do know that antisemitic incidents reported in the UK in the first 6 months of this year, as recorded by the Community Security Trust, rose by 15% above those for the previous year. But percentage changes like these tell only part of the story. The actual number of such incidents recorded for the first half of 2016 was 557. And that figure is still below that for 2014, which were boosted by the Israeli assault on Gaza, so no surge.
Is it possible that despite the low levels of antisemitic behaviour in the general population there is significant antisemitism within the left and specifically the Labour Party? Attempts have been made to show that such views are either historically endemic on the left, or brought on by the Corbyn ascendency (that these explanations are mutually contradictory is glossed over).
The group Free Speech on Israel coalesced in April out of a loosely-knit band of Jewish Labour Party supporters. Some 15 of us got together at a couple of days’ notice for the inaugural gathering. We found that over our lifetimes we could muster only a handful of antisemitic experiences between us. And, crucially, although in aggregate we had around 1000 years of Labour Party membership, no single one of us had ever experienced an incident of antisemitism in the Party.
How then do we make sense of a ‘crisis’ for which evidence is so lacking? Well, one solution if you want a crisis and lack enough evidence is to invent some. Another is to redefine innocent behaviour as evidence of criminal intent.
As long ago as April a report in openDemocracy on accusations of antisemitism which led to early suspensions showed that nearly all of them related to remarks that people made, not about Jews, but about Israel and Zionism. Historical Facebook postings and Twitter feeds had been ransacked (by whom?) to find a careless nuance. A Labour member using the word ‘Zionist’ as a purely descriptive adjective in a tweet can be treated as a suspected antisemite for it (I refer to the case of the Vice-Chair of my own constituency Labour Party, still suspended as I write).
It is impossible to know from the outside exactly what and who have made this moral panic go with such a swing. Key individuals may well be Jeremy Newmark, well-placed in JLM, though only just in time, to fan these flames. The wily Mark Regev took up his post as Israeli ambassador in London at the start of April. In July Ella Rose left her job as public affairs officer at the Israeli Embassy to become Director of JLM. Who knows? Organisationally, judging by their public pronouncements there is an at least informal coalition of forces involving JLM, Progress (the Blairite pressure group), and Labour Friends of Israel which have all been promoting the idea that the left is permeated with antisemitism.
What has made this alignment of forces a natural is that they have all wanted the same thing – the ejection of Jeremy Corbyn from the Labour leadership.
All the significant Jewish community organisations, now including JLM, sing from the same psalm book – the refrain is that an attachment to Israel is an integral part of Jewish identity in the twenty-first century.
So – if attacks on Israel’s Zionist project of securing the maximum territory with the minimum number of Palestinians can be construed as antisemitic, and this can somehow be blamed on Corbyn, everyone gains.
Join the Vox Political Facebook page.
If you have appreciated this article, don’t forget to share it using the buttons at the bottom of this page. Politics is about everybody – so let’s try to get everybody involved!
Vox Political needs your help!
If you want to support this site
(but don’t want to give your money to advertisers)
you can make a one-off donation here:
Buy Vox Political books so we can continue
fighting for the facts.
The Livingstone Presumption is now available
in either print or eBook format here:
Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here:
The first collection, Strong Words and Hard Times,
is still available in either print or eBook format here: