In Labour’s anti-Semite ‘witch-hunt,’ don’t be surprised when the leadership doesn’t bite its own tail

I wrote this little op-ed before the recent news about IRA glorifying Labour Shadow Cabinet minister John McDonnell emerged just yesterday, and it has turned out to be rather prophetic. McDonnell has gotten himself into a bit of a pickle, yet again, when he was found to have posted links on his webpage to a website with sympathetic tributes to suicide bombers, including one interviewing the family of the Tel Aviv disco bomber Saeed Hotary.

McDonnell, glorify terrorism? Never…

The site he linked to had posts, albeit going way back, which claimed that Israel had no right to exist and, making the country sound like a unwanted item of Ikea furniture, should be “dismantled.” Now, McDonnell was perhaps not aware of this particular post, though I am not sure I have enough faith in his moral and intellectual compass to believe he doesn’t agree with it regardless.

And so, prophetically, I had written unsympathetically:

We have to feel sorry for Labour. The majority of its members are good apples stuck in a steadily rotting basket. To list all of the incidents would be to rehearse all too well known episodes of madness. Jeremy Newark, leader of the Jewish Labour Movement, writing for the Telegraph describes his party’s completely lackadaisical and wrong headed approach to modern anti-Semitism; these things, he says, are simply just not discussed seriously within the party.

One anecdote made the problem very clear: when replying to the question of the problem of anti-Semitism, Corbyn looked back to his mother’s involvement in fighting the Fascists in the “Battle of Cable Street.” As Newark pointed out, his answer left the problem hanging because his anecdotal engagement stopped in 1936. Whenever questioned about anti-Semitism, Corbyn, almost with a swish of the hand, leaps to assurances that he is dealing with Islamophobia and all forms of racism, thereby failing to focus properly on the prejudice that is, as is so obvious to everyone else, plaguing and sinking his party.

The latest scandal before the McDonnell news— it’s simply impossible to keep up! — was that of the membership of Tony Greenstein, who, though vetted out of the Labour party during the run up to the leadership election, has slipped back in unnoticed under Jeremy Corbyn.

Greenstein is reported as having said that the “Zionists collaborated with the Nazis” and that Thatcher was a legitimate target for the IRA. The former Labour Mayor of Bradford has also wiggled out of the woodwork; Khadim Hussain was suspended for promoting anti-Semitic cartoons on social media which conflated Zionists and Jews, claiming that the Holocaust and the “six million Zionists” killed were too much emphasised by teachers.

Recently suspended member Bob Campbell accidentally offered up a lovely metaphor when, claiming that IS was an Israeli project, he proffered that the reason Israel hadn’t been attacked was because “the dog doesn’t bite its own tail.”

When Greenstein appealed through social media at the injustice of his suspension in words that cry “Et tu, Brute?” he wrote, “the sooner that Corbyn gets a grip on the witch-hunters in the party the better.” The fact is, Greenstein expects Corbyn’s defence (or at the very least, not-condemnation and clever footwork) and so should we.

And why wouldn’t Greenstein’s comrade Corbyn feel remorse at his suspension? Why wouldn’t he show sympathy with his plight? Certainly, you can feel Greenstein’s sense of betrayal; Corbyn is a man who appointed someone who praised the IRA (John McDonnell no less!) and another who defended Mao to his Shadow Cabinet, so who could blame Greenstein for having followed Campbell’s logic in thinking that the dog wouldn’t bite its own tail?

About the Author
Emma has an MA Jewish Studies from King's College, London, and a BA Theological and Religious Studies at Trinity College, Cambridge.
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