Is Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of Britain’s Labour Party, an anti-Semite? Even his critics have charged that his friends are anti-Semites, that he swims in a sewer of antisemitism. But — they say — he himself “does not have an anti-Semitic bone in his body.”
Corbyn himself blames ‘pockets’ of antisemitism in the Labour Party, as if there are just a few bad apples in the barrel.
But the open letter which the Board of Deputies and the JLC have sent, declaring ‘Enough is enough’ when it comes to the Labour Party’s antisemitism problem, seems to hit the nail on the head:
He is so ideologically fixed within a far left worldview that is instinctively hostile to mainstream Jewish communities.
When Jews complain about an obviously anti-Semitic mural in Tower Hamlets, Corbyn of course supports the artist. Hizbollah commits terrorist atrocities against Jews, but Corbyn calls them his friends and attends pro-Hizbollah rallies in London. Exactly the same goes for Hamas. Raed Salah says Jews kill Christian children to drink their blood. Corbyn opposes his extradition and invites him for tea at the House of Commons. These are not the only cases. He is repeatedly found alongside people with blatantly anti-Semitic views, but claims never to hear or read them.
Again and again, Jeremy Corbyn has sided with anti-Semites rather than Jews. At best, this derives from the far left’s obsessive hatred of Zionism, Zionists and Israel. At worst, it suggests a conspiratorial worldview in which mainstream Jewish communities are believed to be a hostile entity, a class enemy.
What is this far-left world view?
It is that Israel is a settler colonial state, populated by Jews from Europe and America. The idea gained credence after 1967, when Israel established ‘settlements’ on territory it had conquered. (Only colonialists do that.) Exaggerated and conspiratorial theories of Jewish power are then applied to Israel, the Jew among states, to constitute what has been termed ‘antisemitic anti-Zionism’.
This is not to say that the left was never anti-Jewish. Indeed the left has an ignoble tradition of antisemitism, often described as the ‘socialism of fools’. If class warfare is the engine of history, Communism has long viewed Jews as capitalists exploiting the workers.
Class conflict has today been replaced with conflict between nations and ethnicities. The litmus test of contemporary leftism and liberalism is devotion to the Palestinian David’s struggle against the Israeli Goliath. The theories of Jean-François Revel, Michel Foucault and Edward Said hover in the background of many a ‘progressive’ Westerner’s’ views of the Middle East. In the 1970s, Israel became the main focus for the ‘anti-imperialism of idiots’ when vicious, well- funded and long-running anti-Zionist campaigns were conducted by the Soviet Union. Even culturally, Israelis are accused of appropriating Arab foods, such as falafel and hummus, although Middle Eastern Jews – now comprising over 50 percent of the Jews of Israel – have been eating them for centuries, if not millennia.
Despising narrow national solutions – denied to Jews although not to Palestinians – gives New Leftists with an agenda to ‘bash’ Israel a free pass. While the ‘bash-Israel’ brigade pour over every flaw and imperfection of the Jewish state, ‘Third Worldism’ makes people in the West inclined to overlook the misdeeds of Arab and Muslim states or to indulge in apologetics for them. To give a flagrant example, the Taubira law memorialising slavery (adopted in France in 2001) mentioned the 11 million victims of the transatlantic slave trade, while ignoring the 17 million slaves trafficked by Arabs and Muslims.
Leftwing journalists and politicians suffer from a kind of guilt about being white and Western, and the history of their own colonisation. Israel is perceived as a white country and the Palestinians are perceived as non-white. It is conveniently forgotten that the seventh century Arab conquest and spread of Islam was classic imperialism. But the theory that Israel is a colonialist and imperialist interloper only works if vital information is suppressed – that Israel is a de facto Middle Eastern nation; that indigenous Jews, resident in the region 1,000 years before Islam, were colonised and ultimately victimised by Arab and Muslim racism, and more were driven out by their neighbours’ genocidal intentions than Palestinian Arabs who fled Israel.
To focus on Arab and Muslim anti-Semitism and the expulsion of their Jews shatters the lens of moral equivalence with which many post-colonials have come to view the conflict, or the moral narcissists who infantilise the Arabs as lacking agency. For the latter, the onus is always on Israel to show initiative and make concessions. Post-colonialism turns the truth on its head: it refuses to see that Arab and Muslim rule is a colonialism that predates Western European colonialism.
So is Jeremy Corbyn an antisemite, or just a friend of antisemites? The problem is not a few bad apples in the barrel. He is the barrel.
Lyn Julius is the author of ‘Uprooted: How 3,000 years of Jewish Civilisation in the Arab world vanished overnight’. Available in paperback and Kindle after 12 April.