Labour’s intersection of antisemitism and misogyny

Ruth Smeeth (left) and Dame Margaret Hodge (right) have been at the forefront of the community's fight against antisemitism in Labour, and have suffered abuse, including death threats.
Ruth Smeeth (left) and Dame Margaret Hodge (right) have been at the forefront of the community's fight against antisemitism in Labour, and have suffered abuse, including death threats.

The Labour Party has finally suspended a member who abused two MPs, Ruth Smeeth and Dame Margaret Hodge, as ‘a couple of s**t-stirring c*m buckets bought and paid for by Israel’.

Something happens at the intersection of antisemitism and misogyny which creates a fury greater than the sum of its parts and which drips with sexual violence.

The party only suspended this abuser after the case was leaked to the Sunday Times, which reported that Thomas Gardiner, ‘a Corbyn ally and the powerful chief of Labour’s governance and legal unit’, frustrated efforts by a member of his staff to fast-track the investigation of this incident.

He didn’t want this incident to jump the queue. No special favours for Ruth and Margaret. Do they think they’re something special?

Ruth Smeeth WhatsApped Jeremy Corbyn personally to ask him what he was going to do about this. She got two ticks but no response. And her mother had to read it in the paper over her cornflakes on Sunday morning.

Last week a Labour Party staff member secretly leaked emails to the Sunday Times which proved that the Labour machine is unwilling and unable to deal with the hundreds of cases of explicit antisemitism which have been reported to it.

They also demonstrated that while the leader of the party says that dealing with these cases is not his job, his private office takes a keen interest. It has intervened in the process to help some of Corbyn’s allies who have allowed their antisemitism to slip into the open.

We knew that the Labour machine would turn ferociously against the whistle-blower within its own staff. Institutional racism requires a strict policing of the boundaries between ‘inside’ and ‘outside’. What passes for normal ‘inside’ must be kept separate from the outside world where it would easily be recognised as racist.

I myself am still banned from the email discussions within my own trade union, after having published some of the antisemitic material there which was considered legitimate by the internal union culture. That was in 2008, that is so far, an eleven-year sentence.

Everybody who gets expelled from Labour for antisemitism joins a growing mob of other furious, resentful individuals. They accuse Corbyn of bending to Zionist power; and they nurture a growing faction of comrades still in the party who support them.

Every expulsion and every protest against antisemitism is greeted with howls of fresh antisemitic abuse. Just look at the vileness of the comments which attach to any article or tweet which exposes or protests against antisemitism.

Expulsions significantly miss the point. The antisemitism that is recognisable to everybody is only a side-effect of the hidden and deep political problem on the left.

Like a black hole, you cannot see institutional antisemitism. Katie Bouman’s picture of the black hole shows us its shape only by allowing us to see what it causes around itself.

Google her name and you find this in some disgusting corner of the web: “Don’t really have any evidence besides she looks jewish, went to (((Harvard))), and last name is (((Bouman))). F*****g Zio-Media. Any goats have any confirmation that she is an oven-dodger?” There is something about the success of an intelligent and tough Jewish woman which is unendurable to today’s antisemtic incel.

Labour’s problem is not the antisemitic apples but the institutional barrel which turns them bad. Today’s British left thinks it understands institutional racism but with its own antisemitism it forgets everything it knows.

Like anybody who is in denial, the labour movement keeps imagining it can fix itself. The beginning of the way out is to admit that it has a problem. But it won’t and it can’t.

The Jewish community still loves Labour in its heart; it remembers that its parents and grandparents were poor and were refugees; some worked their way out but many of us are still working hard to live, like anybody else. The community yearns for a politics which heals the country, which looks after the less fortunate, which pours love, intellect and resources into health and education; which reaches out across Europe and the world in peace and co-operation. It remembers a Labour whose heart sang at the knowledge of Jewish survival and renewal; and much of this is in Israel. And it remembers a Labour which guarded the sphere of freedom and which nurtured and respected creativity and success.

Jews are itching to help heal Labour, but Labour needs to ask for their help. And Labour won’t. Because the Labour we love is the Labour of our nostalgic dreams; it existed in some ways and at some times; but for the moment it is gone.

It is replaced by the socialism of our nightmares; the socialism which held us responsible for capitalism; the socialism from which our grandparents fled; the socialism of the gulag. This socialism is the one which after embracing us as its activists and intellectuals, turned on us in resentful fury, saying we weren’t part of the movement, we were rootless and cosmopolitan, loyal only to our own kind; the socialism which thought of us as too clever by half; which said that we betrayed ‘the people’, as though we were not ourselves part of ‘the people’.

And now British socialism makes Jews symbolic of imperialism, apartheid and racism. It makes them again, the embodiment of everything to be feared, uncovered and rooted out. And sexism, which was never fully rooted out of the left, oozes out of the dark corners of the new macho totalitarian thinking too. And the two vilenesses find each other and they come together and they form hateful unions which are worse than the sum of their already frightening parts.

About the Author
David Hirsh, Sociology Lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London Author of the new book: 'Contemporary Left Antisemitism'.
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