“The idea that the Labour party is antisemitic is very much an Israeli lobby kind of idea.” So said Dr. Goldie Osuri of Warwick University in a lecture. A Jewish Society officer then complained to the university authorities on behalf of one of the students listening to her talking, who wanted to remain anonymous.
Now at this point I have to declare an interest. The Jewish Society officer is my grandson. Such nachas!
The university authorities then investigated the grandson after the lecturer accused him of making a vexatious complaint, even though he was just acting on behalf of a member of his society. The man on the Clapham omnibus would say he acted entirely properly. The university eventually found everybody not guilty and stated that antisemitism would not be tolerated.
What Dr. Osuri was suggesting is that the Israelis want to discredit the Labour party. Now why would they want to do that? They have cooperated together since they were both nipper organisations a hundred years ago. The Jewish Labour movement has been associated with the Labour party since 1920. Ramsay Macdonald, Clement Attlee, Hugh Gaitskill, Harold Wilson, Neil Kinnock, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, they all have praised the contribution the Jewish Labour Movement has made to the party. Why. would the Israelis want Her Majesty’s opposition and, therefore, potential government, to be discredited?
The recent government enquiry says that Labour has been antisemitic under Corbyn’s leadership. Are the Israelis supposed to have got to that impartial organisation as well? Wouldn’t the Russian lobby have prevented that? The Labour leadership today don’t think the report was inaccurate; they have accepted the commission’s decision unreservedly. The members of the Commission have impeccable records of impartiality over donkey’s years. Nobody has questioned their credentials.
The key word is “lobby”. The implied accusation is that a lobby is, automatically, a bad thing, but every country wants to put forward its point of view; dictatorships, oligarchies, cabals. When the British point of view is put forward by British Council offices all over the world, nobody blames the Americans because it’s just normal practice. There is a British lobby. Why are the Israelis supposed to be any different?
Look at it from the other point of view. What about an Iranian lobby. They accuse the Americans of every crime under the sun and make no secret of their ambition to destroy Israel. Is it so wrong to suggest that this is not the policy of a civilised country? Is that an Israeli lobby kind of idea too? Mind you, for all I know Dr. Osuri may be just as critical abut the Iranians as about the Israelis.
What is certainly true is that modern technology has made the spreading of fake news much easier. Social media is, of course, another outlet for fake news. So, agreed we have to become even more cynical but the truth will emerge in due course.
Let me give you an example. Dunkirk was 80 years ago. To the British, Dunkirk was a magnificent retreat against overwhelming odds. To the French it was a betrayal by the British who ran away. To the Germans it was a terrible mistake by Hitler, who stopped the German army reaching Dunkirk before the British and wiping them out. Hitler wanted to attack Russia and didn’t believe the British would sue for peace if he destroyed the army.
So which account is the true one? The German. Von Runstedt could have got to Dunkirk before the British and was halted by Hitler. Why the blunder? Shakespeare knew: “Those who the Gods wish to destroy they first make mad.”
Of course the Community Security Trust is right to attack a growth in antisemitic incidents on campus. In the last two years there have been 123 reports; 60 a year, but there are hundreds of universities and colleges. It is quite obvious that every possible point of view is going to be held by somebody on every campus. Students, very obviously, aren’t stupid though.
What is needed is for both sides of the argument to get a fair hearing. That’s what Union Society debates were for in my day, properly reported in student newspapers. Now if, today, they were under attack as vexatious, that’s when I take to the barricades.
Well done my grandson.