Jack Mendel
Online Editor at Jewish News

Why Jeremy Corbyn is at an ideological crossroads on anti-Semitism

Labour’s problems with anti-Semitism have been analysed to death, but ultimately it comes down to a basic issue of trust.

Simply put, does the party accept the Jewish community’s word when it says it feels it’s the victim of anti-Semitism.

At the moment, the only answer is no. The Jewish community can’t trust Labour to take its word on anti-Semitism. When a claim is made about someone is being anti-Semitic, the community’s sincerity is questioned.

Either our allegations are dismissed as being some kind of cover for Israel (needless to say), or it’s somehow politically motivated by some other means.

And therefore, many in the community don’t trust Labour to fight anti-Semitism on our behalf anymore, which is why so many have left or stopped supporting.

Labour must remember though – racism is defined by the victim’s experience.

Identifying it as a problem is based on the victim saying ‘someone is being racist towards me’.

This week, Naz Shah apologised for sharing a post which she and the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said was anti-Semitic.

The post called for the mass transportation of Israelis to America as a solution to the Middle East problem.

It used a dark parallel akin to that of the the Nazis, and other posts also spoke about “Jews rallying”.

Despite this ugly episode, in the long run, it’s a positive thing for trust, that she, and credit where it’s due, Corbyn accepted the community’s word when claim about the post being anti-Semitic was made.

On numerous claims beforehand, this would have been dismissed as purely anti-Israel and not anti-Semitic.

Jeremy Corbyn is however at an ideological crossroads.

Some like Shah accept this type of rhetoric as discriminatory. Others, don’t,

For the ‘hard-left’ like Ken Livingstone and George Galloway regardless of the fact Jews found that the post that Shah shared as being anti-Semitic, it isn’t according to them.

And this rejection of it as thing, is a problem. It’s tantamount to anti-Semitism denial.

On social media, Naz Shah’s apology was met by endless tweets along the lines of “anti-Semitism isn’t the same as anti-Zionism”. The inference being, that this wasn’t anti-Semitism – and was an attempt to use a fabricated claims to argue for Israel.

An entirely factious and false assertion.  

Ken Livingstone outlined this, saying: “What she (Naz Shah) said was over the top and offensive, but it wasn’t anti-Semitic,” before adding that “There’s an awful lot of people trying to make this a big issue.”

And, George Galloway penned an article doing the same.

He concluded: “If we allow false charges of anti-Semitism to be the rope to hang Corbyn, everything will be lost. Which is, why, of course the Israel lobby is trying so very very hard.”

Our community and Shah and Corbyn have both accepted it was a racist post, but for these two it’s just not anti-Semitic enough.

The question is what does Corbyn do? Does he go with his long term allies, or the truth?

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said about anti-Semitism: “If people express these views, full stop they’re out”. Many have been suspended and disciplined.

When the next case inevitably comes up, does Corbyn continue to take seriously the word of the alleged victim of anti-Semitism, like he would do in any other case of alleged racism? Or does think it’s being used as some kind of political weapon?

If the former, trust may be rebuilt.

If the latter, it will continue to disintegrate, and Jews will continue to suffer anti-Semitism, even if that isn’t anti-Semitic enough for Ken and George.

About the Author
Jack Mendel is Online Editor at Jewish News UK
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