This week, eight MPs quit the Labour Party, the biggest split in the party since four senior members quit in 1981 to form the Social Democratic Party. All the defecting MPs cited antisemitism in the party as one of their reasons for leaving, with several, including MPs Luciana Berger and Joan Ryan, calling the party institutionally and irredeemably antisemitic under Jeremy Corbyn, who a full 85% of British Jews believe is personally antisemitic.
Enter the Guardian, which published a letter yesterday by 200 pro-Corbyn British Jews, in the context of the MP defections.
Here’s an excerpt:
We believe that the Labour party under the progressive leadership of Jeremy Corbyn is a crucial ally in the fight against bigotry and reaction. His lifetime record of campaigning for equality and human rights, including consistent support for initiatives against antisemitism, is formidable. His involvement strengthens this struggle.
Evidence of Corbyn’s antisemitism is ubiquitous, and includes: his support for countless anti-Semites and violent antisemitic extremists; his initial defence of an antisemitic mural; his co-sponsoring of a bill to eliminate Holocaust Memorial Day because it was ‘too Jewish’ in its focus; his othering of British Jews as not quite English; and his seeming indifference to the cesspit of antisemitism and antisemitic bullying by Labour activists.
The letter makes another point which requires more analysis:
It is in this context that we welcome the Labour party’s endorsement of freedom of expression on Israel and on the rights of Palestinians. Labour is correct to recognise that while prejudice against Jewish people is deplorable, criticism of Israel’s government and policies can and must be made.
The reference to “Palestinians” and “freedom of expression” is important in understanding what lies at the root of this argument, as it sets up the implicit suggestion in the subsequent sentence that Jews who oppose Corbyn are motivated by a desire to stifle “criticism of Israel’s government”. However, in order to more fully understand its significance, you have to go back to the debate last September within Labour over the question of whether to adopt the full IHRA Antisemitism Working Definition, and Corbyn’s proposed amendment, which was rejected by the party’s National Executive Committee.
Here’s the key element of Corbyn’s proposed amendment.
“It [should not] be regarded as antisemitic to describe Israel, its policies or the circumstances around its foundation as racist because of their discriminatory impact, or to support another settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict.”
First, there’s nothing in the IHRA definition prohibiting characterising Israeli policies as racist. But, IHRA does define as antisemitic “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination…by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor”.
Corbyn’s wish to retain the right to call Israel’s very “foundation” – that is, 1948, not 1967 – racist, represents a wish to retain the right to say that the State of Israel is (inherently) “a racist endeavor”, and his desire for the right to advocate for “another settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” is a euphemistic call to protect the ‘right’ to reject the Jewish people’s “right to self-determination”.
In other words, Corbyn and his supporters – including those on the Guardian editorial board, who published an editorial at the time agreeing with Corbyn in stating that the IHRA definition stifles the “Palestinian narrative” – wish to remain free to assert the extremist view that ‘Zionism is racism’ and that, therefore, ‘Israel has no right to exist’.
This in part explains why, no matter how much his defenders try gaslighting British Jews, an overwhelming majority within the community will continue to see the Corbyn-led Labour Party as “institutionally antisemitic”, and a potential Corbyn-led government as nothing short of an existential threat to Jewish life.
- AP corrections on ‘Saudi hostility towards Israel’ (CAMERA)
- BBC News’s inaccurate Palestinian territories profile still stands (BBC Watch)
- Guardian promotes view that racism is behind criticism of Ilhan Omar (UK Media Watch)
- Corbyn’s Labour will never stop gaslighting Jews (Haaretz)