The problem of antisemitism is not invented by Jews to smear the left

It is wrong to say that there is no antisemitism in the Labour Party, and that this current crisis is a storm, manufactured by Jews, to silence criticism of Israel and to benefit the Tories. These are not random bad apples in a Labour barrel. They are important because they are manifestations of a way that many people, including the leader, thinks about Israel and the Jews who relate to Israel.

This post was written by David Hirsh and was originally published at the blog Engage. 

George Galloway tweeted: “The Israel lobby has just destroyed the Labour Party. At least this Labour Party. It is an amazing achievement. They’ll be dancing in Dimona”

Alex Callinicos writes: “What’s driving the Labour right’s assault on Jeremy Corbyn over antisemitism—sheer opportunism or ideology?”

Lauren Booth tweets: “@UKLabour has proved itself sadly weak at its core by suspending two MPs at the behest of zio lobby”.

Len McCluskey : The row over anti-Semitism within the Labour Party is nothing more than a “cynical attempt” to challenge Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

Michael White tweets: “Will someone point out to the idiots that latest anti-Semitism row was launched by Tory blogger, Guido Fawkes & promoted by Mail on Sunday”

Adam Sutcliffe writes: “It has been quite clearly shown that recent allegations that antisemitism is rife in Labour have been extremely inflated.”

Independent Jewish Voices: “Allegations of antisemitism foster an atmosphere increasingly hostile to  those fighting for the rights of Palestinians.”

Jewish Socialist Group: “Accusations of antisemitism are currently being weaponised to attack the Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour party with claims that Labour has a “problem” of antisemitism.”

Steve Richards: “Never-ending headlines about Naz Shah and Ken Livingstone are damaging, but this is hysteria based on flimsy evidence.”

Asa Winstanley: “How Israel lobby manufactured UK Labour Party’s anti-Semitism crisis.”

Stop the War: “…does not accept the attempt to silence criticism of Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people, or smearing with the charge of anti-Semitism anyone opposing the political project of Israeli expansionism.”

But there is antisemitism on the left.  The campaign to exclude Israelis, and only Israelis, from the global academic, sporting, artistic and economic community is antisemitic.  It singles out Israel for unique punishment and it finds all Israelis, and the Jews who are said to support them, guilty of the crimes, real or imagined, of their state.  Huge and emotional hostility to Israel creates antisemitic discourse and fosters an institutional antisemitism of norms and practices in the left.  This has been manifested recently in a number of clear examples.

  1. The election to leader of the Labour Party of Jeremy Corbyn:
    • Presented a show on Press TV, Iran’s antisemitic propaganda channel.
    • Was Patron of the “Palestine Solidarity Campaign” which fights for a boycott of Israel and which tolerates antisemitism within its ranks.
    • Says that Hamas and Hezbollah are dedicated to the good of the Palestinian people and to social and political justice.
    • Jumped to the defence of antisemites, Raed Salah who indulged in medieval blood libel and Stephen Sizer who said that Israel was behind 9/11.
    • Does not say anything when a 911 truther and associate of David Duke, who he’s sharing a platform with, defends Palestinian terrorism.
    • Continued to support “Deir Yassin Remembered” even when it was well known that it was run by a Holocaust Denier.
    • Agreed to speak alongside Carlos Latuff, 2nd prize winner in Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial cartoon competition.
    • Agreed to speak alongside Azzam Tamimi, who said that he’d like to have been a suicide bomber against Israel.
    • Addressed a LaRouche front organisation in Australia.
    • Called for an official inquiry into “pro-Israel” influence in the Foreign Office.
    • Celebrated the anniversary of the Iranian revolution at an event called to “commemorate the auspicious anniversary of the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran”.
  2. Norman Finkelstein’s cartoon depicting the ethnic cleansing of Israel and the ‘transportation’ of all Jews there to America was shared on Facebook by Naz Shah, who was to become a Labour MP and also by a number of Labour councillors including Blackburn mayor Salim Mulla, who also said that Israel was behind ISIS, and Ilyas Aziz who also posted images appearing to call for Jews to “stop drinking Gaza blood”.
  3. Ken Livingstone:
    • Said that Hitler supported Zionism.  What better way to bait Jews than to compare them to Nazis?
    • In 1982 the paper that Livingstone edited ran a cartoon depicting the Prime Minister of Israel, Menachem Begin, wearing a Nazi uniform and doing a straight-arm salute, standing on a pile of skulls.
    • Hosted Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi at City Hall.  Qaradawi says that Hitler put the Jews in their place; he described the Holocaust as both exaggerated and also as divine punishment.
    • On March 21 2012, a group of Jewish Labour supporters reported that at “various points in the discussion Ken used the words ‘Zionist’, ‘Jewish’ and ‘Israeli’, interchangeably, as if they meant the same, and did so in a pejorative manner.”  Livingstone told the group that Jews are rich and so are not likely anyway to vote Labour.
    • Ken Livingstone was paid to present a programme on Iran’s antisemitic propaganda channel, Press TV.
    • Persistently put down a Jewish journalist by accusing him of being like a German war criminal.
  4. A co-chair of Oxford University Labour Club resigned, saying that a ‘large proportion’ of members had ‘some kind of problem with Jews’.  Jews were belittled by the epithet ‘Zios’ and taunted by the song: ‘Bombs over Tel Aviv’.
  5. The election of Malia Bouattia as President of NUS.  She supports the campaign of murder against Jewish civilians in Israel.  She refers to a university with a strong Jewish society is a ‘Zionist outpost’.  She talks about “mainstream Zionist-led media outlets”.  She supports a boycott of Israel but of nowhere else.
  6. John Mann, Chair of the All-Party Group against Antisemitism: “I’ve had a number of highly precise threats of violence. I’m going to report this to the police. They are threatening me with physical assault — ‘when I see you I will be punching you’ and worse than that. This shows the mind-set of the mob.”
  7. Muhammed Butt, who is the Lead for Equalities at London Councils, shared a clip on social media that appeared to show a young girl from the Palestinian Authority in a conflict with an Israeli soldier. The clip was captioned at the bottom with the words, “Israel is a terrorist state like ISIS.”
  8. Shah Hussain, a Labour councillor in Burnley, tweeted at Israeli footballer Yossi Benayoun: “you are a complete and utter plonker, you and your country doing the same thing Hitler did to ur race in ww2”.
  9. Khadim Hussain, a Labour councillor and a former Lord Mayor of Bradford, resigned from the party after sharing a Facebook post that said: “Your school education system only tells you about Anne Frank and the six million Zionists that were killed by Hitler.”
  10. John McAuliffe: “The Holocaust has been the most useful political tool of the Zionist government in Israel to establish a financial racket in the West, whereby Israel receives an unlimited sum for the duration of its existence.”
  11. Gerry Downing called for Marxists to ‘address the Jewish question’.
  12. In 2011, Labour MP Sir Gerald Kaufman turned to a neighbour on the Commons benches as pro-Israel MP Louise Ellman rose to speak and muttered: ‘Here we are, the Jews again’. He has a record of talking about the influence of ‘Jewish millionaires’ in UK politics and how the Israeli government exploits Holocaust guilt as justification for their murder of Palestinians.
  13. In 2014, Vicki Kirby, a Labour Parliamentary candidate, was warned by the party for posting antisemitic tweets. ‘We invented Israel when saving them from Hitler, who now seems to be their teacher,’ she wrote. She also asked why ISIS was not attacking the ‘real oppressor’, ‘evil’ Israel.  She also tweeted that Jews have  “big noses” and “slaughter the oppressed”.
  14. In 2011 Labour MP Paul Flynn had said that Matthew Gould, Britain’s first Jewish ambassador to Israel, had “divided loyalties”.
  15. In 2003, Tam Dalyell, accused the Prime Minister Tony Blair of “being unduly influenced by a cabal of Jewish advisers”.
  16. There are press reports that Labour has secretly suspended fifty more Labour members for issues connected with antisemitism.
  17. Labour’s Murad Qureshi, who has already served 12 years on the London Assembly, re-tweeted the claim that Katie Hopkins “is proof positive you can get away with deeply offending anyone in this country as long as they’re not Jewish.”

It is wrong to say that there is no antisemitism in the Labour Party, and that this current crisis is a storm, manufactured by Jews, to silence criticism of Israel and to benefit the Tories.

These are not random bad apples in a Labour barrel.  They are important because they are manifestations of a way that many people, including the leader, thinks about Israel and the Jews who relate to Israel.

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