Yesterday was simply a fascinating day in British politics. On the Tory side, the race for party leader provided several twists and turns. Michael Gove surprised many by announcing his candidacy, and then Boris Johnson unexpectedly bowed out.
In the Labour Party, amid continued calls by an overwhelming majority of his own MPs to stand down, an event to roll out Shami Chakrabarti’s antisemitism report devolved into chaos when a Jewish MP stormed out of the room after being accused by of colluding with the media to undermine Corbyn. An even bigger Labour own-goal was achieved when Corbyn gave a speech interpreted by some as suggesting a comparison between ISIS and Israel.
Here’s the video.
Whilst following tweets by journalists on the ongoing British political drama, I noticed this by former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald
1) Corbyn doesn't speak out on anti-semitism = endorsing it! 2) Corbyn speaks out = admits his supporters hate Jews! https://t.co/jyMyPEd6xj
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) June 30, 2016
Greenwald was responding to a tweet by David Frum arguing that Corbyn’s speech warning about the dangers of embracing antisemitic conspiracy theories could be read as an acknowledgement that such conspiracy theories are broadly held by Labour members.
Regardless of the merit of Frum’s tweet, the audacity of Greenwald commenting on the topic of antisemitism is astonishing, as anyone familiar with his record of engaging in such tropes would understand.
I tweeted this in response.
— Adam Levick (@adamlevick) June 30, 2016
Yes, I know that pieces of garbage like you who use it to smear adversaries have trivialized it & thus made it harder to fight.
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) June 30, 2016
You can see the tweets with truncated quotes, but here are fuller quotes which draw upon the dual loyalty, Jewish power, and Jewish money themes:
- “Large and extremely influential Jewish donor groups are the ones agitating for a US war against Iran, and that is the case because those groups are devoted to promoting Israel’s interests.” – Feb. 3, 2007, Unclaimed Territory
- “So absolute has the Israel-centric stranglehold on American policy been that the U.S. Government has made it illegal to broadcast Hezbollah television stations and has even devoted its resources to criminally prosecuting and imprisoning satellite providers merely for including Hezbollah’s Al Manar channel in their cable package. Not even our Constitution’s First Amendment has been a match for the endless exploitation of American policy, law and resources to target and punish Israel’s enemies.” – March 9, 2009, Salon
- “The real goal [of the Israel lobby], as always, was to ensure that there is no debate over America’s indescribably self-destructive, blind support for Israeli actions. [Charles] Freeman’s critics may have scored a short-term victory in that regard, but the more obvious it becomes what is really driving these scandals, the more difficult it will be to maintain this suffocating control over American debates and American policy.” – March 11, 2009 Salon
- “The point is that the power the [Israel lobby] exercises [is] harmful in the extreme. They use it to squelch debate, destroy the careers and reputations of those who deviate from their orthodoxies, and compel both political parties to maintain strict adherence to an agenda that is held by a minority of Americans; that is principally concerned with the interests of a foreign country; and that results in serious cost and harm to the United States. In doing so, they insure not only that our policies towards Israel remain firmly in place no matter the outcome of our elections, but also that those policies remain beyond the realm of what can be questioned or debated by those who want to have a political future.” – March 11, 2009 Salon
- “Meanwhile, one of the many Israel-Firsters in the U.S. Congress — Rep. Anthony Weiner,last seen lambasting President Obama for daring to publicly mention a difference between the U.S. and Israel — today not only defended Israel’s attack. – June 1, 2010 Salon
- This is a truly disgusting spectacle…commentators — all of whom are writing well within the range of mainstream opinion on Israel — are being publicly smeared early in their careers as anti-Semites as part of a coordinated, ongoing campaign planned by Josh Block and carried out by numerous journalists with large media platforms, and aided and abetted by Jewish groups trading on their credibility to suppress debate. – Jan 19, 2012 Salon
Of course, Greenwald’s political extremism extends far beyond antisemitic canards about the dangers of organized Jewry.
He’s claimed that Hamas and Hezbollah are NOT terrorist organizations. He characterized slain Al Qaeda operative Anwar al-Awaki, who reportedly radicalized Fort Hood terrorist Nidal Hassan, as something akin to a Muslim civil rights activist. And, he was an accomplice in the Snowden affair, a monumental leak of classified documents characterized by one top British security official as “the most catastrophic loss suffered by British intelligence” in history.
Though his hostility to the US and Western democracies, and seeming soft spot for jihadists, is disturbing, and certainly reflective of a radical ideology at odds with mainstream progressive thought, it’s his diatribes about Jewish money, power and loyalty which you’d think would render him toxic to genuine anti-racist progressives.
Indeed, his ‘warnings’ about “large and extremely influential Jewish donor groups agitating for war with Iran” is simply indistinguishable from the rhetoric of the extremist right.
Though writers far more perceptive than I have tried to explain modern left-wing antisemitism, and how a movement born of a passion to fight bigotry in all its forms has developed a dangerous blind spot when it comes to Jews, a memory I have about a peculiar white alibi for racist rhetoric seems instructive in understanding both Greenwald and the antisemitism problem in Corbyn’s Labour Party.
As a teen, I used to play basketball at a Jewish Community Center in my home town of Philadelphia. Though most members were Jewish, there were some non-Jews and a very small number of blacks who were either members or would pay for a day pass to work out or play ball. One day, there was one argument on the court involving a black and a Jew that devolved into name calling and accusations of racism against the Jewish player. What was interesting, however, was how the white Jewish player tried to defend himself. He didn’t deny that he said what he was accused of saying. Rather, he casually dismissed the accusation by exclaiming: “Oh, come on, if it came out of my mouth, you know it can’t be racist.”
Often times it seems that the only difference between far right-wing and far left-wing anti-Semites is that many of the former don’t much care if they’re accused of anti-Jewish racism and may even acknowledge disliking Jews, while many of the later – possessing an immutable belief in their own superior moral virtue – seem to think that if it comes out of their mouth ‘you know it can’t be’ antisemitic.