A 4,000 word Prospect Magazine article by journalist Jack Shenker (formerly of the Guardian) titled ‘Why Corbynism Matters’ manages – save one fleeting reference – to ignore the antisemitism problem which has engulfed the party since the former backbencher became party leader.
The pro-Corbyn bias in the article is evident early on, when he refers to the ultra-Corbynite Novara Media – whose co-founder, Aaron Bastani, has evoked antisemitic tropes and routinely suggests the Labour antisemitism crisis is a conspiracy to bring down Corbyn – as merely a “left-wing” media outlet. He later lauds Corbynism’s “remarkable” achievements in moving the Overton Window within British political discourse decidedly to the left.
Throughout the piece, Shenker suggests that the hostility towards Corbyn is largely driven not by legitimate disagreement with his radical agenda, or concerns over antisemitism, but from a hostile mainstream media, which he complains is merely interested reporting “in-house gossip and party discord”.
The only reference in the entire article to antisemitism is in this passage:
Indeed, one of the reasons that the ugly debate about anti-semitism within Labour’s ranks reached such a damaging pitch was the leadership’s initial and lamentable withdrawal into a bunker mentality; Momentum, with its reflexive grasp of a more pluralistic politics, reacted much more swiftly to acknowledge and address the issue.
First, the suggestion that Momentum has “addressed the issue” of antisemitism is absurd. Though Momentum did circulate one good video on antisemitism, as Tamara Berens demonstrated in a piece for Mosaic, their activists have often hounded and racially abused Jewish and philosemitic moderate Labour members (and MPs) on social media, and have sometimes argued that the entire antisemitism row is “manufactured”.
[Momentum’s] army of loyal “Corbynistas” targets and abuses the leader’s critics on social media, repeatedly accusing Jewish and/or pro-Israel Labor politicians of harboring “allegiances to a foreign government” and threatening them with punitive action. Its former vice-chair is the American-born black Jewish extremist Jackie Walker, who has echoed Louis Farrakhan’s smear that Jews were the “chief financiers” of the slave trade.
With the aid of Momentum, comparisons of Israel with Nazi Germany, and conspiratorial accusations of Jewish attempts to undermine democracy in the UK, have become commonplace in the party. Last August, the London Jewish Chronicle sent an undercover reporter to a meeting of Momentum addressed by Corbyn’s parliamentary ally Christopher Williamson. When movement activists at the event denounced Corbyn’s Jewish critics as “Israeli foot-soldiers” attempting to supplant British democracy, Williamson responded encouragingly that, while some comments of this kind might be “perceived as anti-Semitic,” they were in fact perfectly legitimate and defensible.
However, even more revealing is how Shenker downplayed the antisemitism problem by framing it as merely an “ugly debate” which “reached a damaging pitch”. The only criticism he levels against Corbyn and his party’s leadership is that they didn’t handle the debate well.
Of course, any serious attempt to contextualise the significance of “Corbynism”, it’s ideological underpinnings, and impact on British political discourse would have to delve deeply into antisemitism within the party, not merely allude to it.
Shenker was apparently uninterested in exploring, for instance, Corbyn’s long history of associating with, defending and outright supporting anti-Semites – including Holocaust deniers and terrorists – throughout his career, and what this disturbing fact says about “Corbynism”.
He similarly ignores the stunning fact that, according to polls, 87% of British Jews believe Corbyn is personally antisemitic, that nearly half (47%) would “seriously consider” emigrating if Corbyn wins on December 12th, that just 7% of British Jews would even consider supporting his Labour Party and that the major British Jewish newspapers have characterised him as representing an existential threat to Jewish life in the UK.
Shenker also omits Corbyn’s legacy within the party in the context of the decision by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to launch a full statutory investigation into antisemitism in the Labour Party – joining the racist BNP as the only British political parties that have ever been the subject of such investigations.
Evidently, the writer views antisemitism within the party under Jeremy Corbyn as a minor detail within his movement. Indeed, if we look at Shenker’s Twitter trail, his dismissal of antisemitism is not at all surprising. In addition to being an enthusiastic demoniser of Israel and open BDS supporter, he’s also praised as Ewa Jasiewicz as “ally in the struggle against anti-Semitism and all forms of racism”
Solidarity with @ewa_jay who is one of the most thoughtful, self-reflective and brilliant community activists that I've ever had the good fortune to know. She's a fantastic ally in the struggle against anti-semitism and all forms of racism and dehumanisation that divide our world
— Jack Shenker (@hackneylad) September 19, 2018
As many of our readers may recall, Jasiewicz is a freelance journalist and activist, who, in 2010, painted “Free Gaza and Palestine, liberate all ghettos” on the wall of the Warsaw Ghetto – an act that the CST characterised as a “breathtaking” abuse of Holocaust memory.
Additionally, Jasiewicz once suggested during the 2nd Intifada that Palestinian terror groups should attack Israeli MKs instead of civilians.
Shenker also once penned a largely positive profile of antisemitic cartoonist Carlos Latuff – in the Guardian, of course.
Whatever Shenker’s motivations, his failure to seriously explore the tsunami of anti-Jewish racism in the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn represents a stunning journalistic abdication.