The Times on Aug. 24th published an extract from a soon to be published book by Gabriel Pogrund and Patrick Maguire titled “Left Out: the Inside Story of Labour Under Corbyn”, which included this:
A question that troubled some was whether Corbyn categorised antisemitism as the kind of racism he had always set himself against. Andrew Murray, the trade unionist, said: “He is very empathetic, Jeremy, but he’s empathetic with the poor, the disadvantaged, the migrant, the marginalised . . . Happily, that is not the Jewish community in Britain today. He would have had massive empathy with the Jewish community in Britain in the 1930s and he would have been there at Cable Street, there’s no question. But, of course, the Jewish community today is relatively prosperous.”
For Murray, the fact that antisemitism and economic exploitation were not necessarily entwined posed a difficult question for many on the left: “Racism in British society since the Second World War — what does it mean? It means discrimination at work, discrimination in housing, hounding by the police on the streets, discrimination and disadvantage in education, demonisation and mischaracterisation in the mass media. That is what has happened to Afro-Caribbean and Asian immigrants and their descendants. It is not, mainly, what has happened to Jewish people. The fascists I knew in the 1970s didn’t go out Jew-hunting, they went out Paki-bashing. For a whole generation — that’s now quite an influential cohort in the Labour Party and around Jeremy personally — that is what racism is. They would say, ‘Of course, Jewish migrants to Britain in the first half of the 20th century — they lived in appalling conditions. They had it rough, they were attacked by the fascists. But, you know, that was then. The Jewish community’s moved on. It’s developed, it’s integrated and . . .’ This is where the failure to understand comes in — that, actually, antisemitism has different aspects to other forms of racism.” Many wondered, therefore, not whether Corbyn would empathise, but whether he could.
Those who have access to the Times article should read the rest of Murray’s comments, as well as this trenchant Twitter critique by CST’s Dave Rich of Murray’s sudden insight into the antisemitism he’s been dismissing for years.
However, whilst some on Twitter framed Murray’s characterisation of Jews as prosperous as, in itself, antisemitic, we think that misses the point. Though it’s of course true that not all Jews in Israel and the diaspora are economically successful, simply acknowledging the fact that Jews, overall, have been far more prosperous in the late 20th century and early 21st century than they were in previous generations is not racist.
No, we think the more important take-away from Murray’s observation is that, for Corbyn and much of the hard left, Jewish and Israeli achievement is not seen as a commendable example of the power of historically oppressed people persevering, and finding a way to overcome centuries of racism – a minority success story to be emulated.
Rather, in their facile understanding of the connection between power and oppression, the strength, success and cohesion of many Jewish communities across the globe, despite their minuscule numbers, is mistakenly viewed as evidence that they can no longer be victims of racism. In this view, Jews’ increased confidence and elevated status, along with the distorted framing of Jews as ‘white people’, places them on the wrong side of both the progressive colour line and the ‘oppressor-oppressed’ divide.
Though, contrary to Murray’s claim, Jews are certainly still clearly the objects of “demonisation and mischaracterisation in the mass media”, and, as CST reports demonstrate, are still the victims of a highly disproportionate amount of racism in the UK, he’s correct that “the Jewish community’s moved on”, which, perhaps, helps explain some of Jeremy Corbyn’s hostility to the Jewish community.
Jews’ auto-emancipation – both in Leo Pinsker’s literal sense, in the re-establishment of a Jewish homeland, and more broadly in the relative success and self-sufficiency of diaspora Jewish communities – has rendered this ‘once’ oppressed community, in the eyes of the Corbyn Left, at best irrelevant, and, more often, in the rejection of their socialist, revolutionary, anti-imperialist, (and, of course, anti-Zionist) agenda, an obstacle to ‘progress’.
Though Corbyn may identify, at least in the abstract, with ghetto Jews of pre-emancipation Europe, Cable Street Jews of 1930s Britain, and mass murdered Jews of Auschwitz, today’s free, empowered and proudly Zionist Jews fail to evoke his moral sympathy.
Jews, comfortable in their own agency, and schooled in the harsh realities of their history, have decided that the nitty-gritty, morally complex, quotidian necessities of collective survival are far preferable than to be victims who are the posthumous recipients of progressive adulation.
Jeremy Corbyn will go to his grave refusing to forgive Jews for this unpardonable sin.