THERE has been an unrelenting attack on Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party and the radical left in general as being anti-Semitic. Yesterday (November 26) the Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, suggested, echoing the Jewish community newspapers, that Mr Corbyn was unfit to be Prime Minister and indeed insinuated the possibility of a Corbyn-led government being an existential threat to Jews.
As a Jewish socialist academic and activist, let me begin by saying that rooting out anti-Semitism wherever we find it is an essential responsibility for the left. Anti-Semitism is deadly not just for Jews, but for everyone. Not only is it morally unacceptable, but it makes it harder to develop unity and radical alternatives if these ideas take hold. Anti-Semitic comments anywhere should rightly be condemned. We need to understand that for almost all Jews the memory of antisemitism and genocide in Europe was and remains traumatic.
That being said, the concentration on the left is in the face of all the evidence, which suggests that attacks on Jews come overwhelmingly from the far right. The violent anti-Semitic actions in the United States, in Halle in Germany, the desecrations of Jewish cemeteries and synagogues with swastikas in the US, Europe and here in the UK, and the statements and tropes from politicians in far right parties in Europe has been highlighted by the Community Security Trust in UK and by the World Jewish Congress. The Congress indeed reports that in 2017, more than 90 per cent of anti-Semitic social media posts in the UK were by white males with far right connections and sympathies. The results of the UK-wide Social Attitudes Survey suggests that anti-Semitism is four times more prevalent in those attracted to the right than to the left.
So, why all the attention on the left as anti-Semitic? First, some in the media and on the right, including some Labour Party members, see it as part of a general foulness of left politics and thus seek to undermine the left in general; secondly, we are in a General Election campaign and there are many across the spectrum who fear the radical elements in Labour’s programme and seek to discredit it; thirdly, the national Social Attitudes Survey also showed that criticism of Israel and Zionism was more prevalent amongst the left. Thus, there is an agenda to discredit those of us on the Left who make legitimate criticisms of Israeli policy or Zionism as a political ideology, by arguing that critique of such is overt or secret anti-Semitism.
This has muffled criticism of Israel and has been successful. Sniper shootings on the Gaza border fence, the march by Ethiopian Jews in Israel complaining about the racism they face, the ongoing settlement policy, making peace negotiations highly problematic, nationality laws stripping some Israeli Arabs of rights – all go virtually uncriticised in an atmosphere where critics are worried about being labelled anti-semitic. And, of course, two final ironies: firstl one of the main left supporters of the now problematic two-states solution in Israel/Palestine is Mr Corbyn; secondly, who gets let off the hook in this over-concentration on Mr Corbyn? The racist, anti-Semitic far right.
Henry Maitles, Emeritus Professor of Education, University of the West of Scotland, Ayr.
HOW “complicit in prejudice” would a leader of the UK’s Jewish community have to be to be considered unfit for office? What if he were to abuse his position to push his own Tory political agenda by promoting a political smear campaign that does not stand up to any serious investigation? What if, by doing so, he stokes real but unfounded fear within the Jewish community? And what if his intervention enables the election of another right-wing government that is full of actual racists, consorts with openly racist parties, and promotes the economic inequality on which racism thrives?
For me, as for many other Jews, including Jewish members of the Labour Party, it is the possibility of a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour Government in Westminster that represents a source of hope, while the prospect of another Tory government is seriously terrifying. Because I agree with the Chief Rabbi on one thing: the very soul of our nation is at stake.
Sarah Glynn, Dundee DD5.
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