So, the British Labour Party has barred Jeremy Corbyn from running as Labour’s candidate in the next election on the grounds of – of all things – antisemitism. Corbyn’s, that is.
The dethroning of Corbyn has allowed Keir Starmer to take his place and he, Starmer, is certainly neither willing nor able to rally opposition to the ghastly neoliberal policies that are hurtling the UK back into a pre-war state, a pre-first-World-War state, mind you, as described by Charles Dickens in his heart-rattling novels.
Labour’s strait-jacketing of Jeremy Corbyn on the grounds of his alleged antisemitism was the greatest blessing the top decile could possibly wish for in the UK. The trick will surely be – has already been – copied by powers-that-be in other countries, which is why I am writing this piece.
Just exactly what has Corbyn done? Well, apparently, he failed to take sufficient action in response to complaints against persons in his party; antisemitism complaints. According to Corbyn himself, action was taken, but procedures were initially unclear and the process was sluggish, particularly to begin with.
He is quoted as follows:
Anyone claiming there is no antisemitism in the Labour party is wrong. Of course there is, as there is throughout society, and sometimes it is voiced by people who think of themselves as on the left. Jewish members of our party and the wider community were right to expect us to deal with it, and I regret that it took longer to deliver that change than it shouldhttps://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/oct/29/jeremy-corbyn-rejects-findings-of-report-on-antisemitism-in-labour
The above statement is to some extent corroborated by the so-called “Investigation into antisemitism in the Labour Party”, which was the document that eventually lead to Corbyn’s fall:
While there have been some recent improvements in how the Labour Party deals with antisemitism complaints, our analysis points to a culture within the Party which, at best, did not do enough to prevent antisemitism and, at worst, could be seen to accept ithttps://www.equalityhumanrights.com/sites/default/files/investigation-into-antisemitism-in-the-labour-party.pdf
Now, I haven’t read the entire 130 page document, just leafed through it, as it were, searching for clues as to just how that alleged antisemitism had been expressed. I found no particulars, no details, not even in the chapter starting on page 24 “Acts of unlawful harassment which the Labour Party is responsible for”.
However under the heading on page 8 “Our findings – Unlawful Acts”, we find a summary
- using antisemitic tropes and
- suggesting that complaints of antisemitism were fake or smears.
The “using antisemitic tropes” rings a bell with me, though. Yes, that sounds bad. Remember the Merchant of Venice? Very bad, in fact. But what are antisemitic tropes today? And what is antisemitism today? I find the very concept disturbing. After all, the notion of “race” has long since been discredited or, to quote Encyclopedia Britannica, “has no biological validity”:
Racism, then, is an anachronism. Criticism of religion, on the other hand, is still dangerous ground, true, but not illegal – to my knowledge – in countries of the so-called “collective West”.
Finally, you have ethnic differences – and the term ethnic can mean almost anything you want it to. “Antisemitism” seems to have landed in this last and most shadowy terrain; convenient, you must admit, for Zionist hardliners, who – you must also admit – rule the roost in Israel and have done so for a long time.
Now, Jeremy Corbyn is not the only person to have lost his job due to alleged antisemitism. There have been several other instances, not least in academia and journalism. Criticizing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is not something you do if you have children to provide for or a career that matters to you. (Just to give you an example, every time I have expressed, here, support for the Palestinian cause, this site has been subjected to DDoS attacks.)
So the crux of this thorny matter appears to be how antisemitism is defined. That is easily ascertained: 37 Nations and 865 Orgs Worldwide had (by March 2022) adopted the IHRA definition of antisemitism, which is vague, to say the least, so it includes 11 examples of what would constitute antisemitism, and according to a few of them, criticism of certain Israeli policies will be construed as antisemitism.
Since this post concerns the UK in particular, I should add that the UK government, adopted the IHRA definition in 2016. The two main political parties and most academic institutions, could not, of course, be seen to “condone” antisemitism, so they all eventually did so too. Even in the UK, however, there was some criticism:
Some have expressed concerns that the IHRA definition restricts freedom of speech by prohibiting legitimate criticism of Israeli government action in the Palestinian territories.
Geoffrey Robertson QC set out many of these concerns in an opinion prepared for the Palestinian Return Centre, arguing that several of the IHRA’s examples were drafted in a way that could be detrimental to freedom of speech. He also criticised the Prime Minister for adopting the definition without Parliamentary debate and without the caveats proposed by the Home Affairs Committee.https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/uk-governments-adoption-of-the-ihra-definition-of-antisemitism/
Finally, this year, somebody spoke up at last. A letter was sent to UN Secretary-General António Guterres and Under Secretary-General Miguel Ángel Moratinos, expressing concerns that, based on the IHRA definition, just about anyone could be labelled antisemite. The signatories included:
- Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel*
- Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association
- Al Mezan Center for Human Rights
- Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Mankind
- American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
- Amnesty International*
- Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement
- Human Rights Watch
- International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
- Ligue des droits de l’Homme (LDH)
- Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR)
- Physicians for Human Rights-Israel
The signatories recommend an alternative definition of antisemitism, that of the Jerusalem declaration. See in particular section “C. Israel and Palestine: examples that, on the face of it, are not antisemitic” [my highlight]”
I am not as polite as the signatories of the above-mentioned letter to the Secretary General. I put to you that the UK has compounded its disgraceful record of press freedom infringements (cf. Julian Assange) by letting itself be bulldozed into labelling as antisemitism valid criticism of Israel.
Mind you, real antisemitism does exist. I think it is largely based on ignorance – but I have occasionally been stunned to hear, in seemingly “normal” conversations, some very weird, almost mystical, ideas about Jews. As Philip Roth’s novels remind us time and time again, the persistence of such ideas have complex roots and causes. As long as he lived, he seemed to be continuously grappling with them.
However, to my knowledge – and I may well be wrong, because there is so much we are not told – there have fortunately been no outright massacres of Jews for a long time. However there are still, to this day, almost routinely, massacres of Muslims. Does “antisemitism” cover the politically motivated killing of so-called Arabs?
Do people in the UK or USA get kicked out of academia or political positions for holding strong anti-Islamic views, for peddling anti-Islamic “tropes”?
In 2019, 51 people were massacred and 40 were injured in two mosques in New Zealand. Could that be referred to as antisemitism?
In June this year, an overcrowded boat carrying migrants from Libya went down off the coast of Greece. There were 104 survivors, but more than 500 remain missing. That was not, admittedly, a massacre. But there is pretty solid evidence that the authorities ignored repeated calls for help from the ship for several hours before it actually sank. Does that not effectively amount to — well, yes, — a massacre?
In the Israeli-occupied territories, at least 177 Palestinians have been killed by the murderous IDF just this year, and Israel’s finance minister declares that a Palestinian town of more than 5000 should be “wiped out”. These killings are not, strictly speaking, massacres, but they are extra-judicial, and they seem to be part of a pretty concerted effort to exterminate Palestinians on the “West Bank”.
Nevertheless, the US House of Representatives just passed a resolution according to which “the State of Israel is not a racist or apartheid state, … and the United States will always be a staunch partner and supporter of Israel.” Just so. USA’s men and women of power defend and uphold their God-given right to continue living in Never-never-land.
Afterthought (24 hours later):
Speaking of massacres, did you know about the Paris Massacre? I did not until I recently read Annie Ernaux’s novel Les années. She refers to 17 October 1961, assuming the reader would understand the reference, and muses: How much did we suspect, back then? Were we not just enjoying the unusually balmy weather?
I looked up the reference, and this is what I found:
The Paris massacre of 1961 (also called the 17 October 1961) was the mass killing of Algerians who were living in Paris by the French National Police. It occurred on 17 October 1961, during the Algerian War (1954–62). Under orders from the head of the Parisian police, Maurice Papon, the National Police attacked a demonstration by 30,000 pro-National Liberation Front (FLN) Algerians. After 37 years of denial and censorship of the press, in 1998 the government finally acknowledged 40 deaths, while some historians estimate that between 200 and 300 Algerians died. Death was due to heavy-handed beating by the police, as well as mass drownings, as police officers threw demonstrators into the river Seine.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris_massacre_of_1961
Maybe the truth about that massacre would never have come to light if Maurice Papon had not been accused in 1981 and found guilty in 1998 of responsibility for the deportation of 1,690 Bordeaux Jews to Drancy internment camp from 1942–44. All of which just goes to show that suppression of information in the press is no novelty.
And yes, over the past 24 hours, this site has been honoured with a DDoS attack.