No Jew can vote for Corbyn’s Labour, says former BBC director
Danny Cohen, the former director of BBC television, says no Jew can vote for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, an outfit embroiled in accusations of anti-Semitism. He tells the Times:
“If you are Jewish how can you vote for them? How could you? For me it would be like being a Muslim and voting for Donald Trump, how could you do it? You have to feel absolutely confident that it is totally unacceptable and it won’t be tolerated and I personally haven’t felt comfortable that it is happening yet in the Labour party.”
Do we really believe Corbyn’s Labour if full of anti-Semites? Surely not. Anti-Semitism is rife, but to lay the root of it at Corbyn’s door is wrong. The issue is that the Labour Party appears to acquiesce to anti-Semitism and anti-Semites.
“For too many on the Left, Jewish suffering does not touch them the way Muslim suffering or gay suffering or black suffering touches them,” writes Stephen Daisley on STV News. “Scrutiny of Corbyn’s associations elicits cries of ‘smear’ or just a collective shrug of the shoulders. It was always going to. We lack a language to talk about anti-Semitism because too many on the Left don’t consider it a serious problem and couldn’t recognise it as readily as racism, misogyny or homophobia anyway.”
Cranmer adds: “Jeremy Corbyn is not only a patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign: he supports the BDS agenda. What manner of peace-making diplomat supports sanctions against one party after hearing the grievances only of the other? Why invite Islamists to tea on the House of Commons terrace, but not extremist Zionists?”
Corbyn is a politician. His business is winning votes and gaining power. If anti-Semitism is ok on the Left, well, why rock the boat? After all, there aren’t that many Jewish voters. In 2010, Jonathan Freedland wrote in the Guardian:
I can no longer do what I and others did in 2008, putting to one side the statements, insults and gestures that had offended me, my fellow Jews and – one hopes – every Londoner who abhors prejudice. Back then I tried to shrug off Livingstone’s quip to property developers the Reuben brothers that they could “go back to Iran and see if they can do better under the ayatollahs”, even though telling immigrants to go back to where they came from is the language of a pub racist from the 1950s. (The Reubens are in fact an Iraqi-Jewish family and the brothers were born in India.)
Likewise, I accepted that when the mayor repeatedly likened a reporter to a concentration camp guard – even after he knew the reporter was both Jewish and offended – he was merely being irritable, his tongue loosened by a glass or two. I condemned his hugging embrace of Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the scholar who supports female genital mutilation, the murder of homosexual people, and suicide bombing so long as the victims are Israeli civilians…
This week he made the news again, as a group of Jewish activists, all lifelong Labour supporters, wrote to Ed Miliband describing a closed-door meeting they had had with Livingstone that had left them “despondent”. The letter was leaked, with most attention focusing on its account of Livingstone’s suggestion that “as the Jewish community is rich, [it] simply wouldn’t vote for him”.
Jews are privileged – the wealthy one, the poor ones, the disabled ones, the ones who might ever vote Labour or become a Labour MP. Under the terms of identity politics, where you’re defined by what you are and, more vitally, what you are not, being a Jew is a bad thing to be. Jews should check their privilege. There are anti-Semites in Labour, of course – there are bigots on all sides – but the Left’s little problem isn’t really with Jews, their customs and beliefs; it’s with what they symbolise.
When you’re devoid of ideas, have no direction of travel for your weak projects, you need to find something to bind, define and epitomise what you stand for. We don’t know what Labour is any more but the loyalists can show us what it is not: Israel.
Things soon get ugly. Just as anti-Semites say Jews are behind all the world’s ills, puppet-masters in a shadowy cabal, anti-Zionists say all problems in the Middle East are down to Israel. Defeat the Jews / Israel and all things in your life will be made better.
Hamas can be Jeremy Cornyn’s “friends” (his word) because as Zionist haters they are on the side of the good and the decent. But Corbyn’s “friends” don’t believe in sexual equality, women’s rights, gay rights, democracy, freedom of expression, a free press and human rights. To overlook all that anti-freedom – to blame all those Islamist and anti-progressive policies on Israel – is to side with the anti-Semites. Anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism become indistinguishable.
Jamie Palmer has written a terrific essay on the history of Jews, Israel and the West. He notes:
…the Left is unconcerned with Jewish interests and unwilling to take the matter of rising anti-Semitism seriously, preferring instead to dismiss it as a consequence of Israeli policies or a censorious attempt to close down discussion of the same. The horror with which many Jews greeted the election of Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership of the Labour Party was outstripped only by the realization that his supporters felt that his fondness for the company of anti-Semites was unworthy of their concern…
So why can’t the European Left change in such a way that European Jewish socialists and social democratic Zionists are made to feel welcome again? A number of recommendations suggest themselves:
1. Stop seeing the partition of Mandatory Palestine as some kind of act of paternalistic expiation for European sins rather than the realization of a persecuted people’s legitimate quest for self-determination.
2. Banish the term “anti-Zionism” from the realm of permissible discourse and reframe criticism of Israel—no matter how vehement—in political and not existential terms.
3. Respect the fact that for the vast majority of Jews, Israel represents an expression and final guarantor of Jewish security and identity.
4. Stigmatize anti-Semitism in the same way as any other kind of racism, including when it issues from the mouths and pens of other minority groups.
5. Stop treating Arabs in general and Palestinians in particular like children whose pathologies are to be patiently indulged.
6. Reject moral and cultural relativism, and hold all people to the same moral standards you would expect of yourself in the same circumstances.
7. Understand that differences of opinion with most democrats, of whatever political persuasion, ought to fall within the boundaries of respectable disagreement.
8. Appreciate the value of liberal democracy and learn to take seriously the threats of those who declare their intention to destroy it.
But the reality is that the Left is in no mood to do much, if any, of the above. On the contrary, it is moving in exactly the opposite direction. In Britain, the Labour Party has elected Jeremy Corbyn as its leader—an unrepentant hard-Left anti-Zionist who has shared platforms with genocidal terrorists, blood libelers, and Holocaust deniers in order to supposedly demonstrate his solidarity with the oppressed denizens of Palestine, even as he signed petitions calling upon a centrist Israeli MK to be arrested on arrival in the UK.
Brendan O’Neill and Tom Slater have been discussing Labour’s little problem. You can hear it below: