By Leon Rosselson
Originally posted on Medium
November 27th, 2019
It was predictable. In fact, it was inevitable that the allegations of antisemitism against Corbyn and the Labour Party would be ratcheted up during the election campaign. Now the Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, has, not for the first time, added his voice. He claims that ‘a new poison, sanctioned from the very top, has taken root in the party’ and that ‘the overwhelming majority of British Jews are gripped by anxiety’ at the prospect of a Labour government.
Since his accusations consist of unsubstantiated generalisations, they are very difficult to refute. You could point out that, according to the rigorous academic analysis in the book Bad News for Labour, the proven cases of antisemitism in the Labour Party amount to 0.3% of the membership; and that according to Harvey Goldstein, a professor of statistics, ‘there happens to be little sound evidence to back any of these claims’ that there is a ‘scourge of antisemitism’ and ‘institutional racism’ in the Labour Party. You could argue that none of the specific examples of Corbyn’s supposed antisemitism stand up to scrutiny. But it would be pointless. Because this hysterical campaign is not about real antisemitism.
So let us ask instead why, after 36 blameless years as a Labour MP, these accusations only emerged when Corbyn was elected Labour Party leader in 2015; and why the Chief Rabbi is unleashing his attack at this crucial time when it will do most damage to the Labour Party..
The United Synagogue, which, as Chief Rabbi, Mirvis represents, is the Orthodox (i.e. conservative) branch of UK Judaism. It has around 40,000 members out of a total Jewish population of around 250,000 so cannot claim to speak for the overwhelming majority of British Jews. It is a heavily Zionist body, ‘an active supporter of Israel’ (according to Wikipedia), sponsors trips to Israel, distributes ‘information’ packages (i.e. propaganda) about Israel on its website, opposes any recognition of a Palestinian state, rages against the BDS campaign. And proclaims as one of its core values ‘the centrality of Israel in Jewish life’.
Ponder on that. The centrality of Israel in Jewish life. Not God. Not justice. Not That which is hateful to you, do not do to another. Israel. A foreign state. And not any state but a militarised ethnocracy with its nuclear weapons and its helicopter gunships and its theft of land and water and its war against Palestinian children and its cruel collective punishment of the citizens of Gaza and its daily violations of international law; a state founded on the dispossession, expulsion and delegitimisation of the indigenous people, a state whose recently enacted Nation State law confirms its status as a racist state. Israel, state power, is placed at the heart of religious Judaism. Isn’t this a form of idolatry?
Corbyn’s original sin in the eyes of the Zionist lobby is that he has been a campaigner for justice for Palestinians. As far as they are concerned, that’s enough to justify any action that undermines him and that prevents him from becoming Prime Minister. Labour Party policy on Palestine/Israel is not particularly radical. It doesn’t call for the right of return for Palestinian refugees, for example. In parts it is delusional — advocating a return to peace talks and a two-state solution. But it does call for an end to the blockade, occupation and settlements and promises that ‘a Labour government will immediately recognise the state of Palestine’. For the Zionist lobby, for Rabbi Mirvis and the United Synagogue, for the Jewish Labour Movement, for Labour Friends of Israel, for the Board of Deputies, for Zionist hacks like Jonathan Freedland whose snide articles in the Guardian have helped delegitimise Corbyn, this is completely unacceptable.
When Rabbi Mirvis claims that the overwhelming majority of British Jews are ‘gripped by anxiety’ at the prospect of a Labour government, he may not be lying. But not because they fear anti-Jewish discriminatory actions or pogroms or anything like that. They’re not stupid. What they are afraid of is that a Corbyn-led Labour government might hold Israel to account for its crimes, might ban arm sales to Israel, might even support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. That must not happen. So they would far rather inflict a Tory Johnson-led government on the nation than accept as Prime Minister a man who has spoken up against Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians. Boris Johnson, after all, is a firm friend of Israel. And if, as a consequence of that, there are more children living in poverty, more people dying in the streets, more food banks, more NHS crises and privatisations, more carbon emissions — ? Collateral damage in the defence of the Jewish state.
OCTOBER 19. Israeli soldiers arrested a nine-year-old Palestinian child in the village of Beit Ummar, north of Hebron. The child was arrested by the soldiers while he was playing in front of his parent’s home.
One other possible consequence of this antisemitism smear campaign is that, when the millions suffering from years of Tory austerity find that their dream of a transformed Britain has been shattered partly because ‘the Jews’ have put tribal interests before the interests of the country they live in, there will be a rise in real antisemitism. But the Zionists can live with that. Zionism and antisemitism have always been comfortable bedfellows. After all, they share the same aim. As Ehud Olmert said at the World Zionist Congress in 2006, ‘the question of Zionism will not be resolved until every Jew in the world comes to live in Israel’. Every Jew hater will happily subscribe to that.