Unravelling claims of anti-semitism in the Labour Party is tricky. Perhaps pockets of anti-semitism do still exist in the Labour Party in the way that they still exist in all institutions in this country. Except for a deeply ingrained misogyny, anti-semitism is probably one of the oldest irrational prejudices of European society. General European racism, based on the colour of one’s skin, is a relatively recent prejudice in comparison. A construct of the modern colonial era. But history suggests that all human prejudices, whether ancient or relatively modern, when stripped of their emotive cultural narratives, are ultimately based on territory, power and economic control.
Those that define themselves as Jews, ether by race, culture or religion, have been both slave owners and enslaved. Both oppressor and oppressed. And the stories that Jews have created for themselves in the Old Testament are testament to that rather unpalatable fact. As the post-Romanic centuries rolled by, Jews, Christians and later Muslims, jostled for territory and influence. For those still subscribing to the Jewish narrative, it was a particularly rocky road. Sometimes they found themselves in favour and protected, at other times they were outcasts and demonised as the other.
The nineteenth and twentieth centuries were particularly brutal centuries for the Jewish diaspora. The attempted 20th century genocide of European Jews, coming as it did after the 19th century Russian pogroms, stands out as one of humanity’s more brutal chapters alongside the enslavement of Africans by the European colonial powers. We really are a very cruel, ruthless and brutal species. And all empires, without exception, have been in the forefront of such cruelty, brutalising their conquered citizens without mercy. From the earliest empires of antiquity including the ancient Judean empires, to the more recent British and American empires, the one commonality is the brutality meted out to those who fall under their control. No one race or nation, it seems, has a monopoly on oppressing the conquered, in the same way that no one race or nation has a monopoly on being oppressed.
Given the premeditated industrial scale of the genocide committed on European Jews by European fascism, it is little wonder that Jewish communities today are highly sensitive to what they describe as anti-semitism. I have experienced it myself and it is degrading, disempowering, dehumanising and above all, like all petty prejudices, wholly irrational. Irrational in that it assumes Jews are a homogeneous group when in fact they are anything but. And anti-Semitism invariably comes, like all forms of prejudice, with an implicit threat of violence. Every person of colour living in Europe, and every person of a non-Christian persuasion, will know exactly what I mean.
But history doesn’t stand still. During the latter half of the nineteenth century, European nationhood, in defiance of the old decrepit ancient empires, became the main show in town. Some Jewish leaders, but not all, decided to get in on the act. Their dream was of a new Zion an exclusively Jewish state to be established on the territory of the old Hebrew lands. It was a dream of a Greater Israel which began to emerge in material reality as the Zionist Movement, whereby the Jewish diaspora would be encouraged to migrate back to the ancient Judean lands in what was generally referred to then as Palestine. There was only one tiny flaw in their plan. The area the Zionists had in mind for their future Zionist State was already occupied by another Semitic people, namely the Palestinians.
Whatever the original intent of the early Zionists, the Zionist project, in order to reach fruition, would have to take on a decidedly colonial and thereby oppressive nature. Aided and abetted by a war weary Europe, who through a mixture of guilt and European colonial arrogance, gave the green light for the wholesale expulsion of the hitherto peaceful Palestinian settlements. In one of history’s cruel and bitter ironies, the victims of a genocidal holocaust were about to unleash their very own mini holocaust on the unsuspecting Palestinian farmers. The best part of a million Palestinian farmers and their families were mercilessly driven from their land into landless destitution. And shockingly, the expulsions and terror continue to this day. The bedraggled Jewish survivors of the fascist holocaust gathering in Palestine, went, in a few blinks of the eye, from being amongst the most oppressed people on the planet to that of colonial tyrant lording it over the dispossessed Palestinian communities. The psychology of this transformation would be interesting in itself if the consequences in human terms were not so dire.
Given the centuries of abuse and violence that European Jews have experienced, one couldn’t help but feel sympathetic to the desire for a Jewish safe-haven. But when that safe-haven mutated into a brutal territorial land grab, those who cherished international justice had no option but to call out this naked act of colonialism. Zionist expansion beyond the 1967 borders was finally declared illegal by the United Nations but the Zionist leadership of Israel, with both explicit and implicit support from the US and British, continued unabated with their colonial expansionist dreams. Those in the West that dared to criticise this post-war colonial occupation were brushed off as anti-Semites. And that is where we are today.
If there are any genuine pockets of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, they should, as Corbyn insists, be rooted out. But anti-Zionism is not to be equated with anti-Semitism. And the fact that it is, leads one to suspect that these claims have been cooked up in the back rooms of MI5. Of course, this conclusion will be dismissed as predictable left-wing conspiracy theory, but given that no such claims were ever made prior to Corbyn’s democratic ascendancy, what other conclusions can be drawn.
Those cheering on the Zionist project will be only too keen to brand Corbyn’s leadership as either anti-Semitic or soft on anti-Semitism. Corbyn has been a principled long-time opponent of Zionism and might just become a serious thorn in the Zionist project should he reach No10. And for those in power who fear Corbyn’s radical socialist agenda, to brand him complicit in anti-Semitism is the perfect ideological stick with which to beat him.
By coincidence, I have experienced such an orchestrated black ops campaign at first hand. Living in Australia during the short-lived Whitlam years of 1973-75, from day one we watched as the British and Australian Establishments coordinated their attacks on this radical government by every considerable means at their disposal. The general policy, a blatantly racist ploy, was to taint the Whitlam Government with securing dirty Arab money – another historic irony given that Western governments today are highly dependent on Arab investments to stave off recession.
To watch all the various arms of State; media, judiciary, executive and covert agencies, come together in such a highly sophisticated and relentless campaign of denigration and destabilisation against a popularly elected government was something of a shock to the young and old alike. We all naively assumed that such coups, and that is what it was, only happened in Third World countries. Our democracy, we foolishly believed, was far too sophisticated for such blatant shenanigans. We were wrong and hopelessly so.
But have we learned any lessons? MP Chris Mullin wrote his magnificent A Very British Coup to try to warn us of the lengths that the capitalist State will go to protect its interests from even mildly radical governments, be they in Chile, Australia or right here in Britain. We would be foolish in the extreme if we ignored those warnings.
That the British state has been relentlessly attacking Corbyn is, in one sense, a good sign. It means his programme for government is a direct threat to their corporate interests. In fact, if they stop attacking him then we should really start to worry. They never attacked Tony Blair. On the contrary, Murdoch and his criminal media empire actively supported his election and re-election because his New Labour programme offered absolutely no threat to the corporate world or to the neo-Liberal agenda that was being rolled out across the planet. Jeremy Corbyn is another kettle of fish all together.
One would hope that all Labour Party members and supporters would take a strident and principled anti-Zionist position whilst at the very same time rejecting all forms of irrational prejudice whatever form they may take. If it can do that, it will be a testament to the maturity of western Europe’s largest democratically constituted party. If, however, it succumbs to the machinations of the British corporate state and its patently fabricated anti-Semitic hysteria, then clearly it is not yet ideologically strong enough to govern the country against the interests of the corporate elites.
We of course, will all, in our own way, be actors in this unfolding drama. For a while I was hesitant to write this blog fearing I would just be giving oxygen to the spurious claims of Labour’s anti-semitism. But on balance I felt that to remain silent and self-censor my views on Israeli colonialism was to be not only complicit in Israel’s colonial crimes but complicit in the malign forces gathering against Corbyn’s radical programme.
So, to reiterate; speaking out against the Zionist colonial agenda has absolutely nothing to do with anti-Semitism and everything to do with international law and natural justice. The British Labour movement eventually took a principled stand against South African apartheid, with the likes of Jeremy Corbyn well in the vanguard, whilst the British state either looked away or openly collaborated with the South African neo-fascist regime. We should now have the courage and conviction to take a similar principled stand against the Israeli government with its own toxic mix of colonial aggrandisement, religious bigotry and out and out racism. Furthermore, those from a Jewish heritage, be they religious, secular or atheist, have a particular and definite responsibility is this regard.