I am genuinely convinced our entire news cycle might be one big cosmic joke. Just days after Corbyn admitted there was a problem with antisemitism in the party and he was cracking down on it, Labour is embroiled in another antisemitism scandal. Christine Shawcroft, chair of the Labour Party disputes panel, who was supposed to handle antisemitism complaints, has quit.
Quit after only 71 days in the job, after she defended a council candidate who denied the existence of the Holocaust. You just couldn’t make this stuff up. Karl Marx once said “History repeats itself first as tragedy, then as farce”. At this point I feel like my party has moved so far past farcical, it hurts.
If this doesn’t make it obvious there is a problem with antisemitism on the left I don’t know what will. A lot of it seemingly goes back to the debate on Israel and Palestine. When Ken Livingstone equated “Hitler” and “zionists” it was over questions of Israel Palestine. Momentum’s Jackie Walker, who said there was “no definition of antisemitism she could agree with”, was a fanatic campaigner about ‘apartheid’ in Israel. Even a multitude of facebook groups that have recently become embroiled in the scandal for publishing antisemitic content were Pro Palestine sites. This is not a coincidence.
Criticising Israel and being antisemitic are blatantly mutually exclusive but some truly repugnant parts of my party equate the two
So many seem to stupidly conflate the crimes of the state of Israel with all Jewish people as well as the idea of zionism (being in favour of the existence of an Israeli state) and the religion Judaism. More than that, they paint all people pro-Israel as bad, or even complicit in the actions of the state of Israel. Whilst I personally would fall on the pro-Palestine side of the debate, the situation is obviously far more nuanced. Criticising Israel and being antisemitic are blatantly mutually exclusive but some truly repugnant parts of my party equate the two.
Antisemitism on the left does stretch further than just Israel-Palestine. For many years, some odious parts of the left have equated Jews with the very capitalist system they were attacking. Playing off age old offensive stereotypes portraying Jews as rich, greedy and manipulative, some decided you could not be anti-capitalist without being antisemitic. It was in this vein that an antisemitic mural in London and recent point of controversy was made, portraying “hook nosed” Jews as part of a capitalist new world order, and therefore why it was so misguided and wrong for Corbyn to defend the artist after the mural was removed. Needless to say, as a party member, having these disgusting and wrong factions expelled from my party tomorrow wouldn’t be soon enough.
Frankly, the party needs to do much more than it currently is doing. Not because Corbyn and his close allies are all fanatic antisemites; indeed that idea just doesn’t have any actual credibility, but because if we ever want legitimacy as a leftist party, we must stand on a platform of inclusivity and fairness, and must have zero tolerance for those opposed to this. Actually having a working disputes panel that lasts more than a few weeks would be good start.
Whilst it is true that Jewdas isn’t a proxy for the Jewish community as a whole, we have to remember they never claimed to be
There is something to the debate around this however that I also find questionable. Some of the media’s response was truly problematic, especially after Jeremy Corbyn’s Seder dinner with Jewish campaign group Jewdas. From the Financial Times to the Daily Mail, the consensus is that these Jews are the “wrong” Jews; their left politics and anti-zionism making them in Jonathan Arkush, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, words a “source of virulent anti-Semitism”. Jewdas is hardly a massive mainstream movement, but even a five minute google search can disprove the preposterous idea that they themselves are antisemitic. Indeed, they have been leading the charge against antisemitism, especially against leftists like Ken Livingstone.
I can’t believe its reached a point where the mainstream debate centres around the problems of antisemitism in the left has degraded into journalists, commentators and politicians alike screeching about what makes a “good” or “bad” Jew. Not only does this miss the point, but rather ironically actually proves pretty antisemitic in and of itself. To label someone a good or bad anything is too presume they and their peers speak and are accountable for their entire community. It sucks Jews, and any other ethnicity and culture victim to it, of any individuality and assumes them to be accountable for each other’s actions. It’s scarily surprising how dominant this racist narrative is at the moment.
Whilst it is true that Jewdas isn’t a proxy for the Jewish community as a whole, we have to remember they never claimed to be. Their main role is in mocking and criticising what they see to be the out of touch leadership of groups like the Board of Deputies of British Jews. Indeed its aforementioned leader, Jonathan Arkush, is a right wing Conservative and Trump fan, despite the latter’s history of antisemitism. He stood by the Conservative party even when they joined a bloc in European parliament with, among others, the nazi sympathetic Latvian For Fatherland and Freedom party. For such an extremist to claim to speak for all Jews and brand those he disagrees (namely Jewdas) with as “not Jewish” is as abusive as it is ridiculous.
Jonathan Arkush is a right wing Conservative and Trump fan, despite the latter’s history of antisemitism
At the end of the day no one group represents all British Jews; it is both offensive and inaccurate to assume British Jews to be a monolith. At the same time it is integral that as many groups as possible are included in the fight to purge antisemitism from the left. That means talking to the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Jewish Labour Movement and Holocaust Educational Trust. But it also means including groups like Jewdas. The right wing of politics, often justly, defends even bigot’s right to free speech on the grounds they need including in the debate. Maybe it’s about time they took their own advice for once.