2019 04 – Reply To Mark Cowling

Reply To Mark Cowling

by Labour Affairs Editorial Committee

We would like to make a few points concerning Mark Cowling’s new article on the allegations of anti-semitism in the Labour Party. It seems that he has not yet grasped the spurious nature of the allegations against the Party. We’ll confine ourselves to a few points.

Mark Cowling writes that: “Corbyn’s long-standing and deeply felt sympathies with the Palestinians have led him to say a whole variety of sympathetic things about organisations such as Hamas, who up till recently had a charter which contained a variety of overtly anti-Semitic statements.”

We are not told what these overtly anti-Semitic statements are. Given the currently elastic definitions of anti-Semitism that are to be found, it would be helpful to know what these were. But there is a deeper point that goes to the heart of the accusation of anti-Semitism. The above remark seems to imply that Corbyn is anti-Semitic by association. This is a spurious ‘guilt by association’ argument, similar to the ones that supporters of the Israeli government accuse their opponents of.

Corbyn and others are sympathetic to some aspects of Hamas’ policies. Hamas does not like the Israeli state. Therefore Corbyn and others who think like him are anti-Semitic. A parallel would be the charge made by anti-anti-Semites that someone who says that some bankers do terrible things and also points out that some Jews are bankers is therefore using an ‘anti-Semitic trope’. It’s called a ‘trope’ because it is an obviously unsound argument. ‘Trope’ means ‘insinuation’ and Mark appears to be insinuating that Corbyn is anti-Semitic.

Mark appears to be legitimising this line of argument in these sentences: “This has led many Jews including Jewish members of the Labour Party to feel that, though Corbyn has said there is no place for anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, he has been slow to deal with allegations about anti-Semitism. This clearly needs to be resolved as rapidly as possible.” We don’t see why it does. On Mark’s line of arguing it should be illegitimate to criticise bankers for bad practices or indeed any other organisation engaging in bad practices which also contains Jews.

A little further on, the following assertion is made: “In other words, the state of Israel manifestly has a racial basis, and this is one very important reason why it is there: it functions as a bolthole for Jews who may become oppressed or indeed massacred in the countries where they are living. The events of the Holocaust make this feature of Israeli law fully understandable.”

Apparently it is practically (if not morally) justifiable to set up a racist state to protect yourself. This claim becomes less convincing when one considers that Israeli politicians constantly complain of the existential threat under which the state of Israel exists. According to its own politicians, it is an extremely dangerous place for Jews to live in. That rather undermines the rationale for setting up a racist state to protect yourself. If it were no more than a bolthole, much of the hostility towards it would diminish. The fact that it invades occupies other peoples’ territories, threatens and attacks other countries and refuses to delimit its natural boundaries all serve to diminish this claim. Either it is a bolthole or it is not. If it is even more dangerous than the countries which are apparently a mortal threat to Jews then it is doing a poor job while causing an immense amount of misery to those under its sway who are not Jews. There are very clear ways in which it could diminish hostility to it. The fact that it refuses to countenance these suggests that it is not so much a bolthole as a platform for further expansion.

Finally, Mark writes that: “It should be possible to carefully and calmly discuss matters such as this without instant accusations of anti-Semitism, or, indeed, of not caring about the fate of the Palestinians”. Yes, but this is not an academic discussion. It is a bogus issue raised by people who wish to overturn the mildly social democratic turn of the Labour Party under Corbyn and who also wish to deflect criticism of Israel. In other words, it is a ruthless propaganda campaign to destabilise and delegitimise the Labour Party. Any attempt to take the accusations seriously only encourages those who raise accusations of anti-Semitism against Labour for their own nefarious purposes.