2019 06 – Antisemitism in the Labour Party

Antisemitism in the Labour Party

A Further Reply to Mark Cowling

by Labour Affairs Editorial Committee

There can be few people in the Labour Party who have done as much to defend the rights (as opposed to the claims) of Jews in the UK as Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn is an idealist and moved by the plight of the people of Gaza due to the oppression that they suffer from the Israeli state. As such, he has made contact with their elected leaders. The current status of the Charter (see Labour Affairs May 2019) to which Mark attaches such importance is ambiguous and the main objective of Hamas is to defend the people they govern and to provide them with as much social and economic security as they possibly can. If Hamas and its electorate do not particularly like their oppressors and tend to associate Jews with the Israeli state and its nefarious works, we should not be surprised. The best way to remedy such a situation would be for Israel to change its policies. The fact that Corbyn supports Hamas’s efforts to better the lives of Gazans in no way makes him an anti-Semite, as Mark acknowledges. He is not obliged to support everything that Hamas says or does while supporting their efforts on behalf of their people. One might as well ask ‘Friends of Israel’ to denounce the vile statements that prominent Israeli politicians make about Palestinians every time they support the state of Israel. They would reply, not unreasonably, that this would detract from their message of support for Israel.

Mark maintains that Israel is a bolthole for Jews threatened with annihilation by Europeans. If Jews wanted nothing more than a bolthole, there would have been plenty available around the world. However, for religious and nationalistic reasons it had to be on Palestinian territory. And, located here, it functions as a base for further expansion at the expense of the indigenous people, thus provoking their enmity. It is militarily safe for the time being, but its vulnerability was demonstrated in the 2006 war with Hezbollah and, in the longer term, it is subject to the vicissitudes of poor morale and internal cohesion. We are both agreed that Israel provokes the enmity of its neighbours in a way that Jews outside Israel do not provoke the hatred of theirs, so it is at best curious to call it a bolthole and insurance against annihilation. A better description would be an armed base for colonial expansion.

Jeremy Corbyn is deeply concerned that the Labour Party is riddled with anti-Semites. That attitude is of a part of the attitude towards Jews that he has consistently shown over decades. This does not mean, however, that this concern may not be exaggerated. We think, indeed, that it is. We repeat what we have said before. There is unlikely to be much anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, as opposed to much support for the Palestinian cause. Nothing that Mark has said would give anyone prepared to give the Labour Party a fair hearing any reason to suppose that the Labour Party in general and Jeremy Corbyn in particular are anti-Semitic. This is a phony issue designed to distract the Labour Party from an agenda for social reform and some degree of independence from the United States in its foreign policy.