Euan McColm: Corbyn the last person to tackle anti-Semitism

Ken Livingstone is mobbed by journalists outside Millbank following the controversial comments which led to his suspension. Picture: Anthony Devlin/PA
Ken Livingstone is mobbed by journalists outside Millbank following the controversial comments which led to his suspension. Picture: Anthony Devlin/PA
Share this article
20
Have your say

IT’S not Jews, they say. They’re always adamant about that: they don’t hate Jews.

And then they say things that suggest they hate Jews. Instead of Jews, of course, they say Zionists.

But they mean Jews, don’t they? After events of the past few days, that’s a reasonable assumption to make, isn’t it?

The Labour Party hasn’t had controversy to seek since members last year took the, still baffling, decision to elect the incompetent Jeremy Corbyn as their leader.

By and large, attention has focused on Corbyn’s desire to drag the party further left, away from voters and into political obscurity. But now we’re talking about something much darker. Now we’re talking about the Labour Party’s problem with anti-Semitism.

And it is a real problem.

The suspension, on Wednesday, from the Labour Party of MP Naz Shah over social media posts in which she suggested the relocation of Israelis to the US, warned of “the Jews rallying”, and asked followers on Facebook to participate in a poll over whether Israel had committed war crimes might have shut down a growing row had former London mayor Ken Livingstone not decided to leap to her defence.

Of course, you will know what happened next. Livingstone toured TV and radio studios to speak up for Shah. She was not an anti-Semite, he insisted; she’d just been rude. That was eyebrow-raising enough, but when Livingstone argued that Adolf Hitler had been a supporter of Zionism – the political movement established in the 19th century to combat anti-Semitism and establish a Jewish homeland – “before he went mad”, things moved on to another level of awful.

It was difficult to know where to start with that one.

Was Livingstone – at that point still an active member of Labour’s National Executive Committee – seriously arguing that Hitler had supported the aims of Zionists? Did he really believe there was a period when the actions of the Führer might have been considered perfectly sane? Did Ken sincerely think he was fighting Labour’s corner?

Apparently so.

But Livingstone, for decades a source of poison in our national discourse, had gone too far even for his old chum, Corbyn, and he was suspended shortly after a grimly compelling appearance on the BBC’s Daily Politics on Thursday.

The Labour leader’s handling of matters has been a textbook example of how not to deal with a political crisis. Shah’s suspension – an outcome at first rejected by the leader’s office – was finally arranged “by mutual agreement”. That is not leadership, by any measure.

When, finally, Corbyn spoke in public about the crisis engulfing his party it was to deny the existence of a crisis. One was left wondering whether Corbyn had lost his grip on reality? That would certainly be a more reassuring explanation than the alternative – that he simply didn’t care.

Then out came the Corbynistas, the online warriors who carried this idiot to victory in last year’s Labour leadership contest. The thrust of their response was that not only was there no anti-Semitism problem in Labour, but that the pro-Israel “lobby” had somehow engineered this row to damage their man and their party. In Corbyn’s Labour, it is important to cry conspiracy when things go wrong.

But this issue is not going to go away, because the leader is a significant part of the problem.

I don’t for a minute suggest that Corbyn is an anti-Semite. But his politics are rooted in a part of the left where anti-Western sentiment allows disgusting views to flourish, unchallenged.

An all-consuming hatred of Israel, ostensibly because of that nation’s actions in Palestine, is the fuel for this fire.

Ignoring the human rights abuses of, for example, Russia or Iran, this section of the left reserves all of its rage for Israel. The language used by many of these “progressives” sounds awfully similar to that used by anti-Semites. And so we hear attacks on the Zionist-run media, the Zionist-controlled banks. These are the views of the Jew hater, with the word Jew replaced. The belief – much favoured by fascists – that Jews control a global conspiracy has simply been tweaked to make it easier to say in polite company.

When Corbyn became Labour leader, he pushed open a door which let those holding these views into the mainstream of the party. Corbyn and the zealots who support him are incapable of self-examination. Their logic would appear to be that, since they are of the left, they can’t possibly be the bad guys.

That’s not good enough. In fact, it looks to me as if a great many of them are the bad guys. With their weasel words and cheap conflation of the policies of the Israeli government and Jews, wherever they may be, they smear those who follow that faith and keep alive the idea of Jewish control of everything from the news we’re allowed to read to the way our financial institutions operate.

Even before Livingstone was suspended, Corbynistas were out in force, sharing links to dodgy pieces on the internet that they believed substantiated his claims. After he was suspended, the allegation was that Livingstone – indeed, the entire Labour Party – had fallen into a trap laid by dark forces controlled by Israel.

Others argued that posts on Facebook and Twitter should be disregarded as trivialities. That’s right – campaigners who’d used social media to such great effect in getting Corbyn elected Labour leader wanted us now to believe that social media was an irrelevance.

None of this will, I fear, put an end to Corbyn’s leadership. He is supported by an overwhelming number of halfwits who are content to believe their man’s a victim of the malign actions of others.

But he really isn’t. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party is, to some considerable degree, infected with anti-Semitism and he is unfit to deal with it. This self-proclaimed “friend” of extremist groups Hezbollah and Hamas simply hasn’t the credibility to tackle Labour’s problem.

Meanwhile, in view of recent events, if you tell me you’re an anti-Zionist, I’m going to suspect that what you really mean is that you hate Jews.