Cook on Corbyn and “antisemitism”

27 Nov

Jeremy Corbyn

Today in the View From Nazareth, award winning journalist Jonathan Cook writes:

Corbyn’s democratic socialism is the first serious attempt by Labour since the Thatcher years to try to reverse the enormous and relentless economic gains made by Britain’s corporate ruling class. And Corbyn’s much more outspoken position in support of Palestinian rights – no different from his backing for black South Africans under apartheid rule – is unprecedented for a leader of a major British party.

That has made him especially vulnerable to attack both from a billionaire-owned media worried about his economic policies and from Israel lobbyists worried about where he might take British foreign policy on Israel.

Both have found antisemitism an effective weapon with which to damage Corbyn – both because of the seriousness of the offence and because it has been difficult to rebut such claims given the intentional blurring of antisemitism’s meaning since his election to lead Labour.

… Israel lobby groups in the Labour party, from the LFI to the Jewish Labour Movement, have pushed hard for Labour to change its rulebook on antisemitism. Last year the party was forced to adopt a controversial definition drafted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), shifting the focus from hatred of Jews to criticism of Israel.

With media-wide consensus on Corbyn’s antisemitism problem, it was inevitable [many] British Jews would come to accept that Labour is indeed antisemitic. They have been living in a nationwide echo-chamber for the best part of four years.

Earlier in the piece, Cook had observed:

Last month the Economist magazine, no friend to Corbyn or the Labour party, published a survey of British attitudes towards Israel and Jews, broken down into ideological factions.

It found “very left wing” voters … among the least likely to hold antisemitic views though they also had the most critical views of Israel. Supporters of the right were three and a half times more likely to express antisemitic opinions. The centre, Lib Dems and the Blairite wing of Labour, expressed little antisemitism but also rarely criticised Israel.

…The Economist survey offered confirmation of Labour party records showing that instances of antisemitism among its 500,000 members were rare – at just 0.08 per cent of the membership.

[But] the evidence has been overshadowed by the new survey suggesting that much of the Jewish community views Corbyn’s Labour party as plagued by antisemitism … The  main impression most British Jews have formed of Corbyn has been presented to them by a media hardly dispassionate about Labour’s prospects. It is owned and controlled by large corporations that have benefited from decades of free-market fundamentalism Labour is now threatening to overturn.

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2 Replies to “Cook on Corbyn and “antisemitism”

  1. First an off topic matter: I cannot presently access Off-Guardian. I assume they are once again under cyber-attack?

    Secondly, this article makes a point that I made on Off-G: that the threat to the Zionist movement may not even be the prime motivator for the media’s relentlessly repeated claims that Corbyn’s party is anti-Semitic. I think the prime motivator is the fact that, for the first time in four decades we have a Labour leader who believes in the traditional values of Labour. And it terrifies that sector we could call “the neoliberal consensus”. Or, to be more precise, Corbyn’s popularity terrifies this sector. And the anti-Semitic label is far more powerful and potent than any tirade against “the evils of socialism” – which tirade may even have the effect of encouraging people to read Marxist writers and learn from them.

    Also, yesterday for the first time in years I watched the BBC news (on iPlayer) and I could scarcely believe the degradation in the standard of reporting. For the sake of an appearance of balance we get about 5 seconds of Conservative Party Islamophobia. And then it’s ten minutes of moral hysteria over Corbyn. What was fascinating about all this is that they showed the initialising media show that sparked all this shit off: the confrontation between Ken Livingstone and John Mann – or, to be more precise, the carefully choreographed and filmed verbal mugging of the former by the latter. And I noticed that that set the format for the entire smear campaign thereafter – a format that was repeated in yesterday’s BBC news i.e. maximum moral outrage, frothing denunciations, hyperbole, fear- mongering all presented with zero content. It is significantly that the first time I saw the Livingstone/Mann film I was visiting my mother who didn’t have an internet connection and I had no idea what was going on. It wasn’t until I got home and went online that I found out what was going on.

    • Sorry for tardy reply George. I see the two factors you identify – first Labour leader to challenge neoliberalism and first to support the Palestinians – as joint causes of the unprecedented levels of vituperatively personal attack. What favours your reading, that the first is the stronger motivator, is the fact the media,along with tory politicians and the Labour right, tried various lines of attack: pacifism, alleged weak leadership, alleged support for causes (IRA, PLO) outside the Overton Window. It seemed almost by accident to have struck gold with the ridiculous antisemitic charges.

      On the BBC’s continuing degradation, I see it as a measure of how high the stakes are in this election, and of how much Corbyn is feared, that elements of the ruling class are willing to risk tarnishing the myth – pivotal to the squaring of ‘democracy’ with class rule – of independent and non partisan media.

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