Antisemitism: the new McCarthyism

21 Feb

With Joan Ryan the eighth MP to join the Labour breakaway group, and to cite ‘antisemitism’ as a prime reason, the ever reliable Jonathan Cook says:

Corbyn, it should be noted, is the first leader of a major British party to explicitly prioritise the rights of Palestinians over Israel’s continuing belligerent occupation of the Palestinian territories.

Cook’s piece should be read in full, and I recommend signing up for email alerts to his Blog From Nazareth posts. Also worth reading in this context is his post of a few days ago, Anti-semitism vigilantes are feeding the far-right. It begins:

Has anyone else noticed how almost anything you say nowadays – if it’s leftwing – can suddenly be cited as proof of your anti-semitism?

Quite. Others note the shrill tones in which the eight cite accusations, of Israel lobby funding, as evidence of antisemitic conspiracy theory. Well now. In an idle afternoon I once skim-read a book on interrogation by two former FBI investigators. While stressing that the only absolute proof of mendacity is hard evidence flatly contradicting what’s been said, they devote a sizable chunk to ‘tells’ – clues verbal or nonverbal that a suspect may be lying. One being non sequitur deflection …

So where were you on the night of June 8?

What? I’ll have you know I’m a churchgoer and generous charity donor!

… another being deflection by going on the offensive:

So where were you on the night of June 8?

This is an outrage! The very fact you can ask such a question is proof of your bad faith!

With this in mind, do any of the eight deny taking money from such sources? If they do, I’ve yet to hear of it. As for Ryan, it would go ill with her should she be so foolish as to try. In 2016 she was caught on camera by Al Jazeera, in conversation with a fixer at the Israeli Embassy, in which she appears to accept money to influence other MPs. When Craig Murray (the UK Ambassador Tony Blair sacked for telling the truth about one of ‘Our Friends’ in the war on Iraq) posted a comment to this effect in the Guardian, it was censored. Murray then took to Twitter.1

For a fuller account, including the video evidence, see this OffGuardian piece of two days ago. But back to Jonathan Cook, who in the second of the two pieces cited at start of this post sets out in detail why Labour does not have a “special problem” with antisemitism. He follows up by asking:

So what is the basis for concerns about the Labour Party being mired in supposed “institutional anti-semitism” since it moved from the centre to the left under Corbyn, when the figures and political trends demonstrate nothing of the sort? A clue may be found in the wider political worldview of the eight MPs who have broken from Labour.

All but two are listed as supporters of the parliamentary “Labour Friends of Israel” (LFI) faction. Further, Berger is a former director of that staunchly pro-Israel lobby group, and Ryan is its current chair, a position the group says she will hold onto, despite no longer being a Labour MP.

So extreme are the LFI’s views on Israel that it sought to exonerate Israel of a massacre last year, in which its snipers shot dead many dozens of unarmed Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza in a single day. Faced with a social media backlash, it quietly took down the posts.

The eight MPs’ voting records – except for Gavin Shuker, for whom the picture is mixed – show them holding consistently hawkish foreign policy positions that are deeply antithetical to Corbyn’s approach to international relations. They either “almost always” or “generally” backed “combat operations overseas”; those who were MPs at the time supported the 2003 Iraq war; and they all opposed subsequent investigations into the Iraq war.

But while the ‘antisemitism’ slur evokes fear and loathing in Westminster village, and to lesser degree at the dinner parties of the chattering classes, it cuts little ice with most Brits. Let me end this post, already in large part the words of others, with those of a virtual friend. Below an OffGuardian piece by the always readable Kit Knightly, bevin has this to say:

… while the timing of Jess Phillips’ and Ian Austin’s final “I can’t take it any more’ Press Conference may interest the MSM, BBC in particular, it doesn’t matter at all to the very sensible people working like demons to pay the rent and utility bills, who matter at election time. Nor are they much interested in anti-semitism (of which most ordinary people, who, after all, would know, have seen very little, much less than any other form of racism) or the other nonsense that keeps political editors and news junkies and media so energised. Nor are they interested in whether Corbyn has had three wives or does the washing up or John McDonnell reads detective stories and keeps a mongrel called Gordon.

These are unimportant matters, at a time when living standards for the average person have been dropping faster than at any time in history, when every wage or salary earner lives in constant fear not just of losing job and salary but of having to swallow more crow, in the form of deteriorating conditions, longer hours, unpaid overtime and collapsing social security networks, from unemployment insurance to healthcare. It is issues such as these that will matter when people vote next …

Does Tom Watson seriously think the young people struggling to make ends meet and keep their families intact think it makes any difference whether or not Corbyn went to an IRA funeral or read a Hamas Press Release?

* * *

  1. As regards Murray’s “steaming heap of lies” allusion to a Guardian-alleged meeting between Julian Assange and Paul Manafort (the Trump campaign manager who pled guilty to conspiracy against the USA) had any such meeting taken place, three things would have followed. One, it would have been caught on the CCTV cameras in and around the world’s most closely monitored Embassy. Two, the new Ecuador Regime, unsympathetic to Assange, would have released the footage. Three, Guardian Media Group would gleefully have produced said footage. Since [three] has not happened we can validly deduce that the other two haven’t either, and Luke Harding’s allegation was the product of his Russophobic imagination and the Guardian’s ongoing promotion of imperialist interests. I needn’t even cite sources hostile to corporate media. The Washington Post will do nicely.

6 Replies to “Antisemitism: the new McCarthyism

  1. Nice to have you back, hope you enjoyed your time away.
    I recieved a message from Tom Watson, but as usual, I didn’t get very far – the man makes my skin crawl – and I binned it before I lost control and started stabbing his eyes out on my screen(Oh dear, I didn’t actually do it) Jonathon Cooke’s step by step unravelling of the real reasons behind the anti-semitic smear campaign are such an easy guide to the truth as to be a virtually “go to ” handbook – it’s all there.
    Chukky tried to turn the truth around by saying people vote for their candidates policies because it’s important to them, which of course, for most people, that’s absolute nonsense. I have no idea what policies my MP holds forth, I put my cross in the Labour Party box as most other people did.
    I did catch Andrew Neil asking Ryan(I think)what policies the independent party had that differed from Corby’s and after a lot of blathering from her trying to avoid having to answer, he made it obvious by saying “you’re obviously not going to answer the question” or some such comment(unusual for Neil to be so generous to an enemy of Corbyn and the Labour masses).
    Ah well, we’ll see if the members will be allowed to deselect them or not.

    • Thanks Susan. I doubt many will be fooled by the transparently self-serving ‘reason’ given by the nine – I write post Ian Austin’s announcement yesterday – for ruling out any byelection.

  2. Angela Smith, one of the defectors to the noxious nine, told Sky News that the new, so-called Independent Group must be a “bottoms up movement”. Does that mean they are going to moon us? I don’t really want to see their bottoms, but it would be a more honest statement than the self-serving, disingenuous, pernicious twaddle that comes out of their mouths.

  3. Thank you Phil for this piece and the link to the excellent Jonathon Cooke. It helped to ‘steady the ship’ a bit after I had just switched the radio off in despair at the BBC reporting of Ian Austin’s resignation from the party.

    Last year I had started to draft a piece that was critical of Labour’s adoption of the IHRA’s definition of anti-semitism before bottling out – not wanting to put myself publicly in a potentially vulnerable position. In doing so I was acutely aware that I was acquiescing with the pressure to avoid any criticism of Israel.

    It seems to me that there is anti-semitism in the Labour Party – but no more so than in society at large and in particular in that posted through the anonymity of social media. Like any discriminatory behaviour anti-semitism should be challenged and dealt with – which is exactly what the Labour Party appears to be trying to do through investigation, review and reporting of findings.

    Israel is currently conducting a (very successful) propaganda program to restrain international condemnation of its increasingly oppressive actions towards the Palestinian population by linking criticism of Israel to anti-semitism.

    Charges of a culture of anti-semitism are proving very effective in undermining a Labour leader who explicitly supports the palestinian cause and by association discrediting the current mildly left wing Labour project.

    • You do yourself down, Bryan. Having known you forty years I don’t believe you “bottled out” of criticising IHRA or Israel. You had little to lose and it’s not as if the Mossad are likely to come after either of us! Neither of us is that important.

      Maybe you just got a little bored, is all (:-)

      I agree there’s antisemitism in the Labour Party – almost certainly less than in the Tory Party (I’m no great fan of Nigel or Edwina but they can tell a tale or two on that score.) But as you and Cook note, that’s not the point. Apart from very stupid people, and they do exist in Labour, no one seriously thinks antisemitism has risen under Corbyn other than as a result of soaring membership on his watch. In which case the question would not be a rise in absolute terms but – given that antisemitism (far less widespread, as bevin notes, than other racisms) exists in wider society – whether it has risen in relative terms. That’s where Cook’s appraisal of evidence comes in handy, in the face of smears by Austin, Umunna, Joan Ryan and others still in the fold, like the slanderous John Mann, who manages to be both cynically self-serving and stupid, where Chuka and Joan are just self serving.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *