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Corbyn haters seem happy to be anti-Semitic to prove he is

To be clear from the outset, anti-Semitism is an ever-present plague across society that needs to be robustly challenged. It is not a problem exclusive to any political party, geographical location or class. This insidious bigotry has to be challenged wherever it rears its nasty head and there can never be any justification for it.

If you have been living under a rock in recent weeks, you may not be aware that an anti-Semitism row has engulfed the Labour party. Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn MP has personally been accused of allowing anti-Semitism to become rampant in the party under his leadership with Corbyn himself accused of personally harbouring anti-Semitic sentiments. ‘Mainstream’ Jewish organisations organised a protest to voice their concerns. Corbyn reached out to the organisers for a meeting and is waiting for a meeting date to be confirmed. He was invited by a constituent to a Jewish event, Seder, to celebrate Passover. The hosts were a group called Jewdas, a left-wing Jewish group, but his attendance made the headlines. Why? The Jewish people he had met were not the “right type” of Jews for his critics. Yes, really!

The attacks on the Jewdas group have exposed a worrying separation of Jewish groups into good Jews and bad Jews. Those with nefarious intentions are using one of the oldest tricks in the book; divide and conquer.

Jeremy Corbyn was criticised for not meeting Jewish groups and when he does, he is told they’re the wrong type of Jews – not part of the ‘mainstream’ Jewish community. Damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. I’ve often thought, in the eyes of his critics, Corbyn can do no right. David Schneider made a similar observation when he tweeted the following joke.

The protest called by the Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council on March 26th was attended by a number of Labour MPs, the Conservative Housing Secretary Sajid Javid and even by the DUP MP Ian Paisley.

Mere days after taking part in this protest, Paisley retweeted an Islamophobic tweet by the infamous xenophobe Katie Hopkins in which she mocked the rise in killings in London with a joke about the Muslim community and the religious month of Ramadan (although he has subsequently offered his apologies claiming he did not see the Ramadan reference). So this leads one to believe that Paisley (and maybe others like him) isn’t all that interested in fighting anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry but getting involved in anti-bigotry campaigns when it suits their objectives.

What is extremely disturbing is to have those outside of a specific faith attempting to play the role of arbiter and judge a person’s or group’s religiosity based on their own agenda.

Which is what we have seen by the right wing Guido Fawkes blog which broke the story and the Blairite MPs who seized on Corbyn’s attendance to the Jewdas event and lambasted him to say his attendance was offensive to the Jewish community – which completely discounts the fact that Jewdas themselves are Jewish.

In a bid to throw insinuations of anti-Semitism at Corbyn, these individuals may have fallen foul of it themselves through their own actions. Angela Smith MP, John Woodcock MP and their ilk have exposed their willingness to weaponise the real issue of anti-Semitism to kick the boot into their Leader.

‘Mainstream’ media have run with the accusation that Jon Lansman said the complaints of anti-Semitism are ‘opportunistic’ during a speech he was giving. They took his words out of context to inflame tensions further as you can see from his actual words here:

“Yes it’s true there are people on the Right who are opportunistic and using it against the Labour party, but I don’t think that means that if there are charges which are valid that we haven’t got to take them seriously. I think all charges of discrimination and abuse have to be taken seriously. In recent weeks I’ve had a lot of anti-Semitic abuse on social media.”

To think that an issue as serious as anti-Semitism would be weaponised as is evidenced by the actions of Corbyn’s critics and opponents is deplorable to say the least. But after all, they do say politics is a dirty game.

This division of faith groups into good and bad by those outside of those faiths isn’t exclusive to the Jewish communities and has been occurring with the Muslim community for many years. Deeply unpopular and farcically unrepresentative groups perpetuating racist stereotypes and policies (such as PREVENT) are routinely presented by the right wing press and political establishment as ‘good Muslims’. Whereas those who are deemed to be ‘bad’ Muslim organisations include the majority of actual, grass-roots organisations, that happen to have the most widespread support, such as advocacy groups, CAGE and MEND, who were the recent targets of a Channel 4 Dispatches ‘investigation’.[1]

What are the connections between the so-called ‘bad’ Jewish groups and the ‘bad’ Muslim groups? They don’t offer blind subservience to the norms and status quo of the Establishment and often offer challenges which make ‘mainstream’ political players uncomfortable as it disrupts their idyllic domestic and world viewpoints.

May anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and other forms of racism and discrimination continue to genuinely be challenged and may we continue to have independent-minded groups who aren’t afraid to challenge. I stand with the ‘bad’ Jewish and Muslim groups. Not because I agree with everything they say or do but to defend their right to say their piece within the confines of the law. Which reminds me of the following quote;

“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” – Evelyn Beatrice Hall




About Nabeel Akhtar

One comment

  1. Thank you for this article. I think it reflects grassroots’ discussion and observations occurring in many local branches across the country. An interesting aspect is what the ”anti-Semitism” crisis in the Labour Party has got to do with the Muslims? On the surface it appears nothing, though we know that certain racists and Islamophobes including in the media have problematized (and smeared?) Muslim support for Labour as ”anti-Semitic” – not that this is in itself a very clearly defined concept. People like Jewish Labour activist and Pro-Palestinian, Jackie Walker, for instance, have been suspended from the Labour Party for publicly contesting overly-wide definitions. So Muslims as a group may not have been mentioned in the current debate, but it turns out they might play an important part – and an important part in reducing the tension.

    Groups of activists, linked with or simply supportive of Jewish Voices for Labour (a new grouping which won acclaim at the last Labour Party Conference for its calling out the de facto pro-Israel/Zionist stance of the Labour hierarchy) have come to realise that missing from the coverage has been attention to the wider picture of the “anti-Semitism crisis” and Zionism/anti-Zionism. A recent acquaintance, Kitty Warnock, a Labour member from SE London, undertook the task of looking into this.

    Her starting point was wanting to understand what the incidents of ”anti-Semitism” actually were and she reported on her findings from looking at the website of the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism (CAAS). Her findings were very interesting. Firstly, she shared that she found herself very confused by a) the obviously false allegations, (examples included accusations of criticising Israel or for being on the left, rather than actual ”anti-Semitism”); and b) the hyperbolic and ridiculous language used by the Enough is Enough demonstrators who had spoken of ”crisis”; ”disgusting”; ”tides of shit” – for which little actual evidence exists.

    What was also immediately clear was that the documentation on ”anti-Semitism” cases in the Labour Party kept by CAAS are surprisingly, not at all up-to-date. Perhaps they leave out the really dubious cases?? Tony Greenstein, Moshe Machover, Glyn Secker, (all Jewish, all accused of ”anti-Semitism”) are not there as examples. For those who do not know it – these are very long standing Pro-Palestinian Jewish Labour activists who were at one point or the other summarily suspended from the Labour Party for alleged ”anti-Semitism”.

    Instead, most of the instances listed by CAAS are councillors in northern constituencies, largely of Asian origin, expressing anger about Israeli government actions but using language drawing parallels with Nazism, the Holocaust or referencing ”Jews” in general using mother-tongue Urdu or Arabic term ”Yehud”. She says it would be very hard to rule whether this is “anti-Semitism” or not, but it is mostly this kind of language/thinking that offends the “Jewish community”.

    Leaving aside the ”extremists” and ”fundamentalists”, who are sectarian in attitude towards fellow Muslims, nevermind non-Muslims, whether friend or foe, Palestinians and many Muslims in Britain, in day-to-day conversation, often refer to the “Yehud” (Jews) rather than “Israeliin” (Israelis). This usage is probably derived from Qur’an where different religious groups are mentioned when stories, histories and allegories are given – both ”Yehud” and ”Bani-Israyil” (Sons of Israel) are in the Muslim religious texts. Obviously use of ”Yehud” breaks rules of acceptable speech and offends when it is used pejoratively to generalise criticism seemingly against a whole community. Awareness and education is needed to understand the offence and so avoid the term ”Yehud” when referring to excesses by the Israeli state and Zionist extremists. Indeed, it might be helpful to be reminded that Jewish anti-Zionist activitists in Israel and in the UK are working hard and at risk to support the Palestinian cause e.g. B’Tselem, ICAHD, JewDas and Jews for Justice (ubiquitous by their presence at every pro-Palestinian demonstration) and it is unfair and wrong to use a catch-all term especially when expressing criticism.

    This last point is especially so when one considers the interesting observation that Kitty went on to make that ”In my experience, members of the UK Jewish community are as confused about their identification with Zionism and Israel as the Israeli Government could possibly wish”. Adding, ”Obviously the Israeli government/Zionist institutions encourage this situation with their deliberate efforts to elide “Jew” with “Israeli” and “Zionist”. I think in reality the “Jewish community” have to accept that this elision exists on all sides, and must learn to live with the consequences.” Thus, people may continue to shout “yid” indiscriminately on facebook or at football matches, and there may even be more violent events however, Muslims should be careful to avoid such rhetoric because not only is it completely wrong, but also the people making such comments would tend to be even more ferociously anti-Muslim. Do we want to be unwittingly siding with such people?

    Clearly, the issue of disentangling Zionist support from Jewishness is not our task. Perhaps non-Zionist movements of Jewish people could highlight the fact that this elision occurs and help wider society to see that Zionism is an extreme ideology and not the same as being Jewish. Surely the question of why the othering language of ”Yehud” is used is the one that Muslims should also engage with actively as thoughtlessness has consequences.

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