LONDON — “Jewish Trump fanatics” are responsible for a raft of made-up stories about Labour Party anti-Semitism, national executive member Peter Willsman charged at the committee’s meeting July 17. This explosion of Jew-hatred, recorded and publicly released, is part of a growing debate here over rampant anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. Party leader Jeremy Corbyn sat silent during Willsman’s rant.
With attacks against Jews rising internationally — recent figures show record numbers of anti-Semitic attacks in the U.K. over the last three years — prominent Labour members have variously condemned Jews for “controlling the media,” being the “chief financiers of the slave trade” and as collective agents of the Israeli government. Two party leaders who objected to these remarks have themselves faced disciplinary charges.
This has prompted protests. The Jewish Chronicle, Jewish News and Jewish Telegraph newspapers published a common “United We Stand” front-page editorial July 25. If a Corbyn-led Labour Party government were to be voted into office, it would pose “an existential threat to Jewish life” in the U.K., they said.
Corbyn was elected party leader in 2015, saying Labour had to turn left. Hundreds of thousands have joined since, including large numbers of middle-class radicals who call for the destruction of the state of Israel and support for bourgeois Islamist organizations in the Middle East like Hamas and Hezbollah.
Corbyn’s own record leaves little to the imagination. He blocked the expulsion from Labour of former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, who had said that Hitler had been a Zionist until he “went mad” and killed 6 million Jews. Livingstone also attacked a journalist who was Jewish, saying he was acting like a Nazi prison guard; and said he couldn’t be called a real anti-Semite, because someone like that “doesn’t just hate the Jews in Israel,” but all Jews.
Corbyn defended a mural that was criticized for depicting a cabal of conspiring businessmen and bankers, with grotesquely racist Jewish caricatures, counting money around a Monopoly-style board balanced on the backs of the oppressed and exploited. And he described Hamas and Hezbollah as his “friends,” who he was “proud” to host. These organizations advocate killing Jews and the destruction of Israel.
He has associated with a number of Holocaust deniers, including Paul Eisen; Raed Salah, who propagates the blood libel slander that Jews kidnap and murder gentile children to use their blood in religious rituals; and Jew-hating Anglican preacher Stephen Sizer.
Danger to the working class
These views are a deadly danger to the working class.
Corbyn has retracted some of his anti-Semitic comments, Facebook postings, and his former political associations. Willsman “apologized” for his outburst at the Labour Party executive. But newly found contrition — often many years later — followed by further acts of Jew-hatred doesn’t cut it.
Corbyn is defended by a British left that claims to be the vanguard of the fight against racism. Len McCluskey, general secretary of the Unite union, said that party anti-Semitism is “only a problem because the right wing media try to make it a problem.”
But if there’s no problem, why does it keep cropping up? Why do Labour spokespeople acknowledge that the party has a mountain to climb to gain “trust and confidence” from Jews in the U.K.?
Corbyn’s so-called defense — asserting he’s a socialist and anti-racist — fails to address anti-Semitism, which is always bound up with scapegoating Jews as money-grubbing bankers, businessmen and traders. Jew-hatred under the guise of “anti-capitalist” demagogy always rises in times of capitalist crisis, as it did with the Nazis in the 1930s.
Today it often takes the form that “globalization” is the work of Jews, opening up avenues for usury worldwide. “If I told you I thought the world was controlled by a handful of capitalists and corporate bosses, you would say I was a left-winger,” one “anti-globalist,” who described himself as an anarchist, told Pravda at a demonstration. “But if I told you who I thought the capitalists and corporate bosses were, you’d say I was far right.”
Much of the rise of anti-Semitism is presented as defense of the Palestinians from brutalities of the Israeli government. In an article in the Morning Star, the daily associated with the Communist Party of Britain, John Elder argues no one has the right to complain about anti-Semitism unless they agree the root cause is “Israel’s criminal behaviour.”
This brought a challenge from readers Mary Davis and Phil Katz, who pointed out Jew-hatred has been a deadly scourge for centuries, long before the existence of Israel. This prompted an “editorial apology.”
Most of the left here prettify reactionary Islamist provocations and attacks on Jews. The U.K. Socialist Workers Party condemns Israel’s existence as a state “based on ethnic cleansing,” and paints Hamas as a “beacon” of resistance.
In sharp contrast to Corbyn and the left, the Communist League in the U.K. — as its members go door to door in working-class neighborhoods to discuss a way forward — explains the stakes in denouncing Jew-hatred and understanding the role it has played in dividing and weakening the working class.
League members widely distribute a statement issued by the Socialist Workers Party in the U.S., “For Recognition of a Palestinian State and of Israel.”
“Negotiations to reach such an agreement must recognize the right of Jews everywhere to take refuge in Israel in face of the global rise of Jew-hatred and anti-Semitic violence, as well as the unconditional right of the dispossessed Palestinian people to a contiguous, sovereign homeland on territory — including East Jerusalem — conquered and occupied by the Israeli government during the 1967 war,” the statement says.
“It is along this road that working people of all national backgrounds, religious beliefs and political allegiances in Israel and Palestine can use and defend their space to speak, organize and begin redressing the blood-drenched legacy of imperialist domination and capitalist exploitation. These historic outrages include ruthless colonial and national oppression across the Arab and Muslim countries, as well as the genocidal crimes of the Holocaust, the murderous pogroms preceding it across Eastern and Central Europe and Russia, and the enduring reality of Jew-hatred in today’s crises-ridden capitalist world.”