Wednesday, Nov 21, 2018 | Last Update : 02:53 PM IST

UK Labour must tackle its anti-Semitism

In his words: "I am just a professional writer, which means I don't do blogs and try and get money for whatever I write."
Published : Aug 4, 2018, 2:21 am IST
Updated : Aug 4, 2018, 2:20 am IST

Several Muslim leaders objected and complained to Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, to take action.

Britain's Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn (Photo: AP)
 Britain's Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn (Photo: AP)

“Voice of the void in a seashell
A whisper loud as a storm
All our tomorrows — the deep well
Infinite space without form

Shrieks of the flock at sunset
As it hovers around the trees
The chill of a passing — and yet
The comforting twilight breeze…”
From
Ma ki Haveli (My
Mother’s Mansion)
by Bachchoo

The Labour Party of Britain, Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition and possible government-in-waiting, is in deep trouble.
Here’s not what happened:

A member, let’s say, of Labour’s ethics committee and once even a shadow minister appeared on TV saying that all Muslims living in Britain supported the murderous cult of ISIS. Several Muslim leaders objected and complained to Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, to take action. Mr Corbyn declined to comment.

A member of Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) went a step further and said that in his opinion the majority of Muslims in Britain owed more loyalty to ISIS than to Britain. Two Muslim Labour MPs, call them Miriam Haji and Yusuf Ahmed, representing constituencies in the north with large Muslim populations, reacted, calling this abject anti-Muslim nonsense. They asked Mr Corbyn to take action.

Mr Corbyn issued a statement of Labour’s opposition to all racism. Brandishing that assurance. Ms Haji and Mr Ahmed asked Mr Corbyn to suspend or expel the NEC member who held and voiced this opinion. Mr Corbyn didn’t. Ms Haji then, very publicly in the House of Commons, called Mr Corbyn an Islamophobe and a racist.

Her remarks were noted and calls for her expulsion from the party followed.

Joining Ms Haji and Mr Ahmed in their protests, 68 imams of mosques in Britain signed an open letter in the press pointing to several remarks that Labour officials had made over time. They said there was a current of Islamophobia in the Labour Party, which ought to be checked and dealt with.

Another Labour luminary and known ideological associate of Mr Corbyn then pronounced these imams to be “Putin’s puppets” who supported Bashar al-Assad and his murderous Russian-backed regime in Syria.

Again, the national press, surveying opinion within the UK’s Muslim communities and questioning a large sample of Muslim Labour Party members, concluded that there was a widespread fear that Labour, hitherto seen as a champion of Muslims and anti-racism, was being infiltrated by a current of Islamophobia.

Analysts put this down to the Labour spokespersons perceived as Islamophobic confounded the actions and ideology of Islamism with Islam and attributed these to all Muslims. The prevalence of this conflation could certainly be labelled Islamophobia and had to be addressed head-on.

Several Muslim MPs of the Labour Party muttered about resigning if action was not taken. Investigative journalists unearthed another fact: In 2010, Mr Corbyn appeared on a platform with a rabid rabbi who advocated the genocide of Palestinians.

It is time, gentle reader, to repeat as I said at the start, that none of these things happened.  And yet I didn’t exactly make them up! Within the contexts of several statements, events, speeches, protests and accusations that have indeed taken place over the last few weeks in Britain. I substituted “Muslim” for “Jewish”, “ISIS” for “Israel”, “Islamophobia” for “anti-Semitism”, “imams” for “rabbis”, two Muslim MPs for two Jewish Labour ones and “Putin’s puppets” for “Trumpeteers”.

The Labour Party, its NEC and Mr Corbyn appear in the above allegory as themselves.

If the above scenario, the statements substituting Muslims for Jews had actually come to pass or be pronounced, the Labour Party would be in deeper trouble than it is. That can’t happen. Any overt Islamophobia would be dealt with through severe condemnation and expulsions. And yet the Labour Party has got its knickers in a right twist over anti-Semitism.

The party has adopted a code against anti-Semitism and annexed to itself a definition of what that is. The code comes from the world Jewish organisations themselves, but in its adoption of the definition it has left out some serious clauses. Without going into the semantics of each, it can be generally said that these are the clauses, which allow the conflation of anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism.

For instance, a Labour Party official who condemns the domestic or foreign policy of Benjamin Netanyahu would not be considered anti-Semitic by either the Jewish community, very many of whom are critics of Israeli policy, or by the Labour Party.

On the other hand, if, as the Labour ex-mayor of London Ken Livingstone did, one was to say that Hitler was a Zionist because he favoured the repatriation of Jews from Germany to Israel, he would be condemned by the Jewish community as anti-Semitic and suspended from the Labour Party for at the least not choosing his words carefully enough. It may be true that Hitler wanted initially to expel Jews before he set in motion the Holocaust, but that doesn’t make him a Zionist.

It is true that some of the actions of the Israeli state against Arabs are comparable to the actions of German National Socialists, but that doesn’t excuse calling all Jews or Israeli Jews Nazis.

Mr Corbyn needs to save the party from this destructive dilemma. He did appear on a platform in 2010 with terrorists who advocated the annihilation of Israel. In the wake of this coming to light he apologised for it saying he disagreed with what was said.

A respected Jewish MP, Margaret Hodge, did object to Labour’s mealy-mouthed definition of anti-Semitism and she did call Mr Corbyn an anti-Semite and a bigot. Now the Labour deputy leader, several MPs and Labour constituencies are calling for no disciplinary charges to be levelled against her.

Mr Corbyn’s supporters say this is all a conspiracy by Jews who own the press and control “the establishment” to discredit him and the party.

This is errant nonsense. Rupert Murdoch, Lord Rothermere and the Barclay Brothers, who together own all British newspapers, have not converted to Judaism — and as for “the establishment” I think Prince Charles and the Queen are still Anglicans.

Tags: jeremy corbyn, isis