Sunday, 1 May 2016

Is Labour anti-Semitic?

No, the Labour Party is not an association of anti-Semites. Yet the media storm over anti-Semitism and the Labour Party has been building for a long time. The Naz Shah case, and Ken Livingstone’s intervention, is just the latest to be picked up by the media. In fact, the British press has manufactured this scandal in a bid to create a crisis. This hysteria represents the emotional stakes in Israel. It is precisely because of the state of British political discourse that this was possible.

The Anglosphere is culturally and politically invested in Israel in a way which other world powers are not. Make no doubt about it, this is the result of settler colonialism. Israel fits into the imperial ambitions of Western powers. The American intellectual class fell in love with Israel after the 1967 war, which came as a welcome sign that the world was not in total disarray. So the conflation of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism is not a coincidental part of our political discourse - it is necessarily a part of the way the conflict is understood in the West.

For these reasons, we might say Ken Livingstone ran into the Shah scandal like a bull into a china shop. We still may not have heard the last vase smash as it hits the floor. Plenty of leftists have pointed out the Haavara agreement, the Nazi plans to deport European Jews to Madagascar and elsewhere. However, the facts of Nazi Germany are not really relevant or helpful here. The real controversy is over Livingstone’s use of the term ‘Zionism’ (an idiotic choice of words) to describe Nazi policy. Laying out the historical record cannot dispel the outrage (much of it phony). The damage is done.

Vilification campaigns are successful because it is virtually impossible to resist mudslinging. If you explain yourself, deny the claims or even apologise, you’re screwed. It’s too late. It’s never enough. There is no way of adequately deflecting, let alone dodging, the mud. You’re always guilty in the eyes of some people. Even before this, Livingstone was rated as an anti-Semite by certain people thanks to the media. But what is the point of all this?

Right now, Jeremy Corbyn is leading the Labour Party and this represents a major challenge to the status quo in Britain. So far, Corbyn has beaten all the odds against him (he has to, there are no half-measures), but the Blairites are desperate to inflict a defeat on the Left. They feel the party has been snatched from them. They want it back. The Blairites already tried to destroy him by branding him an apologist for terrorism, now they're gunning to smear him as sympathetic to xenophobes.

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