This is a guest post by frequent contributor Brian Goldfarb, who responds to the latest antisemitism scandal in the Labour Party.
The Left’s Jewish Problem
This is a journalistic “rapid response” to the failure of the Labour Party to expel Ken Livingstone, having found him guilty of antisemitism. How crass of them.
The title of this article is taken from the book of the same name by Dave Rich, employed by the Community Security Trust in the UK. It arises out his Ph.D. thesis and the title accurately reflects the concerns and contents of the book. It’s in paperback and you should read it. The article is mine, only the title is borrowed: we happening to be writing about the same issue.
I realise that what I left out of the last article I wrote for this site (some time ago now) was how the Labour Party got like it now is. In practice, that can be summed up in 4 words, though they will need expansion: Ken Livingstone and Gerald Kaufman. The late Sir Gerald typified much that is wrong in the Labour Party: at one stage, when a fellow (Jewish) Labour MP rose to speak in the House of Commons, he was heard to say “Oh, it’s the Jews again”, despite the fact that he was himself halachically Jewish, though he would probably have wished it otherwise.
Here he is in another offensive accusation against the Jews:
If this hadn’t been obvious before today, then it should now be crystal clear, when the Party, instead of expelling Livingstone, merely suspended him for, effectively, a further 12 months, a sentence he has threatened to appeal. It is not denied (other than by Livingstone himself) that he has made antisemitic comments repeatedly, but these are not deemed a sufficient offence to actually get rid of him. However, the situation is so bad that those not actually on the lunatic left of the Party are appalled by this. Tom Watson, Deputy Leader, and probably the only Front-Bencher in the Parliamentary Party that Corbyn cannot sack (literally: he is elected by the whole movement and is there until he stands down or is replaced by the whole Party), Sir Keir Starmer, a possible future leader of the Party and the Shadow Brexit Secretary of State, and Sadiq Khan, Labour Mayor of London, have all called for Livingstone to be expelled. Even Corbyn has, according to one source called for his latest comments (after being suspended for a further term) to lead to a further investigation, this time by the national Executive Committee, and thus by a larger and probably more public body.
Here are some of the reactions on Twitter:
And here is Jeremy Corbyn’s surprising reaction:
This possibly means that Corbyn can thus be re-classified as an anti-Israel rather than antisemitic, though I have my doubts that this view is accurate of someone who calls Hamas and Hezbollah “friends”.
If anyone doubts that Livingstone is antisemitic, they need only refer back to the television interview that led to all this, the one that resulted in John Mann, MP, confronting Livingstone after it and coming close to actually assaulting him. In the course of that appearance, in part,Livingstone said, between 09.12-09.20 minutes into the segment (it’s amazing what can be said in 8 seconds)
“a real antisemite doesn’t just hate the Jews in Israel, they hate the Jews in Golders Green and Stamford Hill…”
So someone who ONLY hates the Jews in Israel isn’t a “real” antisemite, whatever that means? And that lets Livingstone off the hook?
This is the same interview in which he said that Hitler was really a Zionist until he went mad. This was while attempting to defend Naz Shah, MP for Bradford, who had made stupid comments and posted links to antisemitic sites on her Facebook page, all of which she has since repudiated, handsomely apologised for and made serious contact with the local Jewish community (tiny though it is) and asked them to educate her in the ways of the Jewish community in the UK and their links to Israel.
Sadly, this problem dates back many years. On one level, it dates back to the 19th Century, when August Bebel, a German Social Democrat, was led to note that “antisemitism is the socialism of fools”: that is, the adoption by elements of the Left of the view of the far Right that Jews controlled the world through their control of the world’s finances. Which is why, of course, that at the time Bebel made his pronouncement, the vast majority of Jews worldwide were in poverty.
All that said, people like Livingstone are only the tip of the iceberg. This issue was the same one that concerned Colin Shindler in his book (which I reviewed here: “Israel & the European Left”: as far as the Far Left are concerned, to be part of the Left, you must give up your previous identifications. For Jews, this means becoming part of the generality and denying national identities. It’s either Israel of the proletariat. And Israel is, of course, after 1967, a part of the colonialist/imperialist world. I grossly over-simplify, of course, but the article and/or Shindler’s book need to be read to understand this position. Which is one Corbyn and his Far Left acolytes and comrades have adopted.
This results in the Labour Party’s leader and a small section of its members and supporters (including MPs and MEPs) becoming apologists for terrorists, antisemites and, in some cases, at least borderline antisemites themselves. (You need to understand that by “supporters”, I mean those like me who are lifelong Labour voters, who may or may not have been members. The implication is that should Corbyn remain Leader, the Labour Party has little chance of winning the next election: but one should never say “never” in relation to politics. The impossible may happen. Sadly.)
We need to remember that, for nearly 7 decades the Labour Party had treated all who qualified as workers as equals. And this was despite the tendency of the likes of Ernest Bevin (Foreign Secretary in the post-war Labour Government) to be an Arabist – largely, it must be noted, because of the importance of Arab oil to the UK economy. And Jews repaid the favour: they flocked into the Labour Party and the trade unions; they were over-represented among Labour MPs in the Labour landslide in 1945 and remained so for much of the rest of the century and beyond.
So, what changed? There are those who say that the turning point was 1967 and Israel’s temerity in successfully defending itself from 3 major armies and essentially destroying them in 6 days. At this point, for them, Israel stopped being a victim and became…what? For most observers in the UK, Israel became a safe country, able to defend itself from those who wished it and its citizens harm. The Far Right antisemites will never be other than what they are and, for my purposes here, can be put to one side.
The far Left (or parts of it), however, fell victim to a particularly pernicious mind-set. Israel moved, for these people, from having the status of victim, thanks to centuries of oppression, prejudice, discrimination and even attempted extermination, to becoming a member of the club of imperialist/colonialist (maybe that should be, for them, a hyphen rather than a slash, though the distinction is narrow – just right for Far Left ideologues).
In an odd way, this shift is summed up by a column by the sometime journalist and satirist (and now full-time novelist and playwright) Michael Frayn. Back in 1967, he wrote an article in The Guardian, still then a genuine Left-Liberal paper, after the 6-Day War that it was a shame that Israel had won. If they had wanted the sympathy and support of the West, they should have lost, and “we” would have picked up the survivors from the beaches of Tel Aviv…Remember, Frayn is a satirist.
However, for those steeped in a Stalinist or Trotskyite background, this transition to becoming a colonial/imperialist power was not a matter of satire but of political “reality”. Such people really do believe in the “socialism of fools”. It matters not a whit to people like this (even if they had been alive and grown-up enough to understand what was going on) that after the 6-Day War, the Arab nations propounded their “three no’s”; or as Abba Eban put it, “on the morrow of victory…the vanquished demanded surrender”.
Brian, thank you once again for shedding light on the twisted mindset of the rancid Left (as you so succinctly described it) which cannot tolerate a strong, independent Israel. It becomes clear from the way these hard-Leftists object when they are called antisemites, that they have endless sympathy for dead Jews but not so much for live Jews, particularly if they live in their own nation state.
What a sad state of affairs!