Back to anti-semitism.
Just think. (1) How many specific examples of Labour anti-semitism have you seen quoted recently, to justify the charge that Labour has a ‘real problem’ here? All the accusations I’ve read, of ‘deep pockets’ of anti-semitism and the like, are vague and insubstantial. Others – Ken Livingstone daring to mention Hitler’s support for a Jewish National Home where he could send all Germany’s Jews (true), and Corbyn’s initial support for an anti-capitalist mural in London, with just two Jews portrayed among the six bankers supposedly ruling the world – cannot possibly be read as unequivocally and essentially anti-semitic. Here’s the artist’s own comment on the latter:
So Corbyn is probably wrong to renege on his support for it. But you can see why he did. He’s under seige.
I’m sure, as I’ve said before, that there are some anti-semites among Labour’s very large membership. But there are probably some paedophiles there too. That’s not to say that Labour has a particular or serious problem with either. I can understand why – in the light of their history – Jews and Jewish organisations feel sensitive over these issues; but that’s not to say that their suspicions are justified.
Second point (2). – I’m not a ‘conspiracy theorist’ – or don’t think so – but it was put to me by a friend recently that if Jeremy Corbyn became Prime Minister, he would be much less pro-Israel (pro-the present State of Israel, that is) and more pro-Palestinian than any of our recent PMs. That might be a reason for the so-called ‘Israel Lobby’ in Britain to smear him with one of the most shameful charges in post-Holocaust history, in order to prevent his coming to power.
And that’s easy enough to do, by lazily conflating criticism of the present right-wing Israeli government with racism. In fact a very large number of Jews, including many Israelis, are also hostile to Netanyahu’s regime, to Israel’s ‘occupied territories’, and the rest. (One of them is an acquaintance of mine who is working hard – and generously – for Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation.) Israeli right-wingers sometimes dub these critics ‘self-hating Jews’. Am I a ‘self-hating Brit’ because I’ve always opposed imperialism?
And what is Israel if it isn’t itself a consequence of imperialism? Remember that modern Israel was originally created as a Western colony in a land occupied for centuries by others. The same could be said of England, since the Anglo-Saxon invasions; and of course the United States. One difference with Israel, however, is that it happened much more recently, which means that the Arabs have closer memories of their dispossession than the Celts or the Native Americans. Which is emphatically not a reason to destroy Israel – we’re stuck with it now, and it has many admirable national qualities, especially when compared with some of the states surrounding it – but that the Israelis should be aware of their problematic origins, sensitive to the Arabs’ feelings as well as super-sensitive to their own, and more generous and accommodating towards their neighbours than they presently appear to be. That, after all, was the liberal and socialist dream that fired the original Zionists, with the considerable support of the British Labour Party in days gone by.