The current so-called anti-Semitism crisis in the British Labour Party is founded on a complete misunderstanding of what anti-Semitism really is. It is based on a complete misunderstanding of Jewish history and the real suffering of the Jewish people over the centuries.
Today, anti-Semitism poses nowhere near the danger it once did to the Jewish people. And a good deal of the danger it continues to pose derives from a false conflation of Israel with the Jewish people. When an Islamist militant attacks a Jewish school in France or a Jewish museum in Belgium it is because he falsely believes that Israel and being Jewish are the same thing. They clearly are not.
Israel’s leaders bear a considerable part of the blame for this confusion because they often speak in the name of world Jewry. They assume that the interests of Israel are the same as the interests of Jews throughout the world. They claim, for example, that Iran wants to destroy the Jewish people, when they know that Iran’s quarrel is not with Jews, but with Israel.
Israeli settlers too are guilty of co-opting Judaism in pursuit of their ultra-nationalist goals. They have turned Zionism into a movement that seeks to incite a holy war with Islam. It is no wonder that Islamists have become convinced that Jews are their enemy, when they are not.
Currently, in the UK an alliance of the local Israel Lobby, the Tories and much of the British media have concocted an anti-Semitism scare, declaring the Labour Party is riddled with Jew hatred. In response, Labour has adopted a deeply flawed IHRA definition which posits that most criticism of Israel is ipso facto, anti-Semitic. This was a “cave” to the Party’s enemies in a false belief that giving them half a loaf would make them go away. Any one of us could’ve told them that giving them that half loaf meant they were going to come back for the whole. And they have.
The ultimate goal of this campaign against Labour is not to stamp out anti-Semitism in England or in the Labour Party. Rather, the goal is to tar the Party with the brush of Jew-hatred so that British voters will view the Party as extremist. The purveyors of this canard care not so much about promoting tolerance in Britain, as they do about destroying Labour’s chance of becoming the ruling party in the coming election.
Jeremy Corbyn’s views on Israel-Palestine are to the left of any recent British prime minister. Israel and its allies know that if he becomes prime minister, he will be far more critical of it than any leader in decades. It also realizes that Europe has become a hotbed of pro-Palestinian activism, including the BDS movement.
If Corbyn wins, he will serve as a beachhead, in the view of the Israeli government, for anti-Israel sentiment in Europe. Activists throughout the continent will look to Britain’s Labour Party to lead the march for Palestinian rights.
Finally, real anti-Semitism is hatred of Jews. While there may be some who hate both Israel and Jews who are real anti-Semites, criticism of Israel alone has nothing to do with anti-Semitism. Criticism of Zionism (including anti-Zionism) is aimed against a nationalist ideology, not against a religion. Criticism of Zionism is political in nature. It is not based on theology or any sort of racist notion.
Those who propagate the anti-Semitism smear are deliberately confusing politics with religion. Whenever you do this you create an insoluble problem. Political debate is one thing. People may argue about their views on politics and seek compromise. But once you introduce religion, there is no compromise. Each side believes they are doing God’s will and will never compromise when it comes to the divine.
That’s why invoking anti-Semitism is a brilliant but poisonous political ploy. The adherents of this campaign have removed Israel from the realm of politics and transformed it into an issue of religion. Thus, the Labour Party and Corbyn can never win. Unless they refuse to take the bait and reject the witch hunt. So far, they’ve fallen into the trap set for them by their enemies.