Earlier today, Middle East Eye published my latest piece about Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s private briefing with American Jewish leaders. In response to a suitably hysterical questioner who implied that UK Jews faced massive pogroms if Jeremy Corbyn were elected premier, he intimated that the Trump administration was prepared to sabotage Jeremy Corbyn’s election prospects. Please give it a read and promote it via social media.
I asked some fellow activists if there had been any polling about the perception of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party among British Jews. Mike Cushman of the Facebook group, Free Speech on Israel, sent me this terrific UK Chanel Four primer on the general subject. It reveals some interesting results. Of all the major parties, Labour members, according to a 2017 Yougov poll, are among the least likely to hold anti-Semitic views. Tory members are 8% more likely to hold such views. In other words, if any party harbors anti-Semites and racists it’s the Conservatives, not Labour.
When British Jews were asked whether political parties were “too tolerant of anti-Semitism among their MPs, members and supporters” 83% said that Labour was too tolerant. The other parties fared much better in that regard. But the Channel 4 data also showed that in the last election 63% of British Jews voted Tory and only 26% voted Labour.
So there are several reasons why UK Jews believe the Labour Party is anti-Semitic: first, they hold conservative views that are hostile to Labour’s platform on foreign and domestic policy. It’s also important to note that British Jews are generally more religiously observant than other Diaspora communities. Among all Diaspora and Israeli communities, the more Orthodox they are the more conservative they are on domestic issues and the more pro-Israel. British Jews tend to be somewhat better-off economically than non-Jews, and therefore hold views similar to those of economically privileged non-Jewish Britons regarding social and economic issues.
The barrage of hostile media coverage against the Labour Party regarding the charges of anti-Semitism and other issues, has a large impact on public perceptions. In other words, whether or not there is a real crisis is almost immaterial. What the media says, and how these claims shape public opinion is far more pertinent. Finally, the UK Israel Lobby is extremely powerful. It is composed of some of the wealthiest Jews in the country. They not only command stature in the community, they also have wide access to UK media. The Lobby and Israel’s UK embassy exert a powerful impact in amplifying this claim.
It’s something like the Big Lie. If you repeat a falsehood often enough, widely enough, and persuasively enough, people will come to believe it is true, regardless of whether it is or not.
Finally, it’s important to remember that aside from the tiny portion of the overall UK population that is Jewish, very few Britons believe that purported Labour anti-Semitism is a major crisis infecting the British body politic. In other words, this is a manufactured controversy designed to promote the Tories and destroy a progressive Labour Party leader viewed as hostile to Israel’s far-right interests. At best, this is a sideshow to the real battle in domestic politics between a spent Conservative Party and a surging Labour Party threatening to assume power in the next election.
The British Labour Party has always been a strong supporter of Zionism, it backed the Balfour Declaration of 1917, and opposed the MacDonald white paper of 1939 which restricted Jewish immigration. In 1944 the Labour policy was that the Arabs of Palestine should be encouraged to move out as the Jews moved in, and that Palestine should extend into Egypt, Syria or Jordan.
Why is there now such a fuss about anti-semitism in the Labour part? Because its Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has said that the next Labour government will recognise the State of Palestine.
Eunice Kearnes says
Arafat dispatched waves of suicide bombers to kill Jews, and his faithful, lickspittle lapdog sat at his side.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Eunice Kearnes: You have been warned about comment rule violations. This comment violates them in multiple ways and is deeply offensive. You are now moderated. Only comments which respect the comment rules will be published in future.
Colin Wright says
The news here is the dog that didn’t bark.
After all the hysteria about supposed Russian interference in our elections, here’s a US official calmly proposing to intervene in Britain’s elections.
…and yet the normally hysterically anti-Trump mainstream media is virtually silent.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Colin Wright: Russia’s role in ensuring Trump’s election is NOT “hysteria.” Stay on-topic in your comments. This is not the place to debate crackpot ideas on this subject.
Joshua Laskin says
It’s unclear that getting attacked so excessively for Pro-Palestinianism, won’t actually generate more support for Labour among regular Brits; as nobody likes a bully.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Joshua Laskin: My own take on this from a purely tactical perspective is that given that there are under 300,000 Jews in the UK (not all of whom even accept the anti-Semitism claims), if we assume that perhaps that many non-Jews in the country are motivated and agitated about this issue, it simply won’t generate the sort of concern among voters that will cause any Party to win (in this case the Tories) or lose (Labour) an election.
I’d be willing to bet if you asked UK Jews what their voting priorities are when they go into the polling booth, so-called Labour anti-Semitism is near the bottom of the top ten, if that. It’s quite a marginal issue imo and I’m not sure why the Lobby is exhausting so much of its resources to promote this fraud.
I have never read a report on anti Semitism that does not claim that there has been an alarming rise. Three physical attacks in the Netherlands last year! Anti Semitism has risen with 70%! That sort of thing.