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.