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The transatlantic anti-Semitism smear campaign

November 29, 2019 at 11:56 am

Supporters of Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, attend a rally on 5th June 2017 [Ren/Flickr]

Here we are, with another General Election and another seemingly coordinated round of allegations to smear Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party. Labour has found it almost impossible during this election campaign to actually talk about its policies. Every time it launches a new one, the journalists just want to talk about the spectre of anti-Semitism.

This is despite the lack of evidence that anti-Semitism is any more of a problem in the Labour Party than in any other sector of British society. In fact, all available polling and statistical data shows quite the opposite.

The claims that there is a particular “problem” of anti-Semitism, or a “crisis”, in the party are a complete and utter fabrication. For the past four and a half years, these claims have all been driven along by the same political forces: the dying right-wing of the Labour Party, the British establishment in general and the pro-Israel, anti-Palestinian lobby.

By now, sadly, even parts of the left have gone along with and conceded to these smears, with people like Jon Lansman fretting about the supposed “problem” that they claim needs to be “rooted out”, condemned and apologised for. While denying that he sees himself as a “left Zionist”, Lansman is clearly a defender of Zionism and Zionist organisations such as the Jewish Labour Movement. Tellingly, in his denial to me, Lansman didn’t deny seeing himself as a Zionist, only as a “left Zionist”.

READ: #Jews4Labour trends after calls not to back UK’s Corbyn

However, the problem is worse than that. Even Corbyn himself has given into these smears, constantly apologising for and condemning anti-Semitism, even when he has done nothing wrong. This has been his approach all along, especially since the smear campaign against him really took off in the spring of 2016. At that time, Corbyn condemned Ken Livingstone – who was being viciously attacked by the press and the Labour right at the time – and allowed the party bureaucracy to suspend the former Mayor of London, a giant of Labour’s genuinely anti-racist left.

Nothing Livingstone said was anti-Semitic, but ever since that early mistake was made, it has been the same pattern of capitulation all along by Corbyn and Labour. So far, there has been no coming back from it, and it may well be too late now. This smear campaign could well cost Labour the election.

Today the campaign is transatlantic. The US and Canada are also in the grip of the “left-wing anti-Semitism” spectre. It hasn’t reached the same national proportions yet in the US, but if Corbyn is defeated in this election, you can expect “Labour anti-Semitism” to cross the ocean and become “Democrat anti-Semitism” in swift order just in time for the presidential campaign next year.

Jewish Voice for Labour supporters demonstrating against false claims of anti-Semitism, in London on 26 March 2018 [Twitter]

Jewish Voice for Labour supporters demonstrating against false claims of anti-Semitism, in London on 26 March 2018 [Twitter]

In fact, as we’ve seen, this process has already begun, with the utterly mendacious and invented attacks against left-wing Democrat lawmakers like Ilan Omar and Rashida Tlaib. Such attacks have become prominent on a national scale in Britain, and to a lesser extent in the US, precisely because they have unified the pro-Israel lobby with its allies on the liberal wing of the political establishment — the Labour right, the Democratic Party apparatus — and with the wider neoliberal political establishment, including the corporate media.

The pro-Israel lobby’s usual lying smear campaigns against Palestinians and their supporters have thus reached wider audiences than usual. This is a transatlantic – indeed, a global – campaign against the movement for justice in Palestine.

READ: Guardian columnist peddles fake news to accuse Corbyn of anti-Semitism

The latest example of this was seen in Canada this month. Toronto’s York University was the scene of a public recruitment drive on campus by serving Israeli soldiers, which is actually against Canadian law. Naturally, Palestinian students and their supporters protested against this, with a lively demonstration. The recruitment drive was a blatant provocation organised by the far-right Zionist group Herut, and supported by the Canadian branch of the Jewish Defence League.

The JDL is a Zionist organisation so extreme that it was once listed as a terrorist group by the FBI. Founded by Rabbi Meir Kahane in the 1960s, during the 1970s and 80s it ran a bombing campaign in New York and Washington DC against Palestinian, Arab and Soviet civilian targets. Nevertheless, the JDL was given free rein to turn up at York University campus and attack and assault Palestinians and their supporters with impunity. JDL supporters were caught on social media boasting about knocking people out.

To make matters worse, the victims were blamed and defamed by the usual lying smear campaigns. Pro-Israel propagandists, including the extremist organisers of the original event, spread lies about the protesters, alleging falsely that they had shouted a particularly nasty anti-Semitic chant. This was completely false. Despite there being not a shred of video or other evidence, the media took the lies at face value. Disgustingly, these lies were then believed by the entire political establishment from blackface-loving Prime Minister Justin Trudeau downwards.

This is the same dynamic as the one taking place in Britain. Lies about the Labour Party are told. The accusation is then treated as if it were proof. Deny the accusation? You too are an “anti-Semite”.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.