30 December 2018

Best of 2018: Anti-Semitism: the socialism of fools


This week CapX is republishing some of our favourite articles of the year. This piece first appeared on August 25.

The German politician and writer August Bebel described anti-Semitism as “the socialism of fools”.

Jeremy Corbyn is a socialist, a fool and an anti-Semite. In everything that he says and does, the leader of the Labour Party proves himself to be this particularly malignant type of triple threat.

That Corbyn is a socialist is uncontentious. Evidence that he is a fool comes in many forms. He supports homeopathy, doesn’t appear to understand how markets work, has been a willing participant in Russian and Iranian propaganda on Press TV and Russia Today, and has recently come up with some especially harebrained plans for the media.

Is Corbyn an anti-Semite? Until this week, the answer to that question depended on how you judged the Labour leader’s fondness for sharing platforms with anti-Semites, or laying wreaths at the graves of anti-Semitic terrorists, or failing to notice the blatant anti-Semitic depictions of Jews in a mural before heaping it with praise.

The charge sheet was already too full for comfort. But it left room for the Corbynistas to claim, however unpersuasively, that this was the dirty business of peacemaking. (This, of course, ignores the fact that peacemaking generally involves talking to both sides, not mingling with the ropiest members of one camp and denouncing those in the other as war criminals.)

On Thursday, however, footage emerged of Corbyn in 2013 not just appearing alongside anti-Semites – though some of the most notorious figures from the anti-Israel left were in the room – but saying something straightforwardly anti-Semitic himself. Of “British Zionists”, he said “having lived in this country for a very long time, probably all their lives, they don’t understand English irony.”

If you doubt the anti-Semitism in that choice of words and the way it makes a claim of foreignness of supporters of Israel’s right to exist, consider former BNP leader Nick Griffin’s response – “Go Jezza!” – or consider another politician saying something like it about any other minority group.

Stephen Pollard, Editor of the Jewish Chronicle wrote on Twitter that “This is classic middle/upper class English antisemitism. Not the skinhead thugs but this. They’re not really English, those Jews. Some are OK but they’re all a bit…foreign. They are welcome to stay here but should know their place.”

Corbyn’s cheerleaders will no doubt point to Corbyn’s use of the word Zionist. Leaving to one side the anti-Semitic tendency to use “Zionist” and “Jew” interchangeably, it is only a partial defence: “His derogatory remarks weren’t aimed at all Jews, just the ones he disagrees with.”

The charge of rootlessness is the oldest trick in the Jew-baiting book. And here was Corbyn clumsily hinting at exactly that to an audience that included Stephen Sizer — who has suggested that Israel was behind the 9/11 attacks and who Jeremy Corbyn has defended – and Daud Abdullah, whose great contribution to British public life has been to organise boycotts of Holocaust Memorial Day. Also speaking at the event was Alison Weir, who has fostered an ugly strain of anti-Semitic, white-supremacist bigotry.

This was not a peace-loving man bravely engaging with horrendous people. Corbyn was egging them on.

Bebel called anti-Semitism the socialism of fools because, unlike other types of racist, the anti-Semite thinks he is aiming upwards, taking on a powerful Jewish conspiracy he has convinced himself exists.

Corbyn’s simplistic politics, in which it is him and “the people” up against a powerful elite comprised of newspaper owners, bankers and businessmen, isn’t exactly at odds with that way of thinking. As one banner at a recent protest about Labour anti-Semitism memorably put it: “For the many, not the Jew.”

Two years have passed since Shami Chakrabarti’s report on anti-Semitism in the Labour Party – a whitewash published two months before she was given a peerage – and still the sorry saga continues.

Corbynistas, again clutching for conspiracy, will tell you this is because there is a hidden agenda behind the story, and that, to quote trade union boss and Corbyn loyalist Len McCluskey, British Jews “refuse to take yes for an answer”.

The simpler answer is that a party cannot solve its anti-Semitism problem until it does something about its anti-Semitic leader.

This article is taken from CapX’s Weekly Briefing email. Sign up here.

Oliver Wiseman is Editor of CapX.