1 August 2018

Corbyn is making the case for Israel better than a Zionist ever could


Jeremy Corbyn would never admit to being a Zionist. The far-left leader of the British Labour Party has called Hamas and Hezbollah – both constitutionally committed to the destruction of Israel  – “friends,” contributed money to a charity operated by a Holocaust denier, and defended a Reverend who claimed Israel was responsible for 9/11 on the grounds that he “dared to speak out against Zionism.”

Yet despite this long track record of animus towards Israel, Jeremy Corbyn has become, unwittingly, one of the most effective advocates for Zionism.

How? By institutionalising anti-Semitism within Britain’s largest political party, he and his supporters daily prove the necessity of a Jewish state.

In the nearly three years since the career backbencher won his party’s leadership contest, Labour has been plagued by anti-Semitism scandals. Hundreds of Labour members have been disciplined for anti-Semitic statements. In 2016, a cross-party parliamentary committee ruled that “the failure of the Labour Party consistently and effectively to deal with anti-Semitic incidents in recent years risks lending force to allegations that elements of the Labour movement are institutionally anti-Semitic.” Just last week, yet another Labour elected official was suspended for an anti-Semitic social media post claiming that Jews are “parasites” who “drink blood,” “should be gassed” and that “Hitler would have a solution to the Israel problem.”

Corbyn has not been a bystander to this toxic subculture. He has spent his entire life mired in those precincts of the far left where hostility to Israel frequently blurs into outright Jew-hatred, and it was entirely predictable that a Labour party led by a lifelong enemy of the West would find itself in this ignominious state.

When Corbyn’s active participation in anti-Semitic Facebook groups was revealed earlier this year, Jewish community leaders sent an open letter alleging that he had “again and again” sided with “anti-Semites rather than Jews,” and organised a rally against anti-Semitism outside parliament. Shortly thereafter, the Israeli Labour party went so far as to suspend its decades-long relationship with their British comrades, citing, in a letter to Corbyn, “the hostility you have shown to the Jewish community and the anti-Semitic statements and actions you have allowed as leader of the Labour party UK.”

In response to this outpouring of apprehension about anti-Semitism within Labour ranks, Corbyn and his acolytes not only act oblivious to the concerns of their Jewish members. They add insult to injury.

Urged to adopt — alongside the British government, its Crown Prosecution Service, 100 local authorities and 31 other nations —  the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of anti-Semitism, Corbyn’s allies within Labour have tried to water it down so as to exclude examples dealing with Israel. If the Corbynistas get their way, “accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel… than to the interests of their own nations”; “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor”; “applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation”; and “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis” will no longer be considered anti-Semitic by the Labour Party.

It’s no wonder why they would try to do this, as, under the current IHRA definition, Corbyn would himself be implicated as the anti-Semite he so clearly is. Just today, The Times revealed that Corbyn chaired an event in 2010 entitled Never Again for Anyone — Auschwitz to Gaza, one of countless such platforms he has graced over his sordid, four-decade career in extreme left-wing politics.

This latest attempt at institutionalising anti-Semitism within Labour led Britain’s three major Jewish newspapers to take the unprecedented step of publishing the same front-page editorial last week warning that Corbyn’s election as prime minister would threaten the very survival of Jewish life in Great Britain.

“We do so because of the existential threat to Jewish life in this country that would be posed by a Jeremy Corbyn-led government,” the papers declared, explaining their reasoning for the joint editorial. “We do so because the party that was, until recently, the natural home for our community has seen its values and integrity eroded by Corbynite contempt for Jews and Israel. The stain and shame of antisemitism has coursed through Her Majesty’s Opposition since Jeremy Corbyn became leader in 2015.”

Meanwhile, 68 British rabbis published an open letter in the Guardian stating that the party has “chosen to ignore the Jewish community” by attempting to rewrite the internationally-accepted definition of what constitutes anti-Semitism.

When a minority community speaks with such near-unanimity about the prejudice endured by its members, people on the left usually listen. Sadly, that has not been the case of the Labour Party leadership and Jews. After Margaret Hodge, a veteran Labour MP whose relatives died in the Holocaust, confronted Corbyn and called him a “racist and anti-Semite” for attempting to re-define anti-Semitism, the party initiated disciplinary proceedings against her. When another MP said he was “deeply ashamed” of Labour due to its leader’s track record “supporting and defending” extremists, he was sent a letter from the party’s general secretary warning that he could face expulsion.

That the leadership of a supposedly progressive party would so stubbornly align itself with anti-Semites has sent an unequivocal message to British Jews: should Labour win the next election, this country will no longer be a welcoming place for you.

Over a year ago, around the publication of my book The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues and the Coming Dark Age, I published a 7,000-word, dystopic, semi-fictional essay in Foreign Policy imagining the state of Europe in 2022. Amidst a Russian invasion of the Baltic states, the victory of Marine Le Pen in France’s presidential election, and the collapse of the European Union and NATO, this is what I had to say about the future of Britain:

As was the case for their brethren on the Continent, life grew increasingly difficult for British Jews under the Corbyn premiership. Unlike in France or Belgium, where attacks on Jewish individuals and institutions had become a regular occurrence, the experience for British Jewry was characterised not so much by episodes of violence but subtler forms of intimidation. There had been the government’s decision to heed the cries of its most active supporters in the unions, peace movement, and academia and implement a full boycott of Israel; no longer could oranges grown in Jaffa be found at Tesco or Waitrose or even Marks & Spencer, itself once the target of boycotts decades earlier due to the Jewish provenance of its founders. In keeping with the culture to which British Jews had so well assimilated, their departure was reserved and understated. They didn’t organize massive protests against the government or issue public appeals to world Jewry for help. The process was accompanied by quiet transfers of funds from pound sterling to dollar bank accounts and acquisitions of flats in Sydney and Vancouver, all executed with the steely resolve of that famed, stiff upper lip.

And here is an excerpt from a piece written by Mandy Blumenthal, a real-life British Jew, in the Daily Telegraph last month:

Quietly, without fuss or fanfare, Jewish people all over the country, people who were born and raised in Britain, have lived here their whole lives and contributed immeasurably to society, are packing up their homes, selling up and moving abroad….

Jeremy Corbyn could very easily become the next Prime Minister: if that happens — from everything I have personally seen and experienced — the anti-Semitism already rife in this country will ignite.

Blumenthal plans to move to Israel by the end of the year. Countless other British Jewish acquaintances have told me of similar plans should Corbyn become Prime Minister.

Seven decades after the genocide of six million Jewish people, it remains a common misperception in Europe that the existence of Israel is vindicated – if not solely than primarily –  by the existence of anti-Semitism. Political Zionism long predates the Holocaust, however, and while widespread anti-Jewish animus heavily influenced the movement’s founder, Theodore Herzl, to advocate the creation of a Jewish state, Israel’s existence would be justifiable even in the absence of it. Jewish people have the same right to nationhood, to flourish in their ancient homeland, as any other.

Nonetheless, as long as there is anti-Semitism in the world – and, sadly, there is no indication it is going away – Israel will be a necessary refuge for Jews in danger. European politicians can talk all they like about how they will “stand up” to anti-Semitism. But today’s European Jews are coming to realise what many of their ancestors didn’t until it was too late: that, ultimately, the safety of world Jewry can only be guaranteed by the Jews themselves.

So thank you Jeremy Corbyn. Every day, you make the case for Zionism better than any Zionist ever could.

James Kirchick is the author of 'The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues and the Coming Dark Age' (Yale University Press).