Has Labour under Corbyn really gone soft on antisemitism? | Tony Klug 

One of the more thoughtful and balanced commentary on the UK Labour antisemitism issue:

For Britons on all sides, it means reflecting on the critical role Britain and Europe played in instigating the conflict in the first place. The tragic historical Arab-Jewish clash was the product of generations of virulent European antisemitism at home and rampant imperialism abroad. It was white Europe’s innate sense of superiority and its routine oppression that fostered Jewish nationalism, Arab nationalism and Palestinian nationalism. Europe’s present-day assumption of the moral high ground over a conflict it helped to shape is breathtakingly audacious. Those on the British left today who disdainfully dismiss Israel as merely a colonial-settler state conveniently forget that Jews were not sent to Palestine as agents of imperial Europe, but were fleeing the continent for their lives.

For its victims, the systematic annihilation of two-thirds of European Jews was not just a shocking historical statistic. A cataclysm of that magnitude has inevitably left an indelible mark on the psyche of a people made to feel not just powerless, but also utterly degraded and worthless. Probably most Jews, including strong critics of successive Israeli governments, hold on to Israel as the phoenix that arose from the ashes. Many lament that the Jewish state did not come into existence 10 years earlier, for that might have saved up to 6 million Jewish lives.

It is these sentiments that are generally uppermost in the minds of Jews who passionately parade their support for Israel. Their myopia regarding the increasingly desperate Palestinian plight is shadowed by the insensitivity of others who dismiss them as simply bigots or oppressors. This is felt particularly keenly when their accusers seem much less exercised by the gross human rights abuses of a host of despotic regimes or the brutal antics of armed militant groups, and in some cases even make excuses for them.

Historically, Jews and Arabs have mostly had cordial relations. The Jewish and Muslim belief systems and customs have much in common. The contemporary conflict has severely undermined these ties and has fostered in their place the parallel phenomena of anti-Jewish sentiment in the Arab and Muslim worlds and anti-Muslim and anti-Arab sentiment in the Jewish world. Ultimately, only a resolution of the conflict will settle these matters. Here, Europe could be appropriately and energetically engaged. Meanwhile, it should not be forgotten that Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs are fated to live alongside each other one way or another. Thus they both have an intrinsic interest in spurning the sometimes dubious support of fair-weather third parties whose antipathy to one side or the other can be so odious that it could poison relations indefinitely.

By promptly excluding Downing and Kirby, and investigating recent allegations of endemic antisemitism in the Oxford University Labour Club, the Labour party is showing itself to be alert to this insidious menace. But these steps might be tinkering at the edges. Without prejudging them, a comprehensive open inquiry into antisemitism on the British left, including the Labour party, would help clarify the underlying issues and draw out the important distinctions. As proudly proclaimed opponents of racist bigotry in all its forms, Jeremy Corbyn and the party he leads could provide an important service to the fabric of community relations by taking on this challenge.

Source: Has Labour under Corbyn really gone soft on antisemitism? | Tony Klug | Opinion | The Guardian

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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