Corbyn: grow a backbone
Sacrificing an outstanding anti-racist for having dared to criticise a pro-Israel MP will only increase the appetite of the right, warns Tony Greenstein
Watching the uncritical acceptance by Jeremy Corbyn’s office of the expulsion of Marc Wadsworth is like watching someone slowly committing suicide oblivious to all offers of help. The inability of Corbyn to confront the pro-Israel lobby, which is so desperate to find ‘anti-Semitism’ that it creates a wholly artificial furore over a six-year old mural, is as bewildering as it is depressing. It is as if Corbyn’s ‘director of strategy and communications’, Seamus Milne, has a death wish.
The decision by the National Kangaroo Committee to expel longstanding black anti-racist activist, Marc Wadsworth, is shameful. The role of Corbyn’s office, which tried to get Marc to call off Labour Against the Witchhunt’s lobby of the hearing, to which Smeeth was accompanied by a parliamentary lynch mob, was cowardly. It does not seem to occur to Corbyn that those supporting Smeeth - eg, Wes Streeting, John Mann, Jess Phillips, Joan Ryan, Luciana Berger - are the same creatures that have dedicated themselves to overthrowing him.
Marc has a long and proud record of fighting racism and fascism, from campaigning to secure the defeat of the British National Party’s first councillor in Britain, Derek Beacon, in the Isle of Dogs, to getting Nelson Mandela to sponsor the Stephen Lawrence campaign. This was at a time when the Labour Party under Blair completely ignored the Lawrence campaign.
What makes Marc’s expulsion even worse is that it was at the behest of the Zionist Board of Deputies under rightwing Tory Jonathan Arkush. The same Arkush had no hesitation in welcoming the ascent to power of Donald Trump and his anti-Semitic entourage. To use an expression used by the Washington Post, “Anti-Semitism is no longer an undertone of Trump’s campaign. It’s the melody.”1 Arkush has also spoken at a meeting that included the far-right US group, the Jewish Defense League.
Not once has Arkush criticised the Tories’ links with genuine anti-Semitic parties, such as the Polish Law and Order Party and Latvia’s National Alliance, which are part of the European Conservative Reform group in the European parliament, along with the Conservative Party.
A longstanding black anti-racist has been sacrificed to appease Arkush, Smeeth and the rest of the crew who make up Israel’s apartheid lobby in Britain. What is equally appalling is that Momentum, under its property developer dictator, Jon Lansman, has not only said nothing about the expulsion or witch-hunt, but has aided the false anti-Semitism campaign by claiming there is widespread “unconscious” anti-Semitism within the Labour Party. This at a time when the Windrush generation have been subject to deportation and denied benefits and medical treatment - genuine racism is not “unconscious”. It is because anti-Semitism in the Labour Party is virtually non-existent that Lansman and Momentum’s leadership have resorted to Freudian psycho-analysis. Let us be clear about one thing: Marc’s expulsion has nothing to do with anti-Semitism any more than my expulsion or the prospective expulsions of Ken Livingstone and Jackie Walker have anything to do with it. This campaign is about Israel, not anti-Semitism.
Of course, if you say that the ‘anti-Semitism’ campaign is false, then that is proof of your own anti-Semitism! It is much like when someone is defined as insane. The more they protest they are normal, the more psychiatrists are convinced of their illness.
Arkush and Jonathan Goldstein of the Jewish Leadership Council complain, in all innocence, that they are wrongly accused of “smearing” Corbyn. Perish the thought. Using the language of the left, they protest: “We are not merely being denied the most basic principle of anti-racist behaviour - solidarity - but are viciously accused of smears, of dirty tricks, of lies.”2 Who would guess that on March 30, after Israel began murdering unarmed protestors in Gaza, these poor victims of racism had blamed the killings on the Palestinians?
The proof that anti-Semitism is a marginal phenomenon in the Labour Party is the fact that those expelled for it have all been Jewish, black, anti-racist or a combination of these. It is a strange purge of the form of racism known as anti-Semitism when the real racists in the Labour Party - those councillors who have evicted Roma and gypsies or who have demonised Muslims - are left alone.
Zionism has never really objected to anti-Semitism. From the very start of the Zionist movement anti-Semites and Zionists have collaborated. Livingstone’s main offence was to point to a truth attested to by Zionist historians. The Nazis and the Zionists had a racial conception of humanity. They divided society according to race, not class. The collaboration of Zionism with the Nazis is a fact. Not only did the Zionists conclude a trade agreement - Ha’avara - with the Nazis at the very time that the international Jewish boycott of Nazi Germany was at its height, but they also campaigned against the lowering of immigration barriers in the USA, or opening any country to Jewish refugees bar Palestine itself. As Ben Gurion told Mapai’s central committee on December 9 1938, after Kristallnacht Britain had agreed to the immigration of 10,000 Kindertransport Jewish children:
If I knew that it would be possible to save all the children in Germany by bringing them over to England, and only half of them by transporting them to Eretz Yisrael, then I would opt for the second alternative. For we must weigh not only the life of these children, but also the history of the people of Israel.3
Sometimes it was difficult to tell who was a Zionist and who was an anti-Semite. Zionists held that anti-Semitism was partly the fault of the Jews in the diaspora for not having moved to Palestine. The Jews were strangers in someone else’s land and as such they had developed unhealthy asocial characteristics. By going to Palestine they would cleanse themselves.
Israel’s first justice minister, Pinhas Rosenbluth, described Palestine as “an institute for the fumigation of Jewish vermin”.4 The number of anti-Semites who queued up to pay the Zionists a compliment were legion - including Alfred Rosenberg, minister for Ostland and the Nazi Party’s main theoretician, who wrote in 1919 that “Zionism must be vigorously supported in order to encourage a significant number of German Jews to leave for Palestine or other destinations.”5
Corbyn needs to face up to a simple truth: apologists for Israel routinely resort to accusations of anti-Semitism to defend Israel’s murderous practices. It is perfectly understandable. How do you defend the beating and torture of children, the shooting of unarmed demonstrators, the demolition of schools and homes other than by impugning the motives of the accuser?
When Natalie Portman, the Hollywood star who is a liberal Zionist, recently boycotted the Genesis Prize - Israel’s equivalent of the Nobel - because she refused to be in the same room as Binyamin Netanyahu, Likud minister Yuval Steinitz accused her of anti-Semitism.6 There are numerous other examples.
Stephen Pollard, editor of the Jewish Chronicle, one of the main proponents of the false anti-Semitism allegations, has stated that Corbyn’s apology for alleged Labour anti-Semitism “contained the odd assertion that anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitic”.7 In other words, anything but the most anodyne criticism of Israeli apartheid is anti-Semitic.
This is not a trivial matter. The right in the Labour Party has abandoned a full-on confrontation with Corbyn. Instead they have resorted to a perverted version of identity politics, whereby the oppressor’s identity becomes equally valid as that of the oppressed. They are using the language of the left to attack the left. Corbyn and his office seem incapable of grasping this simple truth.
One thing is for sure. The false ‘Enough is Enough’ anti-Semitism campaign was launched in order to sabotage Labour’s local election campaign. It is sapping the strength of the Labour Party and diverting attention from the Tories’ problems over Windrush. Every time there is an expulsion there is a demand for another one. As the Tories’ appeasement of Hitler in the 1930s demonstrated, the more you appease an aggressor, the hungrier they become. Nothing Corbyn can or will do will satisfy Labour’s imperialist right and its Zionist allies.
But it is worse than this. If, by chance, Corbyn were ever to get into power, then he would be confronted with opposition by the bankers and major industrialists that would be 10 times what the likes of Arkush and Goldstein can offer. Then he would be up against the civil service and the rest of the British establishment. If he cannot put down loudmouths like John Mann and Wes Streeting, there is no way he is going to stand up to the transnationals and investment banks.
Corbyn needs to grow a backbone fast and remove the whip from Streeting, Mann, Ryan, Smeeth, etc. And that should be for starters. He needs to confront Labour’s right by encouraging deselections. That is the only way he will see in a radical Labour government. He has to go on the offensive instead of cringing and making useless apologies for a non-existent anti-Semitism. Instead we are now hearing calls from the Zionists for the removal of the whip from Chris Williamson MP for sharing a platform with Jackie Walker.
The reality is that, having foresworn a campaign of reselecting the rightwing MPs, his enemies on the back benches - over half the PLP - are simply waiting for their chance to stab him in the back. The only real question is whether they will move before or after a general election. It is almost certain that a group of maybe 50 or more Labour MPs will simply refuse to support Corbyn as prime minister. By failing to take out these MPs now, Corbyn has all but ensured that he will never ever be in a position to form a government.
That is what the expulsion of Marc Wadsworth really means. Corbyn’s cowardice today guarantees he will ultimately be seen, despite his undoubted talents, as a weak-minded leader who was incapable of standing up to his own backbenchers.
The role of Jon Lansman and Momentum is even more despicable. Having created a 40,000-strong organisation, he has ensured that politically it is completely useless. In these debates Momentum carries absolutely no weight - a product of its own lack of democracy.
3. G Piterberg The returns of Zionism London 2008, p99.
4. J Doron, ‘Classic Zionism and modern anti-Semitism: parallels and influences’ Studies in Zionism autumn 1983, p169.
5. F Nicosia The Third Reich and the Palestine question Piscataway 1985, p25.