Time for Corbyn to start fighting back
Israel is an apartheid state, writes Tony Greenstein, and saying so is not anti-Semitic
All three Zionist newspapers - the Jewish Chronicle, Jewish News and Jewish Telegraph - have printed the same anti-Labour, anti-Corbyn front page. They call this unprecedented and they are right.
Ironically, the big-lie technique was pioneered by Adolf Hitler. He argued in Mein Kampf that the benefit of telling a “colossal” lie was that no-one would believe you “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously”. If their campaign succeeds in overthrowing Corbyn, which is its purpose, then many people will indeed blame ‘the Jews’. Never before have papers that call themselves Jewish done so much to stir up anti-Semitism. Stephen Pollard and his fellow reactionaries are playing with fire.
As for the Labour leaders, John McDonnell in particular is behaving in a cowardly and stupid fashion. Quoting an unnamed Labour MP, the Jewish Chronicle’s Lee Harpin wrote: “John McDonnell wants power at any cost. If this means making the Labour anti-Semitism row go away for the time being then so be it. Jeremy isn’t quite so malleable - and neither are those who work alongside him at the top.”
“At any cost” means accepting a definition of ‘anti-Semitism’ which renders support for the Palestinians and opposition to Zionism racist. It means abandoning any form of international solidarity. It means turning a blind eye to Israeli apartheid for the sake of a temporary peace.
McDonnell’s ‘strategy’ is not only unprincipled, but stupid. This latest attack on Corbyn is not about the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition, still less anti-Semitism itself. It is the beginning of an attempt to remove the Corbyn leadership entirely. As the Tories face their Waterloo over Brexit, the establishment in this country is panicking at the prospect of a Corbyn government.
If McDonnell loses his nerve now, then we can be sure he will be putty in the hands of the City of London, were he were to become chancellor. Cowardice today will mean treachery tomorrow.
According to the joint editorials, Labour’s refusal to adopt the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism in full means that the use of the phrases, ‘dirty Jew’ and ‘Zionist bitch’, is now acceptable in the Labour Party. This is a lie worthy of Goebbels himself. It is a measure of the desperation of the Express’s former editor, Stephen Pollard, that he resorts to such nonsense. ‘Zionist bitch’ may be sexist and offensive, even when used against Margaret Hodge, but it is less offensive than calling Jeremy Corbyn a “fucking anti-Semite and racist”, as she did.
For three years the Zionist lobby - including the Labour right, the Israeli embassy, Jewish Chronicle and Britain’s yellow press - have poured cold water on any suggestion that their concerns about Labour ‘anti-Semitism’ were motivated by Israel and Zionism. They were only concerned with hatred of Jews, they told us. Yet even a cursory reading of their whinging makes it clear that Israel is at the centre of their concerns.
Leaving aside the hysterical nonsense about an “existential threat to Jewish life in this country that would be posed by a Corbyn-led government”, what concerns them is Labour’s “deleting and amending four key examples of anti-Semitism relating to Israel” in the IHRA definition (my emphasis). Only two weeks ago Pollard called the Labour Party “institutionally anti-Semitic”. Why? Because “instead of adopting the definition ... Labour has excised the parts which relate to Israel and how criticism of Israel can be anti-Semitic”. Precisely which parts does he mean?
1. Calling Israel “a racist endeavour”. Only last week Israel passed the Jewish Nation-State Law, which even liberal Zionists acknowledge is apartheid-type legislation. It removed Arabic as an official language, facilitated Jewish-only settlements and deliberately omitted any reference to equality. Is calling this racist anti-Semitic?
2. Comparing Israel to Nazi Germany is also ‘anti-Semitic’, we are told. Why? When mobs demonstrate with banners proclaiming “Kill them all”, whilst chanting“Death to the Arabs”, is that not reminiscent of a certain European state in the 1930s? Recently hundreds of Jews demonstrated in Afula protesting against the sale of a house to an Arab. Is that not similar to signs in German towns saying “Jews not welcome”?
3. Another of their concerns is “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination”. But the idea that Jews form a separate nation with the right to self-determination is an anti-Semitic idea. It rests on the belief that Jews do not belong in the states where they live. It follows therefore that Jews owe their loyalty to Israel, the self-proclaimed ‘Jewish state’ rather than to the country they live in. But the IHRA says that to make such a claim is also anti-Semitic! In other words, the IHRA is so contradictory that by its own definition it is anti-Semitic itself!
However, the latest Zionist attack is notreally about the IHRA definition or anti-Semitism. It is about removing the Corbyn leadership, which is why people like John McDonnell and Rebecca Long-Bailey, who believe that if they retreat on this, all will be well, are digging their own political graves.
For the past three years I and others have argued that the anti-Semitism witch-hunt is not about anti-Semitism. Jackie Walker, Marc Wadsworth, Ken Livingstone and myself have just been collateral damage. It is about Jeremy Corbyn. We were just useful scapegoats. It is to Corbyn’s - and even more so McDonnell’s - shame that they have betrayed comrades in order to appease racists.
One of the lessons of the fight against fascism was that appeasement simply encourages your enemy. Of course, the British ruling class were not really appeasing fascism. Chamberlain and the Tory Party supported Hitler’s destruction of the organisations of the German working class. They wanted Hitler to invade the Soviet Union. It was only when Hitler attacked British interests in Europe that they had second thoughts.
However much Corbyn and McDonnell appease them, the Zionists will come back for more.
This was the week that Hungary’s anti-Semitic prime minister, Viktor Orbán, visited Israel and paid homage at Israel’s holocaust propaganda museum, Yad Vashem. A group of Israelis, mainly holocaust survivors, held a protest against the visit of a man who has sought to rehabilitate Hungary’s pro-Nazi wartime leader, Miklós Horthy. Horthy presided over the deportation of nearly half a million Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz, yet Orbán called him an “exceptional statesman”.
Yael Weiss-Reind, whose family was murdered in Hungary during the holocaust, said that Yad Vashem was granting legitimacy to such regimes when it “accepts leaders who carry out policies and ideologies that are very similar to what we saw decades ago”.
However, Zionism has never had any compunction in working with actual anti-Semites. Zionism is and always has been a Jewish form of anti-Semitism. As the founder of Zionism, Theodor Herzl, wrote in his diaries, in reaction to the Dreyfus affair: “In Paris ... I achieved a freer attitude toward anti-Semitism, which I now began to understand historically and to pardon. Above all, I recognised the emptiness and futility of trying to ‘combat’ anti-Semitism.”
Zionism has created in Israel an ethno-nationalist state that is a mirror-image of similar states which existed in 1930s Europe. Zionism shares with anti-Semitism contempt for diaspora Jewry. It believes the place of Jews is in Israel, not Europe. It is fundamental to Zionist ideology that Jews do not belong in the lands of their birth, but in their own racial state. Zionism believes that Jews form a nation apart from those they live amongst, which is also what anti-Semites believe. It is also why the Zionist attack on Corbyn and the Labour Party is hypocritical.
And there is no greater hypocrite than Stephen Pollard, the editor of the Jewish Chronicle. It was Pollard who defended the anti-Semitic Polish MEP, Michał Kamiński, who was an MP for Jedwabne, a village in which, in 1941, fellow Poles herded up to 1,600 Jews into a barn, which they then set alight. Kamiński supported the Committee to Maintain the Good Name of Jedwabne, yet Pollard went out of his way to defend him. Why? Because Kamiński was also a strong supporter of Israel! Pollard exclaimed: “Far from being an anti-Semite, Mr Kamiński is about as pro-Israeli an MEP as exists.
However much nonsense fills the pages of the newspapers, most people do not accept the nonsense that Labour is overrun with anti-Semitism. That is why the failure of Jon Lansman to mobilise Momentum against these attacks is politically criminal.
We need to ask why it is that Corbyn and McDonnell have still failed to hold a meeting with Jewish Voice for Labour and Free Speech on Israel. Instead of talking to their enemies, Corbyn and McDonnell should start talking to their Jewish friends.
Defend Pete Willsman
Even after everything that has gone before, the attacks on Pete Willsman for his comments at last month’s meeting of Labour’s national executive committee are truly incredible.
Comrade Willsman can be heard in a secretly recorded intervention questioning the allegations of ‘anti-Semitism’ among Labour members. He said: “I think we should ask the … rabbis [who had been amongst those making such absurd accusations - PM]: where is your evidence of severe and widespread anti-Semitism in this party?” Some people, he said - including those whom he described as “Trump fanatics” - were “making up duff information without any evidence at all”.
And that is it. Yet, absurdly, comrade Willsman himself has been attacked throughout the media for anti-Semitism! The press has rushed to give space to the ludicrous responses of anti-Corbyn Zionists. For example, Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, described the above words as a “disgusting rant against the Jewish community and rabbis”, for which he should be “summarily expelled”! As for Luciana Berger MP, the parliamentary chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, she absurdly declared: “Anyone listening to this recording will be appalled to hear the venom and fury directed by Mr Willsman at the British Jewish community”!
Er, he was not attacking the “Jewish community” at all. He was angrily criticising all those - Jewish or not - who were responsible for so many false allegations. Quite right too. And just about everyone in the room knew that what he said was true, but no other NEC member dared say so, it seemed.
And now Momentum has responded by dropping comrade Willsman from its list of recommended candidates for election (in his case re-election) to the NEC. The statement from the “elected officers of the national coordinating group” noted: “While it is welcome that he has made a full apology and will attend equalities training, his comments were deeply insensitive and inappropriate for a Momentum-backed NEC candidate.”
It is difficult to know whether to laugh or cry at such nonsense. But it is very much a pity that comrade Willsman felt any need to apologise - let alone accept the need for “equalities training”! While it was hardly a “full apology”, his expression of regret for failing to discuss “contentious issues” in a “fully civil and respectful way”, itself gave too much ground to his accusers. He was right to be angry at the campaign of slander directed against good comrades and he should not have retreated on this.
Hopefully those Labour members who have not yet voted will show Jon Lansman and co what they think of this by voting for all nine candidates, including comrade Willsman, on Momentum’s original recommended list.