Labour witch-hunt is undermining the fight against antisemitism

18 June 2018

By KD Tait

KEN LIVINGSTONE has resigned from the Labour Party, days before a formal disciplinary process was due to start, the outcome of which had become a foregone conclusion after “Baroness”  Shami Chakrabarti spoke out in favour of his expulsion, signalling that the leadership had definitively turned against him. 

In making those comments, Chakrabarti trampled her own report, which had called  for respecting due process and natural justice, into the mud of prejudice and slander. 

The charge against Livingstone was his assertion that Adolf Hitler was “supporting Zionism” after he came to power in the 1930s “before he went mad and killed six million Jews”. 

This was a reference to the Havaara agreement between the Hitler regime and the German Zionist Federation which certainly took place but against the background of the Nazi storm troopers’ pogroms against Jewish people, synagogues and businesses. The justified criticism of the German Zionists’ agreement with the Nazis (which allowed Zionist Publications, activities, and even a legal youth movement to exist at a time when all of Hitler’s opponents on the left were sent to concentration camps) is that it involved them sabotaging an international movement to boycott Germany, mounted by the Jewish communities, including American and Polish Zionists with the support of the left. 

Livingstone’s  claim that this agreement meant that Hitler supported Zionism was offensive to Jewish people, who could see it as exonerating Hitler’s  genocidal intentions towards the Jews. It was also crass since everyone knows the murderous depth of Hitler’s antisemitism and its role in the Nazi Party. His comments were deserving of criticism but they were not antisemitic. Some say that Livingstone has sacrificed himself for the good of the left and that such a concession was a wise tactical move. Of course if he hadn’t resigned, Corbyn’s opponents would have redoubled their offensive. But giving in to blackmail or bullying only invites further and worse witch-hunting. 

We can see this from the response of Jonathan Arkush, the outgoing president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, who was not in the least satisfied by Corbyn throwing Livingstone to the wolves. His verdict on Corbyn:

“Delegitimising the state of Israel is anti-Semitic. He was chairman of Stop the War, which is responsible for some of the worst anti-Israel discourse. He has never disavowed that sentiment. Is this double speak? What are we supposed to think? If he shares the prevalent discourse about Israel, then that view is unquestionably anti-Semitic.”

He added: “Particularly in the last few months, there is an increasingly widespread question asked over the dinner table – which is, do we have a future here? And what’s that future going to look like.”

There you have it. For the Zionists, antisemitism is not fomenting hatred and discrimination of Jews but criticism of the state of Israel, and pointing out the fact that a state founded on the dispossession and oppression of another people, is not only unquestionably illegitimate, but an intolerable crime. 

Marc Wadsworth’s spurious expulsion is even more outrageous. The charge related to an intervention from the floor he made at the public launch of the Chakrabarti report on antisemitism and racism, in which he for accused Stoke-on-Trent MP Ruth Smeeth of colluding with the Tory press to smear Jeremy Corbyn.

Wadsworth’s intervention was certainly unwise, if understandable. Nevertheless, the charge that he brought the party into disrepute is a travesty of justice, particularly when we remember that Labour MPs , including Smeeth have been briefing to the right wing Press , the Telegraph and the Mail, in a concerted campaign to bring Corbyn, the new membership, and by the extension the party as a whole, into disrepute. 

The media’s hypocritical moral panic about the supposed prevalence of antisemitism in the Labour Party comes at a time when Israeli forces have spent weeks using civilian demonstrations for target practice. On 4 June the death toll reached 123 when an Israeli soldier shot Razan al-Najjar, a 21 year old volunteer medic, in the back, whilst she was treating a wounded Palestinian protester. 

It is a sign of the warped priorities of the press and Israel’s defenders within Labour, that Israeli cabinet minister Yuval Steinitz can state “I do not rule out the possibility of conquering Gaza and destroying it once and for all”, without a murmur of protest. 

The attempt to equate criticism of Israel and its origins rooted in ethnic cleansing as antisemitic is a deliberate attempt to delegitimise Israel’s critics and supporters of the Palestinians. 

In fact no one has done more to debase the real threat posed by genuine antisemitism than those who abuse the term to deflect attention from Israel’s crimes. The Zionists are doing all they can to dislocate antisemitism from its role as an integral part of racism as a whole. 

Their actions do a disservice to Jewish people who actually suffer from antisemitism, and who need the solidarity of other victims of racism, and the left wing of the labour movement who have always been the most consistent opponents of fascism and the far right. 

Paradoxically, the Labour Party has never been a more hostile environment for anti-Zionists, especially  anti-Zionist Jews, than now, when  for the first time it has a leader who expresses solidarity with the Palestinians and speaks out against Israel’s crimes. 

We should criticise this state of affairs without fear of the witch hunt and without favour to those who think they can save themselves by sacrificing others.

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