On looking down, not up
There is wilfull blindness to the top-down institutional propagation of Labour’s Antisemitism
I was brought up to beware the following set of circumstances: an economic recession; the emergence of a populist leader with an antisemitic following and the inexorable flow downwards to an increase in antisemitic abuse, violence and murder. That sequence is no fable: it’s history on repeat, and it’s happening now.
It’s true that Antisemitism is a society-wide phenomenon: but it rarely flourishes unless sanctioned by leaders and institutions. The caveat in this classic narrative is that the conditions required for that evil to triumph is that Good Men Do Nothing.
I was given to believe that never again would ‘Good Men Do Nothing’. I was sold a pup.
On the day of Corbyn’s coronation as leader, we Jews waited to see how he would handle his well-known antisemitic inheritance, an inheritance that was news to the wider public, but not to Jews nor his fringe antisemitic fan-base. The Jewish Chronicle immediately published a list of some of those items on their front page. But in the weeks that followed, as Jews were engulfed by the ensuing overflow of antisemitic sewage online, we heard Yvette Cooper, for example, speak up about the rise in online misogyny: but there was no public defence of the Jews. Ditto Burnham. Ditto … all of them.
The silence of those first few weeks still stuns me, and makes me feel viscerally sick for having pledged my allegiance to Labour. It wasn’t so much the promotion of Corbyn & his tribe, whose Soviet-infused Marxism’s embrace of ‘Anti-Colonial’ Islamism had brought together two smouldering brands of antisemitism & re-kindled a phoenix-fire of Jew-hate: no, we knew about that. It was that mainstream Labour leaders were silent on the eternal hatred that they knew full-well was now encamped in their home.
Perhaps, like us, they wanted to give the crank-rank outsider — a man who’d defied the whip 428 times — a chance to readjust to his lottery win and to re-assess his past associations in the context of the moral responsibility of leadership … but five months later, at an ‘acid test’ meeting with the Board of Deputies he moved not one jot. The event for the Jewish community was seismic; yet the press and Labour Party barely registered a tremor.
All of his behaviours signalled antisemitism, but none were antisemitic acts per se. However, on the 5th of April, 2016, as chronicled here, Jeremy Corbyn crossed a line. In short: when the Antisemitic fringe that he had so emboldened led to a Jewish MP complaining of antisemitic abuse, Jez agreed with his brother Piers that her complaint was disingenuously got up as a plot to defend ‘Zionist’ interests. The Jews are crying wolf. The Jews have other motives. The Jews are not what they seem. With three words: ‘He’s not wrong’, in defence of a sibling so antisemitic he believes ISIS is a Jewish creation, he flagrantly and publicly moved from fulsome backer of antisemites to antisemite.
I watched, knowing that Jewish leaders, senior members of the Labour Party and newspaper editors would have understood exactly what they had witnessed. What would they say?
The Board of Deputies spoke, but all they could coax from dry lips was to pronounce his statement ‘Deeply disturbing’. As for the rest of the polity:
Perhaps some were distracted by Jan Royall’s (now supressed) review, as Labour HQ insisted that her investigation was in place to address the issue. Some were somewhat stupified by Ken’s volcanic Hitler eruption. But while a stream of mostly Muslim Councillors were suspended for stupidity (that is, being so utterly ignorant of what constitutes antisemitism that they left their Jew-hate up in public for anyone to find) — the leadership’s racism marched on in plain sight.
And so, on May 1st, enabled by the Labour Party and the press’s reluctance to call out its leader, Diane Abbott was able to state on the Andrew Marr show to an audience of millions that ‘it is a smear to say that the Labour Party has a problem with antisemitism.’ On the same day, Len McCluskey, the Unite chief, complained on BBC Radio that the antisemitism row had been “got up” by the right-wing press, “aided and abetted by … Labour MPs”. Ken (of course) and the MP Rupa Huq, averred.
Diane spoke those words in her terrifyingly sweet’n’patronising manner, in the full knowledge that the Chief Rabbi of the UK, the Campaign Against Antisemitism as well as other leading Jewish groups had stated that what Jews were witnessing was a serious problem with Antisemitism in the Labour Party. But for Di and Len, well, the Jews are too stupid to know what constitutes antisemitism; or else are liars.
It was shocking and disgusting racism … and they got away with it.
(… as for the Macpherson report’s verdict that the victims of racism should define it, well, Ms Abbott clearly believes that’s only for black people, not Jews. Divide and rule, Diane? …)
As for the press, they continued to focus on the expendable apparatchiks of the lower orders, gleefully notching up their body count, but keeping their eyes averted downwards, not up. No demands were made of Jeremy, Diane or Len to withdraw their remarks. No-one called them out, save Jews.
Not two weeks later, on the 9–11th May, YouGov conducted a poll. In a question specifically related to ‘stories in the press over the last few weeks’ they tested Diane’s proposition that:
‘The Labour party does not have a problem with anti-Semitism and it has been created by the press and Jeremy Corbyn’s opponents to attack him’
… and 49% of Labour members agreed. Surprise.
If you support Corbyn, well now, you side with his ideas. When they are endorsed by his team, then that’s the party line. And if you’re in the party, fighting austerity and the Tory enemy, well now, being a racist is part of what you do.
So this is how it flows and how it goes, from leaders to followers. It was as our grandparents told us, and as we read in the book of Esther every Purim. Here comes Haman, again, the senior political official who hates the Jews, and has the blessing of the polity. (That story is based on events in Persia in the 5th Century BC. How proud Labour must be to be part of such an ancient tradition …)
On the day the poll was released, Chakrabarti’s inquiry was announced. It’s already been denounced by the Campaign Against Antisemitism and the Jewish Chronicle; and is being conducted in the manner of parents assuring the kids their beloved pet rabbit is fine, when they’ve already slit its throat and stuck it in the pot for after they go nighty-night.
The result? Well, the events I’ve described were noted publicly by the resolute Campaign Against Antisemitism, the only group brave enough to call it. They have also reported an increase of 26% in Antisemitic crime during this year, figures endorsed by the Home Office. A year, in good part, of Corbyn.
But the rest is silence.
So, as you Good Men & Women admire and praise our Virtue-Emperor’s Clothes, Labour’s descent into institutional antisemitism continues; every day the farcical pretence that this is a matter of looking downwards for bad apples somewhere in the depths of a barrel, instead of gazing up at the elephantine antisemitism in the room, is maintained. From a leader who refuses to deny allies convicted of spreading the blood libel, open holocaust deniers or else 9/11 truthers … to his lieutenants, and now down to their foot-soldiers, we witness the unfolding of a piece of history that will surely be recalled with deep shame.
When that history is written, what will your role have been? When that history shows that only seventy years after the holocaust, while survivors still breathe, antisemites ran the Labour Party, what will they write of you, Hilary Benn, Angela Eagle and Tom Watson? Of the newspaper & news editors of the day? Which MPs, journalists and party functionaries in this decent country said: ‘No More’, and which blinked? Who eagerly pointed out hapless apparatchik mice but dared not bell the cat? While David Cameron, the leader of a party I’ve opposed for a lifetime, stands up and says publicly that Muslims must stop the spreading of conspiracies about Jews in their own homes — condemning the habits of a voting community of three million in defence of a community a tenth that size — what were the leaders of the parties of the progressive left and social justice saying? What’s more (as front bench labourites know only too well) hard-left antisemites such as Piers Corbyn espouse the same beliefs about Jews as jihadis do … and the genocidal antisemites Corbyn himself refuses to deny are the architects of the very Islamist violence that threatens us all: and therefore this squalid display by the Labour leadership emboldens more than just Jew-haters - it enables those who would happily die to put you and me in a body bag tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Jan Royall’s bruised and bloodied corpse lies limp for all to see, her head on the spike of this joke inquiry as an example to would-be challengers.
For you’ve witnessed the post-crash rise of a populist leader with an antisemitic following who is actively enboldening his support.
What did you do? What will you do?