The great antisemitism witchhunt: McCarthyism redux

John Wight
Mar 1 · 5 min read

PUTNAM: Now look you, sir. Let you strike out against the Devil, and the village will bless you for it! Come down, speak to them — pray with them. They’re thirsting for your word, Mister! Surely you’ll pray with them.

PARRIS: (swayed) I’ll lead them in a psalm, but let you say nothing of witchcraft yet. I will not discuss it. The cause is yet unknown. I have had enough contention since I came; I want no more.

In his magisterial autobiography, Timebends, describing his motivation behind his classic work The Crucible (extracted above)the most compelling and enduring allegorical piece of drama to grace the American theatre — Arthur Miller reveals the following:“What I sought was a metaphor, an image that would spring out of the heart, all-inclusive, full of light, a sonorous instrument whose reverberations would penetrate to the center of this miasma. For if the current degeneration of discourse continued, as I had every reason to believe it would, we could no longer be a democracy, a system that requires a certain basic trust in order to exist.”

The ‘miasma’ referred to by Miller in the above passage was the atmosphere of censorious paranoia whipped up by the anti-Communist witchhunts of the 1940s and 1950s, starting under the aupsices of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), established in 1938, joined thereafter by Senator Joseph McCarthy’s Senate hearings into alleged Communist infiltration from the late 1940s.

The period concerned, commonly referred to as McCarthyism, illuminated the parameters of free speech and expression in a country and culture which prides itself on both. It drilled home the profound truth that tyranny is less the by-product of totalitarian political systems and more the product of totalitarian ideas and nostrums that sustain political orthodoxy in a given space and time. And, too, whenever those ideas and nostrums come under challenge, said democracy is exposed as a cloak behind which mendacity resides, ruthlessly seeking malcontents to expose and miscreants to punish.

In Britain in 2019 we need no longer turn to US history for an understanding of McCarthyism and its execrable fruits. For in Britain in 2019 McCarthyism is with us and among us, corroding our public and political discourse, poisoning it with the untruths, lies and mendacious smears of some of the most malignant political forces that ever existed in these islands.

Reds under the bed has been replaced with antisemites under the bed; this with the full and open complicity of a mainstream media whose dread over the prospect of transformational political change is entwined in tight embrace with that of an Establishment — political and security — in ensuring nothing but nothing will ever change in this country apart from the colour of the curtains on the windows in Downing Street.

Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party has to intents been usurped by his deputy Tom Watson, a man for whom Shakespeare’s “Hell is empty, and all the devils are here!” line from The Tempest could have been written with in mind. Watson is the Labour Party’s Matthew Hopkins, the infamous witch-hunter whose reign of terror in 17th century Britain finds its metaphorical equivalent in the 21st century with the objective not of locating and hanging out to dry antisemites but instead anti-Zionists, which means to say genuine anti-racists.

For what is Zionism if not racism, a species of white supremacy responsible for relegating the humanity of five million men, women and children of the illegally occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip to that of latter day Helots?

Adding to the mountain of intellectual and moral ordure erected in service to this miasma of untruth and base hypocrisy, are the findings of a UN investigation into the Palestinians killed and wounded by Israeli snipers during last year’s Great Return March in Gaza. According to the UN’s Santiago Canton, “Israeli soldiers committed violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Some of those violations may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity.”

In diplomatic-speak, Mr Canton is here referencing the manner in which Israeli soldiers shot down dozens of unarmed Palestinians — among them children, medics and journalists — like deer in a forest, with some of those Israeli soldiers caught on tape laughing and celebrating their ‘kills’.

It is to this monstrosity of an apartheid state Tom Watson and his friends are giving succour and sanction; and it this supremacist juggernaut of oppression we are expected to accept as compatible with left wing progressive values.

There is nothing more grotesque than being lectured to about antisemitism, or any other form of racism, by apologists for a racist apartheid state. Yet this grotesquerie is precisely where we have arrived at in response to Corbyn’s unlikely elevation to the leadership of the Labour Party. His legacy as a staunch supporter of Palestinian human rights and self determination has been weaponised against him and his supporters by a pro-Israel lobby within and without the Labour Party, plumbing depths of indecency last witnessed during the era of McCarthyism across the Atlantic.

For those who doubt how deeply entrenched the pro-Israel lobby now is within the UK body politic, Al Jazeera’s blistering documentary The Lobby is required viewing.

Given the context and the stakes involved in this ongoing witch hunt and smear campaign, the lack of meaningful resistance on the part of Corbyn is unconscionable; his refusal to mobilise his base in the face of it inexplicable. The result has not been to see it disappear but for it to prosper and grow in ferocity.

Be under no illusion either of the complicity of key figures in and around the Labour leadership in whipping up and/or acquiescing in this baseless hysteria — Lansman, McDonnell et al. — to the point where Corbyn has been rendered well nigh unelectable as a prospective prime minister. That this is a smear campaign and witchhunt conducted, regardless of the fog of obfuscation deployed to the contrary, on behalf of a foreign power — and an apartheid power at that — compounds the offence.

But this issue is now bigger than Corbyn. It is about where we stand on matters of intellectual and moral integrity; and most of all on the rights we accrue to an oppressed people and those of their oppressor. Future generations are watching and waiting for the stance that we take. Arthur Miller understood this, which is why his light will shine forever bright as a beacon of moral courage in an age of deceit.


John Wight

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Writing and ranting on politics, culture and whatever else.

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