Enough already with the anti-Semitism card card (sic).
Social media has lit up once again in the last couple of days as (not for the first time and not for the last, I’d bet) members of the Labour left have been exposed as ever so unfortunately allowing their deep concern for the Palestinian people, and even deeper understanding of the labyrinthine geopolitics of the Middle East, to cross the line from criticism of Israel into good old-fashioned hatred of Jews.
As if that wouldn’t be depressing enough — and while a few commentators, activists and politicians (though still no Labour frontbencher) have spoken out to unequivocally condemn such behaviour — the condemnation has all been a a little bit conditional for the vast majority.
The ne plus ultra of the equivocal response to left-wing anti-Semitism is the claim that the real problem is that supporters of Israel systematically ‘cry wolf’ and falsely accuse anti-Zionists of anti-Semitism in order to deter and undermine their criticism. This is pretty much the standard and immediate and widespread reaction to the raising of ‘progressive’ Judaeophobia. In fact, it has become a reflex. These people can’t help themselves.
Even if it were true — that ‘zionists’ scream ‘anti-semite!’ at the first hint of Israel-scepticism — it would still not be unreasonable to expect that a Left so hyper-sensitive to each and every nano-aggression they can detect might still consider the likes of Gerry Downing and Vicki Kirby worthy of attention on a case by case basis.
But is it even true?
I have grown old and grey asking and waiting for examples of anyone serious describing genuine criticism of Israel as ‘anti-Semitic’. To be sure, there are some individuals who see anti-Semitism where there is none, but the idea that this paranoia (or slyness, if you prefer) really plays a role in debates over the Middle East is a canard. It is a straw man deployed almost immediately to undermine anyone who challenges an ‘anti-zionism’ that all too regularly resembles traditionally anti-Jewish ideas about undeserved wealth, malignant influence and child-killing. This is how self-obsessed Western campaigns over Israel/Palestine have become, with the so-called defenders of Palestinian rights, spending more time portraying themselves as victims than promoting those they are claiming to support.
Next time someone plays the anti-semitism card card (sic), ask them for an example of the false accusation in question and see if it wasn’t in fact concerns being raised over:
a) obsession with Israel to the near-exclusion of all other conflicts
b) the use of tropes in relation to Israel that exactly just happen to match millennia-old anti-semitic tropes (and are applied to no other country)
c) the denial of possible anti-semitic effect (whatever the good intent) while simultaneously insisting on the prevalence of other prejudices
Discourse on Israel which is free of anti-semitism really is not that difficult (there’s a 6-point digest at the end there for tl;dr). And the comedian David Schneider (hardly a hardcore Likudnik) has this handy cut and out and keep guide:
Sure, this may all be dismissed as a form of ‘political correctness’ but it is no different to what the Left demands when other minorities are discussed.
Nothing is more indicative of the moral and intellectual desert through which the British Left is wandering than the auto-screaming of false allegations of false allegations (sic, again) of anti-Semitism. What a pretty pass we’re at when those accused of trying to silence anti-Israel rhetoric are actually the ones being silenced by being falsely accused of slander. And so prevalent is it that it’s even been officially named:
“This paper is concerned with a rhetorical formulation which is sometimes deployed in response to an accusation of antisemitism, particularly when it relates to discourse which is of the form of criticism of Israel. This formulation is a defensive response which deploys a counter-accusation that the person raising the issue of antisemitism is doing so in bad faith and dishonestly. I have called it The Livingstone Formulation. It is defined by the presence of two elements. Firstly the conflation of legitimate criticism of Israel with what are alleged to be demonizing, exclusionary or antisemitic discourses or actions; secondly, the presence of the counteraccusation that the raisers of the issue of antisemitism do so with dishonest intent, in order to de-legitimize criticism of Israel. The allegation is that the accuser chooses to ‘play the antisemitism card’ rather than to relate seriously to, or to refute, the criticisms of Israel. While the issue of antisemitism is certainly sometimes raised in an unjustified way, and may even be raised in bad faith, the Livingstone Formulation may appear as a response to any discussion of contemporary antisemitism.”
Accusations of anti-Semitism amongst Labour Party members have not been made in order to avoid a ‘real’ debate about Palestine or, even more laughably, to make proxy attacks on Jeremy Corbyn. They have been made because there is anti-Semitism among some Labour Party members. It should not be too much too ask that comrades resist the knee-jerk application of The Livingstone Formulation and do what the Left is supposed to do in the face of hatred: offer solidarity and not more hate.