There has been no let-up in the use of false antisemitism charges against Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
The assault is coming from the Tories and right wing media—but also from within Labour.
Corbyn was attacked on Monday for attending a Seder feast—part of the Passover holiday—hosted by left wing Jewish group Jewdas.
Right wing blog Guido Fawkes “exposed” Corbyn for attending, with an article pointing out that Jewdas has defended Corbyn against the slurs, and has also criticised the state of Israel.
Labour MPs such as John Woodcock and Wes Streeting claimed his meeting with left wing Jews was an affront to “the mainstream Jewish community”.
Earlier in the week new Labour national executive committee (NEC) member Eddie Izzard said, “We must make amends and repair the damage with the Jewish community.”
Izzard joined the NEC after left winger Christine Shawcroft stepped down.
She had defended a council candidate facing disciplinary action, but later discovered they had shared an article that denied the Holocaust.
Real examples of antisemitism—which are rare in Labour and the Palestine solidarity movement—are used to smear anyone who criticises Israel.
The Campaign Against Antisemitism denounces the trade union-backed Palestine Solidarity Campaign as antisemitic.
And the Tories hope to distract from their own troubles, their brutal austerity policies, and their racism by pointing the finger at Corbyn.
The last two weeks have been the best period for Theresa May’s government since the general election last June.
The NHS crisis, growing poverty and rampant inequality have all been subsumed by a torrent of words about supposed antisemitism saturating Labour.
Instead of being attacked over their racist scapegoating, the Tories have been able to manoeuvre to pretend to be anti-racists.
All those who help them are making it harder to fight all forms of racism—including antisemitism. Corbyn’s critics cannot be appeased—there needs to be a confident fightback.
Corbyn gave an interview to Jewish News last week which made clear his abhorrence of antisemitism. It simply led to demands for more and more action against his supporters.
Corbyn is being pressed to expel Ken Livingstone. Shadow minister Liam Byrne said last weekend, “The reality is now that we need action and not simply words.
“We have got a lot of disciplinary cases stacking up and Mr Livingstone is at the top of that queue.”
And some of the right around the Progress group are pushing to go further and discipline people for calling Israel an apartheid state.
Socialist Worker disagrees with some of the ways Livingstone put forward his views, but he doesn’t deserve to be expelled.
He is not antisemitic and has been involved in years of anti-racist campaigning.
The message needs to be loud and clear—anti-Zionism is not antisemitism, it’s right to fight for Palestine and Israel is a racist state.
Does the Board of Deputies speak for British Jews?
The Jewish Board of Deputies helped to organise the protests against Corbyn (Pic: Guy Smallman)
The Board of Deputies of British Jews, which has been at the forefront of the attacks on Corbyn, poses as the voice of Jews in Britain.
In fact the Board is a reflection of one section of conservative opinion, tied firmly to the establishment.
Jonathan Arkush, the Board’s president, personally congratulated Donald Trump on his election.
And after the last British general election, Arkush bemoaned the Tories’ losses.
He told the Times of Israel newspaper, “Overall, without question, the result will be disappointing for Israel and disappointing for the Jewish community.”
Jewish socialist David Rosenberg wrote about the Board’s “appalling record in the 1930s when they seemed to spend more time criticising Jewish anti-fascists than combating Oswald Mosley’s hooligans”.
“They famously advised Jews to stay indoors rather than confront the fascists at the Battle of Cable Street,” he wrote. “Thankfully the Jewish public ignored them then. Grassroots activists regarded the Board as the old establishment and thoroughly unrepresentative.
“They still pursue a relentless anti-left agenda and frequently identify internationalist left movements as antisemites.”
Another group prominent in making charges of antisemitism is the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC).
Until very recently it was chaired by Sir Mick Davies, who was appointed Tory party treasurer in February 2016 and is now the chief executive of the Conservative Party.
The Board and the JLC held a rally against Corbyn in Parliament Square recently.
Attendees welcomed on it included Zac Goldsmith, who ran a racist campaign against Sadiq Khan during the 2016 London mayoral election.
Ian Paisley of the Northern Irish DUP, a party that has always simultaneously pushed bigotry and supported Israel, was also there.
The Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) is due to hold a rally in London next Sunday “to demand that the Labour Party holds Jeremy Corbyn to account”.
The CAA was formed in 2014 as Israeli forces invaded Gaza—and as 100,000 marched in London in solidarity with the Palestinians.
Its honorary patrons include former Tory minister Eric Pickles, Tory minister Lord Ahmad, Tory MPs Bob Blackman, Mike Freer and Matthew Offord—and Labour MP Fabian Hamilton.
It also includes Colonel Richard Kemp who was commander of British forces in Afghanistan.
In July 2009 he spoke out to exonerate the war crimes of the Israeli forces in Gaza.
Survey shows Labour right out of touch with the party
Despite the deluge of criticism of Jeremy Corbyn, most Labour members do not think he or the party are antisemitic.
When the Labour right attacks Corbyn they are not speaking for the party as a whole.
A YouGov survey of Labour members commissioned by The Times newspaper did find that concern over antisemitism has definitely grown.
Some 68 percent of members think antisemitism is a problem in the party now compared to 52 percent in 2016.
This may reflect recent statements by Corbyn himself identifying this as a problem. Some 30 percent of those who voted for Owen Smith in the 2016 leadership election believe “antisemitism is a bigger problem in the Labour Party than other parties”.
But just 4 percent of those who backed Corbyn accepted this.
A significant majority—77 percent—of those surveyed believe claims of antisemitism are being “exaggerated” or “hyped up” to damage Corbyn and the party.
Just 19 percent say, “It is a serious and genuine problem that the party leadership needs to take urgent action to address”.
And 69 percent think Corbyn handled the Salisbury spy killing well. Members have become far more positive about Corbyn over the last year.
Opinion on whether Corbyn was doing well or badly was evenly split in March 2017, but 80 percent now say he is doing “well”.
Supporters of Corbyn are likely to have joined the party more recently, belong to the poorer C2DE social groups and come from outside London.
The media myth is that Corbyn appeals to better off people and an Islington clique. In fact 71 percent of Londoners think he’s doing well compared to 80 percent outside.
Labour should join protest
Jeremy Corbyn was slow to denounce the Israeli massacre of Palestinians last Friday—continuing a retreat that has been going on since he became Labour leader.
A day after the massacre, Corbyn tweeted that the “killing and wounding by Israeli forces of civilians demonstrating for Palestinian rights in Gaza is appalling.
“The UK Government must make its voice heard on the urgency of a genuine settlement for peace and justice”.
But Corbyn did not call for action. In 2015 he had called for an end to British arms sales to Israel, and endorsed some tactics of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign.
He also said that the Palestinian right to return was “the key” to a solution.
And he said people should boycott Israeli universities involved in research that aided the military and the occupation.
He should not draw back. Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Stop The War and Friends of Al Aqsa have called a demonstration against the Israeli massacre in central London for Saturday.
Corbyn should join it.
Stand up to antisemitism
Supporters of Palestine and Jeremy Corbyn should not fall into the trap of thinking that every allegation of antisemitism is false.
One clear case is the mural that was used as a pretext to begin the latest attacks.
Had Corbyn scrutinised the mural more closely as he should have done, he would have seen it for what it was—a visual representation of antisemitic conspiracy theory.
It was criticised by Lutfur Rahman, the mayor of Tower Hamlets, when it was created in 2012 and was then removed.
The notion of a secret cabal of Jews and Freemasons, manipulating governments and international finance, has a long and disgusting history.
Kalen Ockerman, the mural’s producer, had previous form on this theme.
Once Corbyn considered the mural more carefully he immediately apologised unreservedly for what he had said.