Labour and Anti-Semitism
Jeremy Corbyn in 2017. Photograph by Andy Miah
It is surreal for the Labour Party to be tearing itself apart over quasi-theological questions about which clauses from the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism it will adopt and which it won’t. I admire the stand recently taken by Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, to urge the full adoption of the IHRA rubric, as opposed to the Corbyn clique’s preference for cherry-picking, but the sheer scale of negative energy now generated by this controversy, itself but an appendix to the larger dispute over anti-Semitism, is staggering. (Watson has faced a barrage of social media calls for his resignation.)
In this moment, displacement is what this argument is. I would be the last person to give Jeremy Corbyn a pass on his political choices, past or present. But they must be seen for what they are: not the actions of a closet anti-Semite, but the result of a career spent as a sectarian anti-imperialist socialist. If you think Corbyn and his supporters are anti-Semitic, you’re actually missing the larger problem with the whole ideology: the Manichean simplicities of its “my-enemy’s-enemy-is-my-friend-ism” and the intellectual dishonesty of its whataboutist deflections. Thus Labour’s leader overlooks the fact that Hamas runs a repressive, socially conservative, deeply patriarchal, authoritarian Islamist government in a one-party statelet—because it’s “the resistance” to the American-Zionist project.