The strangest aspect of the current hullabaloo in Britain about anti-Semitism in the Labor Party is that it is happening at all. Since when has Jew-hatred been something that Labor feels it necessary to abhor? For more than a decade, the party, like the British Left from whence it emanates, has provided a warm home for Jew-haters.
Naz Shah, the Labor MP who set off the alarms with her call to deport the more than six million Jews of Israel to America, has a rich history of Jew-hating. Shah entered parliament by unseating George Galloway.
Galloway was expelled from the Labor Party in 2003 after he called for British soldiers to refuse to follow orders in Iraq and sided with Saddam Hussein against his own country.
But Galloway’s hatred for Britain pales in comparison to his hatred for Jews. During Operation Protective Edge in 2014, Galloway banned Israelis from entering his electoral district in Bradford.
He routinely makes explicit calls for the annihilation of Israel. And for several years now, Galloway refuses to share a stage with Israelis or with Jews who do not reject Israel’s right to exist.
Shah didn’t defeat Galloway by condemning his bigotry. She defeated him by embracing it.
As Nick Cohen wrote this week in The Guardian, a politician cannot be elected in electoral districts with large Muslim populations unless he is an anti-Semite.
Cohen recalled the case of former Liberal Democrat MP David Ward who posted anti-Semitic tweets on Twitter to prove his anti-Jewish bona fides.
Among other things, after the jihadist assaults last January in Paris, Ward wrote, “Je Suis Palestinian” on his Twitter account, while failing to condemn the massacre of Jews at the Hyper Cacher market in Paris.
Anti-Semitism in Labor is not a new or fringe phenomenon. In the 2005 parliamentary elections, when then-prime minister Tony Blair was running for a third term, the party was caught twice using anti-Semitic imagery in its campaign literature.
In the first instance, Conservative leaders Michael Howard and Oliver Letwin – both Jews – were portrayed as fat flying pigs.
In the second, Howard was portrayed as Fagin, Charles Dickens’s anti-Semitic caricature of a Jew in Oliver Twist.
In other words, more than a decade ago, when Labor was led by a man widely considered bereft of anti-Semitic sentiments and sympathetically disposed to Israel, the party used anti-Semitism to reach out to anti-Semitic Muslim voters, signaling them that they had a welcoming home in Labor.
Three years ago, Mehdi Hasan, a Muslim British writer, acknowledged that anti-Semitism is “rampant” in the British Muslim community. Writing in the New Statesman, Hasan said, “anti-Semitism isn’t just tolerated in some sections of the British Muslim community; it’s routine and commonplace.”
Hasan cited as an example the Jew baiting of Lord Nazir Ahmed, from the Labor Party. Ahmed is considered, apparently rightly, a sterling example of Britain’s success in integrating its Muslim citizens into its society. And yet, while he may speak Oxford English, Ahmed is a raving anti-Semite.
In 2012, Ahmed was convicted of reckless driving for running over and killing a pedestrian while sending text messages. He was sent to prison for three months for his crime. In an interview with a Pakistani television station, Ahmed blamed his indictment and conviction on the Jews.
But again, anti-Semitism in Labor’s ranks is not a new phenomenon. So what explains the current outrage over it? Why is it suddenly of interest? There are two apparent reasons that everyone is currently professing shock about something they have known about for years. And these reasons make clear that the current uproar will lead to no real reckoning with the problem.
The first reason for the uproar over Jew-hatred is that the party is led by Jeremy Corbyn, a man who, at a minimum, has a marked, longstanding affection for anti-Semites and respect for their bigotry.
Ahead of Corbyn’s landslide victory in Labor’s leadership race last September, Britain’s Jewish Chronicle detailed his long history of joining hands with leading Holocaust deniers, terrorists and anti-Jewish terrorism supporters. Corbyn referred to Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists as his “friends.”
Corbyn is a leader of the Israel boycott campaign in Britain. A month before his election, he led a BDS demonstration outside a soccer stadium in Wales protesting the fact that Israel’s national team was playing in Cardiff.
This week, at a parliamentary face-off with Corbyn, Prime Minister David Cameron repeatedly demanded that Corbyn take back his characterization of Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists as his “friends.”
Corbyn refused each time, sufficing with doublespeak and attempts to change the subject.
That confrontation took place as Thursday’s mayoral elections in London loomed near.
As he refused to denounce Hamas and Hezbollah, Corbyn demanded that Cameron denounce criticisms of Labor’s mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan sounded by his Conservative colleagues.
Rather than taking the bait, Cameron noted that Khan has longstanding ties with and sympathy for jihadists. Khan defended the ringleader of the July 7, 2005, jihadist massacres in London.
Khan has been an outspoken champion of jihadists imprisoned in Britain and Guantanamo. He wrote sympathetically of Islamic State murderers on his social media postings.
And Thursday he was poised to be elected mayor of London.
When Labor was led by David Miliband, Gordon Brown and of course, by Blair, every time complaints surfaced about anti-Semitism in the party, they easily swept them under the rug by bragging about their personal sympathy for Israel and close ties with Britain’s Jewish community.
With Corbyn at the helm, it is more difficult to wave off concerns with a smile and a visit to a synagogue.
The other reason that Labor’s longstanding Jew-hatred is suddenly headline news is that the old British definition of an anti-Semite still holds.
As far as the British polite classes are concerned, an anti-Semite remains someone who hates Jews more than is absolutely necessary.
Shah crossed the line when she called for the mass expulsion of Israelis to America. Livingstone revealed that he hates Jews more than is absolutely necessary when, rushing to Shah’s defense, he insisted that Hitler was a Zionist.
The two senior Labor politicians’ hateful remarks exposed the dirty secret of leftist Jew-haters in Britain and throughout the Western world.
They revealed that their hatred for the State of Israel is just a dressed-up version of age-old Jew-hatred. For more than a generation, we have been told that libeling IDF soldiers and Israeli political leaders as Nazis is legitimate criticism of Israel. Boycotting Jewish-made Israeli products, the Western Left insists, isn’t racist. It is simply a means to protest Israel’s ill treatment of Palestinians.
But here you have two leftist politicians who spoke like Nazis and defended Hitler. And that was just a bridge too far, even for the BBC that generally backs their libelous claims against Israel.
Disseminators of socially acceptable anti-Semitism are usually more careful. There’s Jew-hatred, which is calling for Jews to go to the gas chambers.
And there’s constructive criticism of Israel which involves calling for Zionists to be hounded out of the public square.
Apparently, in the general anti-Semitic glee over Corbyn’s rise to power, people started getting sloppy. As their leader, Corbyn knows he needs to teach them how to clean up their game.
This is where the committee he formed to investigate anti-Semitism in his “anti-racist” party comes into play.
Following heavy media pressure, Corbyn formed a committee to investigate anti-Semitism in his party. According to Labor’s press release, Corbyn instructed its members to draw up a “code of conduct” that will include guidance on “acceptable behavior and use of language.”
In other words, he wants to remind them to stick to the code – Zionists bad. Jews good.
If that wasn’t enough to tip his intentions, the people Corbyn appointed to serve on his committee give up the game.
The committee’s vice chairman is Prof. David Feldman. Feldman is a member of the anti-Zionist group Independent Jewish Voices.
That outfit, which operates outside Britain’s Jewish community, rushed to publish a statement rejecting the notion that Labor has an anti-Semitism problem and insisting that there is a distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.
Actually Corbyn’s appointment of Feldman serves another, more troubling, end as well.
His elevation of a man who has made a name for himself defaming Israel and the British Jewish community for supporting Israel is not a coincidence.
It follows a pattern of Labor members elevating radical Jews to marginalize British Jewry.
Consider the activities of Oxford University’s Labor Student Club.
This past February Alex Chalmers, co-chairman of the club, caused a stir when he resigned his position claiming that he couldn’t abide the anti-Semitism rampant in the party’s ranks.
Following Chalmers’s resignation, Aaron Simons, former leader of Oxford’s Jewish Society, published an article in The Guardian where he reported that one of the goals of the anti-Semitic Labor student club members is to force pro-Israel Jewish students out of campus life.
Simons told of one Labor member who “stated that all Jews should be expected to publicly denounce Zionism and the State of Israel and that we should not associate with any Jew that fails to do so.”
Simons reported that another party member allegedly “organized a group of students to harass a Jewish student and to shout ‘Filthy Zionist’ whenever they saw her.”
Corbyn’s moves to discipline Shah, Livingstone and an additional 50 party members for their expressions of anti-Jewish bigotry also indicate that he has no intention of fighting anti-Semitism.
Corbyn suspended their party membership. He didn’t expel them from the party. He didn’t bar them from serving in leadership positions in the future. The duration of their suspensions is undefined.
And there is little reason to believe that it will extend beyond the headlines. Once this story is forgotten, they will likely be reinstated.
When London residents set out to vote for their next mayor on Thursday morning, it worked out that polling places in north London, home to the largest concentration of Jews in the city, were sent the wrong voter lists. As a result, hundreds of people, including Britain’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and his wife, Valerie, were prohibited from voting.
All the relevant authorities insisted that it was simply a technical mistake. Two-and-a-half hours later, the proper voter rolls arrived and residents were permitted to vote.
Maybe they were telling the truth.
But with Britain’s second largest party, the largest party in London, embracing Jew-hatred and deliberately undermining the ability of British Jewry to freely defend its Zionist values, there is no reason to take their statements at face value.