That Jeremy Corbyn is an anti-Semite seems unlikely. That Jeremy Corbyn has anti-Semitic friends seems closer to the truth. He has been a long-time ally of Ken Livingston, who memorably claimed Hitler was a Zionist “before he went mad”, been linked to Hamas and its supporters, who seek the destruction of Israel, and met with Rev. Stephan Sizer who believes Israel was behind 9/11. Quite a gang. It is obvious what connects these people. Equally obvious is the anti-Semitism of the Tower Hamlets mural. As all those listed above are, seemingly, united by their dislike of Jews, it is the noses that unite the individuals depicted in that mural. Its creator, ‘Mear One’, plays on every lugubrious characterisation of Jews as shifty money grabbers. Servile yet all-powerful. The mural is also ostensibly anti-capitalist, and street art will always be perceived as anti-establishment. It is likely that these last two antis impressed Corbyn enough for him to publically endorse it. Perhaps he was told about it and did not see it, or somehow missed the almost comically-overt racism. Yet as his list of past acquaintances reveals, Jeremy Corbyn does not always see anti-Semitism as a disqualifying quality, provided its embedded in another, more palatable ideology. It was often said of Trump’s voters that they were not necessarily racist, but that they were willing to overlook it to get what they wanted. Evidently, the harder elements of the British left are not entirely dissimilar.

Jeremy Corbyn does not always see anti-Semitism as a disqualifying quality, provided its embedded in another, more palatable ideology.

Here’s the thing, when it comes to other sects and races, Jeremy Corbyn is an anti-racist. Even when it comes to confronting Nazism, Corbyn has demonstrated, marched and counter-marched. That the Labour leader is a broad-spectrum racist is inconceivable, but anti-Semitism has a habit of infecting other, less redolently foul ideologies. It is in this sense that it differs from other forms of xenophobia. Of no other ethnic group is it said that they control the world through secretive convents and illicit dealings. In short, anti-Semitism is rooted in racial hatred as much as an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory. People who believe one conspiracy theory are more likely to believe others, and people with extreme politics are also more susceptible. Both the far-left and -right are awash with conspiracies, often the same ones. Anti-Semitism infuses many of them. The idea that 9/11 was an ‘inside job’, for example, is often accompanied by the claim that no Israeli nationals came to work at the Trade Centres that day. Whispered discussions about the ‘globalist agenda’, and world finances often feature the names Rothschild, Warburg, and Soros. Whilst the far right is frequently associated with such prejudicial views, many look to the left to defend minorities and the persecuted: two things that the Jewish people have regrettably embodied throughout history. If Momentum and the Labour left want to build a genuinely progressive movement, they must consider leaving their pet prejudices and paranoias at the door.

many look to the left to defend minorities and the persecuted: two things that the Jewish people have regrettably embodied throughout history.

To many, Jews no longer hold the status of persecuted minority. True, the Catholic Church does not accuse them of murdering Jesus with the vitriol of old, but in the United States, one of the safest countries to be a Jew in history, anti-Semitism accounts for over 50% of hate crimes, despite Jews comprising just 2% of the population. Jews have always been portrayed as perpetrators, not victims. First it was killing Christ, then the Protocols of Zion, then the Dolchstoßlegende myth. On the left, the new reason for this old sentiment is Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. Thus, a situation in which the Jews are indeed the perpetrators undergoes a subconscious extrapolation, and the criminal actions of the Israeli state are projected onto Jews in general. The reverse is also a problem and lies at the heart of the current Labour crisis. Those critical of the Israeli state – like many key figures in Corbyn’s circle are – frequently get labelled as anti-Semites. It has become common to hear predominantly Jewish politicians, pundits, and journalists claim that to be anti-Zionist is by default anti-Semitic. the Chakrabarti Report into anti-Jewish sentiment in the Labour Party has suggested the suspension of anyone using Zionist as an insult. Whilst it is true that the word can be used as a pejorative racial slur, it is not necessarily racist. To be a Zionist, all one has to believe is the state of Israel has a right to exist; a great example being the settlers who illegally colonise the hilltops of Palestine, under the auspice of divine direction. You can comfortably be a Zionist whilst opposing this venture. Yet not being a Zionist, and disliking Zionism is not racist. Believing Israel ought not to exist is a political position, and not by default an anti-Semitic one. Yes, all anti-Semites are opposed to Zionism, but just as not all Zionists support an expansionist Israel, not all those who regret the imposition of a Jewish state, at great loss of life, are xenophobes.

Labour does have a problem, and measures must be taken to minimalize anti-Semitism in the party. Sadly, anti-Semitism seems ineradicable. No one wants to say so, but so long as paranoia remains part of the human psyche, anti-Semitism will as well. The flood of hard left politics into the parliamentary party has brought with it an unsavoury undercurrent, but this is a broader societal problem, and certainly not one confined to Labour. Jeremy Corbyn has at best been shockingly maladroit throughout Labour’s crisis, and much of his career, regarding anti-Semitism. Yet Labour is no more xenophobic than any other British political party, and considerably less so than some. If any good comes of this, it will be that our society takes a closer look at a prejudice which has never gone away, and which many continue to harbour without completely realising.

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