Thursday, 30 July 2020

The Weaponisation of Antisemitism

Today, I'm going to discuss the topic few on the left dare discuss for fear of being branded antisemitic themselves: antisemitism.

First, a bit of history. Antisemitism is unquestionably one of the great evils of the world. The Jewish people have faced persecution for centuries and were the main victims of one of the worst genocides of the last 100 years: the holocaust. Even today Jews face horrific abuse, threats and violence. Antisemitism is real, it's found across the world and it's completely unacceptable.

Here's a statement equally as true: in recent years antisemitism has been weaponised by the media and politicians to attack the left. But this is a fact you are not allowed to point out, because if you do, you will immediately get branded an antisemite. It's a new form of McCarthyism.

That's not to say left wing antisemitism isn't a thing, of course. A vocal minority among the left are unquestionably antisemitic. I sometimes see them pop up on my Twitter feed or in a Facebook group, regurgitating the same ridiculous tropes which frankly make them look unhinged. I block and report these idiots on sight, but I suspect they reemerge with aliases whenever their accounts are suspended.

Now if you are one of these people, let's point out a few things: Zionists don't control the world or the banks and when you bring Jews up in every online exchange, it not only makes you look racist, it suggests you need mental help. You're embarrassing yourself and you're embarrassing the left.

Antisemitic tropes are a real and dangerous phenomenon. But a big problem is emerging: the right wing are now overusing the term "antisemitic trope," along with other terms like "Jew baiting". Every time someone criticises Israel or defends Palestine or calls out antisemitism smears, this terminology is used as though it makes the alleged antisemitism a reality. 

The Tory government is even talking of criminalising those who boycott Israel in solidarity with Palestine. Imagine criminalising those who boycotted apartheid South Africa and you can see the problem here. Even more disturbingly, right wing antisemitism is almost completely overlooked, despite making up 70% of all antisemitism, according to the Home Affairs Committee.

I've seen people raise genuine concerns about video footage which apparently shows an Israeli official attempting to bribe UK officials. I've heard no one dispute the footage is genuine and I understand the official in question was subsequently fired. However, people who've raised concerns about whether this means Israel is interfering in our democracy are supposedly "antisemitic conspiracy theorists" and are guilty of the "antisemitic trope" that Jews run the world. That's one hell of a stretch.

No one would call you Russophobic for suggesting Russia might be interfering in our democracy. Well, we have documented evidence Israel might be doing the same. I don't know whether the alleged incident was a one-off or part of a pattern, but sadly we have no way of finding out. The former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called for an investigation but frustratingly nothing happened. Why do we investigate Russia but not Israel? Is that not a double standard?

The IHRA guidelines on antisemitism state you can criticise Israel as you would criticise another country. Yet in reality you can't criticise Israel without the right screaming "Antisemitic conspiracy theorist!" and the accusation becomes a reality in many people's eyes. Others become terrified of defending you in case they get branded antisemitic too. Indeed, the Board of Deputies demanded Labour members be suspended for showing solidarity with others disciplined for antisemitism - that would be a thought crime.

How is any of this logical? How does any of the above mean you hate Jews for being Jews? Or that you are discriminating against all Jews? Or that by criticising Israel, you are attacking all Jews? Is treating Jews as a monolith not antisemitism itself?

I remember 2016 when Jeremy Corbyn was facing one ridiculous smear attempt after another. You remember - Russian spy, terrorist sympathiser, man who doesn't bow low enough and wears wrong kind of coat. The Labour antisemitism scandal just fell out of the sky with absolutely no build up. Overnight, British newspapers decided Labour was institutionally antisemitic in what looked a very coordinated move, but of course, this must be an "antisemitic conspiracy theory" too.

Suddenly every incident of antisemitism attributed to Labour was Jeremy Corbyn's fault. It didn't matter that many complaints were not about Labour members, or that they dated back to Ed Miliband's time as leader, or that it was not the Labour leader's job to resolve complaints, or that Corbyn inherited a complaints process which he later overhauled. All that mattered was they had a stick to beat socialism with, an excuse to demand the expulsions of anyone they accused. It was that cynical.

Suddenly it was impossible for the left to engage on social media without being called antisemitic. You did not have to make any comment, other than you were left wing and supported Labour or Corbyn. I went through thirty-odd years of my life without ever being called antisemitic, but now it was happening to me several times a day. Bizarrely, Israel, Palestine and Judaism were subjects I rarely, if ever, discussed, and I've actually learnt far more about these subjects since the smears began.

What I found particularly hurtful was I've always felt a strong empathy towards the Jewish people. As a child, I would see the terror attacks in Israel on news reports and my heart would break. I knew virtually nothing of the political situation - I just knew I wanted peace and for the Israelis to live safely. Those were my only thoughts on the matter for most of my life, yet suddenly I was an "antisemite". An antisemite who loves the Jewish people and wants them to be safe.

In recent years I've learnt to feel the same empathy for the Palestinians as I've become educated about their plight. I've discovered the Israeli state has been guilty of human rights abuses, according to the United Nations, and I must as a person of good conscience call this out. This does not make me antisemitic. I condemn violence towards Israelis and Jews just as strongly as I condemn violence towards Palestinians. I get there are no easy solutions, but I just want peace in the middle east and around the world.

I am convinced Jeremy Corbyn feels the same way I do. I am convinced he is a good man who just wants peace and gets vilified for being a socialist and speaking up for Palestinians. If I thought otherwise, I would drop him like a stone.

I note how the good people at Jewish Voice for Labour, an exclusively Jewish organisation for who I have recently written, are often labelled antisemites! They are Jews, but they are the wrong kind of Jews, it would seem. Left wing Jews. This of course is an antisemitic trope. But apparently it's perfectly fine for conservatives to be guilty of those. Indeed, we've seen prominent Tory MPs using antisemitic tropes in Parliament in recent years.

If you are left wing, however, you can't stand in the same room as an alleged antisemite without being guilty of everything they have allegedly said or done. And if you dare suggest an accused person might not be antisemitic, you are now an antisemite. It does not matter that you've never had an antisemitic thought or committed an antisemitic act. Your character is now forever stained because you made a principled stand. A difference of opinion = racism.

People on the left are even facing vexatious litigation when they call out antisemitism smears. I can't discuss individual cases for legal reasons, but you probably know which cases I'm talking about. The ones the media are terrified of touching with any honesty, enabling cynical lawyers to operate with impunity. Lawfare.

No doubt, some conservatives and Labour centrists will use this article as absolute proof I am an antisemite. Indeed, if I was still a Labour member I would probably be suspended for writing it. And yet here I am, still having nothing but love for Jews and all good people on this Earth.

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