Document:Anatomy of a Scandal: Israel Crucifies Corbyn
In a campaign that’s as banal as it is mendacious, the mass media are pulling out all the stops to denigrate UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and ensure the British public don’t commit the heinous mistake of voting him into power one day. Yes, comrades, it’s come time and again for the all-knowing political establishment and its herd of loyal typists to save us from ourselves—because it worked so well with Brexit and Trump. For the uninitiated, Corbyn, a life-long leftist with a strong aversion to race-hatred, ultra-nationalism, military invasion and occupation, colonialism and war crimes (the lifeblood, in other words, of Israel) continues to battle allegations that he is, at best, tolerating anti-Semitism within his party’s ranks or, at worst, a raving Jew-hater himself. He’s also—yes, you guessed it—a “useful idiot” of the Kremlin. But then who isn’t these days.
While noise about Labour’s “anti-Semitism scandal” has been making the rounds for some time, it’s currently being turned up to eleven for reasons that are entirely clear. Prime Minister Theresa May’s deeply unpopular Conservative government is in a shambles following a mass exodus of senior advisors from her cabinet. Among the quitters was England’s answer to Donald Trump, the buffoonish former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, now on the short list of May’s potential successors. In brief, the future of British politics is at the moment very uncertain; the situation is extremely volatile. This worries a great many people (Zionists and neoliberals alike) who wake up in cold sweats from nightmares that, someway, somehow, a man like Corbyn, who’s actually read a bit of Marx and believes in weird notions like international law, might end up calling the shots. A truly horrifying prospect if ever there was one.
The hatchet job against Corbyn—coordinated across the media spectrum and directly linked to a foreign government (can you guess which one?)—is classic diversion. It’s the same sleazy tactic employed by every demagogue, every full-of-shit lawyer, every crooked police chief when the narrative takes an alarming turn toward the truth: simply change the subject. Here’s how it works. First, you obfuscate the main issues using Orwellian language games. Next, you point your finger at somebody else. Then, if you’ve got the power, you destroy that somebody else, preferably by engineering a scandal of some kind, however irrelevant, however absurd. Problem solved.
When Bernie Sanders crashed the primary elections in 2016 and threw a wrench into the Democratic Party machinery, the corporate media’s first instinct was to pretend that no such thing had taken place. If they ignored him, they thought, he would go away. Perceiving that this wasn’t going to be an effective solution to the Bernie Question, they promptly resorted to the tactic outlined above. As Sanders’ “democratic socialist” vision—the core of which is economic, and thus social, justice—picked up steam and resonated deeper and deeper with disaffected middle-class Americans, he was maligned in the press as a quixotic fool, an angry, disheveled old man selling snake oil to a naïve base of supporters, many of whom, the media assured us, were rabid misogynists. (Sanders was also tarred with the sexist/misogynist brush upon making an offhand comment about Planned Parenthood being associated with the despised establishment). All the key players—the Democratic Party, the mainstream media, the corporate donors—did their part to discredit and undermine the Sanders campaign, and they succeeded in their efforts, paving the way for Trump’s reign of terror. They have much to be proud of.
Let’s take a look, now, at the substance behind the claims that Labour, and perhaps Corbyn himself, are steeped in anti-Semitism, i.e. Jew-hatred. “When it emerged,” writes a quietly indignant Andrew Sullivan in New York Magazine, “that Naz Shah, a new Labour MP, had opined on Facebook before she was elected that Israel should be relocated to the US, and former London mayor Ken Livingstone backed her up by arguing that the Nazis initially favoured Zionism, Corbyn didn’t make a big fuss.”
One wonders what sort of “fuss” Sullivan would like to have seen Corbyn make over this—stamp his feet and cry? Shah’s hyperbolic remark would appear to be a reference to the fact that Israel serves as an American outpost in the Middle East, hardly a controversial point of view given the enormous amount of military, diplomatic and ideological aid provided to Israel by the US every year. Perhaps she was further alluding to the fact that Israel wields undue influence on Capitol Hill, where meaningful criticism of the policies of the Israeli government is verboten. Regarding Livingstone’s comment, it happens to be a historical fact that many Nazis were committed Zionists, Adolf Eichmann, the so-called “Architect of the Holocaust,” being one prominent example. We can sit around speculating about Livingstone’s motives for citing this uncontroversial bit of twentieth-century history but, lacking telepathic abilities, that would be a pointless waste of time. Both Shah and Livingstone were suspended from the Labour Party for their comments, and Livingstone eventually resigned. This seems excessive. But Sullivan wanted more “fuss.”
- “It then emerged that Corbyn himself had subscribed to various pro-Palestinian Facebook groups where rank anti-Semitism flourished. And that he had once defended a mural in East London that portrayed hook-nosed Jews counting money on a table held up by the oppressed masses.”
This is half true, and disingenuous. Corbyn did not in fact “defend” the mural in question. He merely wondered aloud why a work of street art painted on public property was being rubbed out, later claiming that he had not really looked at the mural beforehand. It may be true that Corbyn knowingly “subscribed to … Facebook groups where rank anti-Semitism flourished”; far more probable, however, is that he or someone on his staff added these groups because of their pro-Palestinian themes, neglecting to pore over the groups’ entire posting histories to ensure that no anti-Semitic content had ever been expressed. Careless? Maybe. Anti-Semitic? Please.
- “It also recently came to light,” Sullivan goes on, “that Corbyn had attended a meeting on Holocaust Memorial Day in 2010, called ‘Never Again for Anyone: Auschwitz to Gaza,’ equating Israelis with Nazis.”
Another half-truth, this one a little more sordid. As Adri Nieuwhof explained in The Electronic Intifada, the comparison Sullivan deplores was made not by Corbyn but by the late Hajo Meyer, a German Jew who managed to survive Auschwitz and whose parents both died in Theresienstadt concentration camp.
- “I have so much in common with Palestinian youth,” Meyer told Nieuwhof. “My own fate is so similar to what young Palestinian people in Palestine experience … I was a refugee; they are refugees. I experienced all sorts of camps that limited my mobility, just like the Palestinians.”
Presumably, it would have been more tactful of Corbyn, more politically correct of him, to have heckled and intimidated the elderly Meyer, like some of the pro-Israel activists who were present at the event did, one reportedly going so far as to shout “Sieg Heil!” as he was escorted out. If only Labour had more folks like that in their party—this whole kerfuffle could have been avoided.
Corbyn’s latest and greatest anti-Jew outrage—the one that makes him an “existential threat” to Jewish people in the UK—is his party’s refusal (for now) to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) prolix definition of anti-Semitism in full, without amendments. The IHRA defines anti-Semitism as follows:
- “A certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
Grammar aside, I can accept that definition. So can Labour. The IHRA, however, includes in its definition eleven “contemporary examples of anti-Semitism” for good measure, most of which are redundant (e.g. “calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews …”). A few of these “contemporary examples” are problematic in that they have nothing to do with protecting the Jewish people and everything to do with shoring up the Jewish State. Labour took exception to four of them, requesting that the wording of each be modified before the party adopts the IHRA document. Here they are:
- Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.
- Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour.
- Applying double standards by requiring of it a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
None of which are inherently anti-Semitic. True, people that hate Jews might make blanket accusations claiming that all Jews have a “dual loyalty” complex. On the other hand, suppose a couple pro-Israel lobbyists in the US—let’s call them Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman—obtained highly classified information “relating to the national defence” from a government official—let’s call him Lawrence Franklin—and proceeded to pass that information along to Israel after being asked by said official not to “use” the information. Is the person who ponders whether Rosen and Weissman are “more loyal to Israel … than to the interests of their own nation” anti-Semitic? On the contrary, it strikes me as a perfectly natural and non-sinister question to pose. Their job, after all, is to lobby the US government on behalf of a foreign power. Are we to believe no conflicts of interest ever arise in this context?
Given that the state of Israel as it exists now is explicitly racist (see its new Nation state law, which asserts that self-determination in Israel is “unique to the Jewish people” and describes Israel’s illegal settlement activity as a “national value”), it follows that Corbyn, and anyone else who doesn’t appreciate being manipulated, would reject IHRA’s “self-determination” clause.
“Claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour,” which it is, has nothing to do with “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination.” It’s a non-sequitur, a clumsy attempt at doublespeak, and could have been rejected on that basis alone. The more important point, however, is that the only people being denied the right to self-determination in Israel and its occupied territories are non-Jews. This fascist principle is now enshrined in Israel’s equivalent of a Constitution. Good luck persuading me that the term “racist endeavour” doesn’t apply here.
As to “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis,” such comparisons—sans Israel—are made every day. Hitler has been reincarnated about thirty times since 1945. Putin is Hitler. Assad is Hitler. Khamenei is Hitler. Nasrallah is Hitler. Saddam was Hitler. Gaddafi was Hitler. Milosevich was Hitler. Everyone we don’t like: Hitler. Why should Netanyahu, of all people, be exempt from this characterisation? Over 150 unarmed Gazans were recently murdered by IDF snipers as they attempted to escape their prison, or ghetto, or concentration camp, where they’ve been hemmed in, in violation of international law, for more than a decade. Thousands more were hit by live ammunition. The shooting was indiscriminate: casualties included children, medics, and journalists.
According to Human Rights Watch, there was “no evidence of any protester using firearms or any IDF claim of threatened firearm use at the demonstrations.” All the same, as the massacre unfolded, Netanyahu commended his troops’ behaviour:
- “Respect to our soldiers who are guarding the country’s borders and allowing Israeli citizens to celebrate the holiday in peace.”
He and his cronies offered similar bromides throughout ‘Operation Cast Lead’ and ‘Operation Protective Edge’, whereby thousands of Gazan civilians were murdered, their homes and schools and hospitals blown up.
Which brings us to the infamous “double standard.” The IHRA says it’s anti-Semitic to hold Israel to a standard of conduct “not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation,” taking for granted that Israel is a democracy, a ridiculous falsehood, as the Nation state law makes plain. So again, this particular clause can be rejected on account of the deceptive language it employs. Putting that aside, I’ll ask a question: how many “democracies” (define that however you like) are settler-colonial states? How many of them are continuously expanding into territory that does not belong to them, stealing the land and resources, and building settlements reserved for members of a single religious/ethnic group? The answer is zero, and the fact is that, at this point in time, Israel is a uniquely criminal state. Assuming this much-lamented double standard actually existed, one would be justified in applying it. Alas, it does not.
Because he’s a politician, and because his enemies are powerful, unrelenting and malicious, Corbyn is beginning to capitulate to the pressure that has been brought to bear on him. For instance, he has all but conceded that his wing of the Labour Party is infested with Jew-haters, despite the want of any real evidence, as we have seen. He has written that “the Holocaust was the greatest crime of the 20th century,” officially entering into what Norman Finkelstein calls the “holocaust sweepstakes”: the dubious and pointless game of ranking atrocities.
This is to some degree understandable, given what he’s up against. In addition to dealing with the machinations of the Israel lobby’s UK branch, Corbyn is being directly targeted by the Israeli government itself.
Writing for The Electronic Intifada, Asa Winstanley reports that an app created by Israel’s strategic affairs ministry has been deployed in the propaganda war against Corbyn. Called “Act.IL,” the app recently encouraged internet users to go around spreading rumours about Corbyn and his gang of crypto-Nazis. The app also dug up and disseminated the misleading story about Corbyn “equating Israelis with Nazis,” to use Sullivan’s description.
All this is having the desired effect. The mass media are opportunistically fanning the flames (and simultaneously asking, without a trace of irony, why the scandal won’t go away).
Home Secretary Sajid Javid has called on Corbyn to resign. Deputy leader of the Labour Party Tom Watson, meanwhile, urged Corbyn to adopt the IHRA’s non-definition of anti-Semitism without the proposed amendments, which I suspect he’ll ultimately do. Labour, Watson said, must:
- “Take a long, hard look at ourselves, stand up for what is right and present the party as fit to lead the nation—or disappear into a vortex of eternal shame and embarrassment.”
But Watson has it backward: the "eternal shame and embarrassment" come when Labour, swallowing whatever pride it has left, meekly submits to being harassed and blackmailed by a foreign power and its vulgar propagandists. Corbyn, it seems, is gearing up to do just that. Chalk one up for Goebbels.
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