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Jeremy Corbyn: Veteran anti-Zionist (RWendland  CC BY-SA 4.0)


An anti-Semitic remark is today more likely to leave the mouth of a left-wing politician or activist than come from even the most unreconstructed of conservatives. In a world that is neatly divided into oppressors and the oppressed, “Jews do not deserve to be treated as victims,” as Dave Rich puts it in his new book The Left’s Jewish Problem. Or as a revolting letter published in the Morning Star in 2002 bluntly phrased it, “the good Jews were all killed in the concentration camps”.

Left-wing anti-Semitism has come to national attention since the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party in September 2015. Since then up to 20 Labour members, including an MP and a former mayor of London, have been suspended by Labour for anti-Semitism. There have also been three separate inquiries into anti-Semitism within the party. A senior activist in the Corbyn-supporting campaign group Momentum has claimed that Jews were the “chief financiers of the slave trade”. Meanwhile Beinazir Lasharie, a Labour Party councillor who was suspended from the party in 2015, posted links on her Facebook page to videos claiming to show that Israel was behind Islamic State.

Left-wing anti-Semitism is typically blamed on the hard Left, and with some justification. The decision by the Soviet Union to label Zionism a form of racism in the 1960s and 1970s has found its echo in the racist no-platforming of Jewish societies imposed by self-proclaimed anti-racists on university campuses across Britain. However, left-wing anti-Semitism is as much a product of soggy liberalism — with its hand-wringing about “the other” — as it is derived from Stalinism. As Rich puts it, “The spread of anti-Zionism on the Left . . . was kick-started by Young Liberal and Arab nationalist activists . . . [who] used the language of anti-colonialism and human rights.”

This anti-Semitism is, then, not an invention of the Corbynistas, but rather something which has been bubbling away under the surface on the Left for decades. It is the result of the coming together of old Soviet notions of the Jews not being an authentic people and the New Left belief that, as Rich puts it, “Israel is a Western colonial implant in the Middle East.”

But anti-Semites have evidently imbibed a feeling of empowerment from the rise to prominence of Corbyn, a man whose political assumptions are largely taken from the anti-colonialist and anti-Zionist New Left. These assumptions, while not necessarily anti-Semitic in isolation, lend themselves rather easily to an anti-Semitic outlook. They typically run as follows: only dispossessed minorities can experience racism; the Holocaust was simply one genocide among many; and the world can be divided neatly into lightness and dark, with all that is good and virtuous on one side and the devil on the other.

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