It is strange to see things for which Solidarity and Workers’ Liberty have long been despised and abused, among much of the left, the kitsch left, now being brandished as weapons against the Corbyn Labour Party by our political enemies.
Certainly “left-wing” antisemitism, expressed as “anti-Zionism”, is a malignant and powerful force on the left. Especially among the would-be revolutionary left, who on many other things say what we say.
The core of the antisemitic infection is denial that Israel has a right to exist — insistence that it is a historically illegitimate state which should be done away with if it continues to refuse to dismantle itself. A whole cluster of attitudes and positions have their roots there.
It is an infection carried by the “revolutionary” absolute anti-Zionist left into broader areas. These ideas need to be stigmatised and driven out of the labour movement. The political, intellectual and moral health of the labour movement demands no less than that.
The emergence of the Corbyn Labour Party is the greatest and most progressive development in British politics for a very long time. Many people new to politics have been drawn into activity around the rejuvenating Labour Party, for the first time.
That the “left-wing” antisemites should not be allowed to infect newcomers and young people with their political sickness is a to-be-or-not-to-be question for socialists, for consistent democrats, and for the labour movement.
Those who want the destruction of Israel and advocate, or would support, an Arab or Islamic war of extermination against it should not be members of any working-class or socialist party. It is necessary to educate and re-educate the left and the labour movement, to get the movement to see, reject, and fight their “left-wing” antisemitism.
But this issue is now being used as a stick with which to beat Corbyn and the Labour Party he leads. Corbyn is not one of the tribe of left-wing antisemites. He has a history of association with some left-wing campaigns and formations which are based in that tribe; but Jeremy Corbyn believes not in the destruction of Israel but in the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel — the “two states” settlement.
In his letter of 26 March to the Jewish Leadership Council and the Board of Deputies of British Jews (bbc.in/jc-2603), he quotes August Bebel that antisemitism is the socialism of the fools.
Yet Corbyn is here ambivalent on the Israel-Palestine dispute. In the letter he argues that “newer forms of antisemitism have been woven into... criticism of Israel, particularly in relation to the continuing dispossession of the Palestinian people”. That could refer to the Israeli settlement program in the West Bank, or to what the “left” antisemites mean by such words, that Israel’s existence as such is the dispossession.
The Jewish Board of Deputies has a right, a duty, to watch for and denounce every kind or hint of antisemitism.
Its intervention in the Labour Party is, nonetheless, extraordinary, and can’t but be a variant of joining in with the right-wing gang kicking Corbyn.
There is antisemitism in the Tory party. What has the Board of Deputies done about that? Or planned to do?
Suspicion that the Board of Deputies acts with anti-Labour and anti-Corbyn bias will not help the fight against antisemitism in the Labour Party. The right to criticise Israel cannot be surrendered or allowed to be stifled.
Blatant and persistent antisemites should be expelled from the Labour Party. But more than that is needed. Jeremy Corbyn should take the lead in initiating an educational campaign in the Labour Party and in the broader labour movement on the complex of questions involved, including Israel-Palestine.
It is to be hoped that Corbyn’s commitment to Jewish communal leaders is an indication that such a campaign will now happen.