Tuesday 3 May 2016


The Labour Party's inquiry into Antisemitism was a whitewash and did not satisfy critics.

That is because the problem of the Left is not Antisemitism but fanaticism and an inability to listen. Anyone who has seen this faction at close quarters (as I have for many years) knows how much it is driven by hatred. It has to have a demon. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the failure of social democracy the Left has been forced into negativity, taking its Antis - Anti-Americanism, Anti-Imperialism, and anti-Zionism - to passionate extremes.

So it's no accident that anti-Zionists compare Israel to South Africa and Nazi Germany. The factual questions as to whether Israel practices apartheid or genocide are less important than making Israel the Left's current demon.

The issue of Antisemitism and its relation to anti-Zionism is complex, and any proper inquiry would have to deal with it thoroughly.  It would have to analyse Antisemitism and its relationship to anti-Zionism.

  • Does Antisemitism entail contempt for the Jews conceived as a race, or might it also be the opposite, the denial that Jews are an ethnic group or a nation? 
  • Since 80% of the population of Israel are Jews and the overwhelming majority of Jews in the diaspora feel that Israel is part of their Jewish identity, and since the restoration of Jews to the land of Israel is a part of the Jewish religion, is anti-Zionism anti-Jewish? 
  • Is the idea that Israel should no longer exist as a Jewish state, and that the Jews of the Middle East should live as a minority under Arabs who hate them, a form of Antisemitism? 
  • Is Labour pandering to the Antisemitism of Muslim voters? 
  • Has the Left inherited the ambivalence in Jewish emancipation, in which universalist principles made the removal of civil disabilities conditional on the abandonment of Jewish identity
  • Even if anti-Zionism and Antisemitism are not the same thing, how much anti-Zionism expresses itself as Antisemitism ("Jews to the gas!" "Bombs over Tel Aviv!"), how many anti-Zionists are also Antisemites and how many Antisemites are also anti-Zionists?

The Labour Party inquiry did not deal with these questions. It fudged the overlap of Antisemitism with anti-Zionism and found that there have been a few instances of Antisemitism in the party and that they should be dealt with more firmly in the future. The deeper question of the natural intolerance of the Left, its essential illiberalism and its tendency to extremism, was not touched on at all.

The Left is bound to be anti-Semitic because it defines racism as prejudice plus power.  Thus, by definition, people with power cannot be victims of racism and, since Jews have power in Israel, Antisemitism is not racism. Only Blacks can be victims of racism and Whites are oppressors. It is legitimate to hate oppressors and since Jews are White it is legitimate to hate them. The few tactless outbursts of explicit Antisemitism on Labour's Left are not an aberration but an expression of this Anti-Racist ideology. Ken Livingstone says it explicitly and when Jeremy Corbyn says that Labour stands full square against racism and Antisemitism he has his fingers crossed behind his back.

This mind-set means Antisemitism in Labour cannot be tackled by the Left. Len McClusky, the leader of the powerful trades union Unite and a cheer leader for Corbyn, moved on to the attack by saying that accusations of Antisemitism were just a ploy by the Right to get rid of Corbyn. McClusky is a more effective leader than Corbyn and he is bound to fight Corbyn's corner; but he is more right than he knows: this problem does require the removal of Corbyn and the Left from the leadership of the Labour Party.