25-10-2016

Antisemitic Anti-Zionism

Source: The New York Times


By Roger Cohen

 

The hard left meeting the hard right is an old political story, as Hitler understood in calling his party the National Socialists. So in these days of turbulence it’s no surprise that the leftist supporters of Britain’s Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn should find common cause with the rightist backers of Donald Trump.

 

They like Vladimir Putin’s Russia even as he flattens Aleppo; they are anti-globalism; they are anti-establishment; they oppose or are skeptical of NATO, the cornerstone of the Western alliance; and they see a conspiracy of what Trump has called “global financial powers” behind everything.

 

Then there’s the fact that nearly half of female Labour MPs have accused Corbyn of failing to stop “disgusting and totally unacceptable” abuse of women by his supporters.

 

One difference exists, however. The movement of “Corbynistas” — an alliance of young leftist dreamers and old guard Leninists who have demolished Tony Blair’s centrist “New Labour” as comprehensively as Trump has hijacked the Republican Party — embraces an ideology. It’s anti-American and anti-Western and broadly anti-capitalist, much in the mode of Cold War Soviet sympathizers.

 

Trumpism, by contrast, is an anger-driven, conspiracy-fueled, scapegoat-manipulating, ideology-free movement dedicated to the elevation by any means of one man, portrayed as a savior, to the most powerful office in the world.

 

Corbyn is not really interested in power because power involves compromise and he is a self-regarding purist of the worst kind. His Labour Party will never win an election. Britain has been left in the hands of the pound-pummeling, self-destructing Brexiters of the Conservative Party, who see how careful they should have been about what they wished for. Their cause, exit from the European Union, now requires a plan. That’s awkward because specifics are a lot less sexy than the anti-Europe lies that got them this far.

 

Trump is solely interested in power. For Trump, power is policy.

 

So when Trump succumbs to tropes with a distinctly antisemitic undertow about the banks and financiers plotting the “destruction of U.S. sovereignty,” these are words, not a program, chosen for some of the vilest of his supporters. He’s a New Yorker after all. But when Corbyn and his extreme left backers engage in what the British political theorist Alan Johnson has called “antisemitic anti-Zionism,” something far more coherent and ideological is at work.

 

A cross-party parliamentary committee concluded this month that Corbyn has created a “safe space” for “those with vile attitudes towards Jewish people,” and that Labour’s passivity before antisemitic incidents risked “lending force to allegations that elements of the Labour movement are institutionally antisemitic.”

 

Even with British understatement that’s clear enough: Corbyn’s Labour Party has given free rein to antisemites.

 

Last June, Corbyn compared Israel to “self-styled Islamic states or organizations” — an allusion his staff insisted was to Muslim nations rather than the terrorist Islamic State, although Pakistan is not “self-styled” and ISIS is. He has been largely passive as Jewish Labour MP’s, including Luciana Berger and Ruth Smeeth, have had antisemitic insults hurled at them either in person or online. He elevated Baroness Chakrabarti to a peerage after she whitewashed Labour in an earlier report on antisemitism that spoke of “unhappy incidents” (oh, yes, so awfully unhappy) — a decision that left a “damaging impression,” in the words of the latest inquiry. He has called Hamas and Hezbollah agents “of long-term peace and social justice and political justice in the whole region,” and once invited to Parliament a Palestinian Islamist, Raed Salah, who has suggested Jews were absent from the World Trade Center on 9/11. He has attended an event organized by a pro-Palestinian group founded by an avowed Holocaust denier, Paul Eisen. He has permitted the word “Zio”, an antisemitic term used by the Ku Klux Klan — to become the modish slur in Labour circles on campuses and elsewhere.

 

Corbyn has rejected the cross-party report, saying it’s biased. Last month he called antisemitism “an evil” that must never be permitted “to fester in our society again.” He’s expressed regret for his embrace of Hamas and Hezbollah. Nobody believes him. The Labour leader hates the West and by extension Israel as a colonial power (not in the West Bank, where the settler movement makes the charge justifiable, but in its entirety) so much that he cannot see when this hatred merges into antisemitism. “He’s in denial,” as Rachel Sylvester of The Times of London told me. His ideology leads to a position that Johnson expresses well: “That which the demonological Jew once was, demonological Israel now is.”

 

Parry Mitchell, a Jewish peer, quit the Labour Party in disgust this summer, and put the issue this way to me: “How can I, a Jew and a Zionist, remain in a party where the leadership is so clearly hostile to Israel (even to its very existence) and which also flirts with antisemitism.”

 

British and American politics have reached a new low that presents the greatest postwar challenge to the Atlantic alliance and the civilization it has sustained.