The last couple of weeks have seen the expression of the absolutely valid concerns of Jewish citizens. But there have also been other aspects to the antisemitism protests.
The political drivers of the uproar of the last couple of weeks were on show in the letter sent by two Jewish groups to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, demanding not only that Labour disciplinary processes be made accountable to two largely Tory-supporting groups – but also that Corbyn and Labour ostracise the left-wing group Jewish Voice for Labour.
Two largely right-wing Jewish groups tried to imstall themselves as arbiters of who is acceptably ‘mainstream’ and to treat Jewish people hold left-wing or pro-Palestine views as aberrant – and not valid partners in fighting antisemitism.
Corbyn and the ‘wrong’?! Jews
On Monday, the right-wing trash site Guido Fawkes tweeted a link to a vile article attacking Jeremy Corbyn for celebrating Passover with a different ‘wrong’ Jewish group – Jewdas:
The article attacks left-wing group ‘Jewdas‘ for supposedly ‘viciously attack[ing] mainstream Jewish groups’, a skewed representation at best, but also ironic considering the attacks on the group – and on Corbyn for spending time with them – by ‘mainstream’ figures and their supporters following the Fawkes article.
Fawkes also neglected to mention that Jewdas consists entirely of Jews.
Jewish Chronicle editor Stephen Pollard piled in:
The idea that the fight against antisemitism has to exclude Jewish people with whom one disagrees is illuminating.
Jewish comedian and writer David Schneider – who has supported calls for dealing with antisemitism where it’s found in the Labour Party – encapsulated the wrongness of that worldview and the political motives involved in the attack on Corbyn in two pithy tweets:
Sadly, the arrogance of presuming to decide which Jews are good or bad wasn’t limited to Jewish commentators.
Labour First’s Luke Akehurst made a comment that earned him a stinging rebuke from a Jewish union activist:
Writer Alex Nunns spoke for many non-Jewish observers in his comment on the matter:
Labour MP Angela Smith – also not Jewish as far as we know – nonetheless felt as qualified to comment as Akehurst:
The non-Jewish (and questionably Labour) MP John Woodcock was another who felt entitled to referee the matter – and was taken down in elegantly brutal style by author Michael Rosen:
Yet, according to numerous online sources, the right-leaning Jewish Chronicle (JC) published an article titled “In Praise of Jewdas” – although the original seems to have been deleted from the paper’s site.
However, a still-extant Jewish Chronicle article published in 2014 – less fraught times, perhaps – found no issue in listing Jewdas as a Jewish organisation:
Similarly, a 2011 JC article about commemorations of the antifascist ‘Battle of Cable Street’ lists Jewdas as among the Jewish groups in attendance, without feeling the need for further qualification other than using the adjective ‘alternative’:
A 2010 JC article noted the group’s preparations for the festival of Sukkot without any qualification, simply calling Jewdas a ‘Jewish activism group’:
In a related incident, Momentum founder Jon Lansman tweeted a short article written by Labour peer Lady Valerie Cocks, in which she described him as the worst of ‘Jewish enemies‘ – for being left-wing and for working toward a left-wing Labour Party:
The political aspects of recent attacks cannot be ignored by anyone who wants a rounded understanding of the events of the last ten days or so – and neither can the genuine, legitimate concerns about Jewish people about antisemitism wherever it exists.
Past mentions of Jewdas by an undoubtedly mainstream Jewish publication tend to suggest that Jeremy Corbyn spending Passover with Jewdas members would usually be unremarkable – which sheds a certain light on the condemnation of his decision now.
Usually. But perhaps not if Jewish people’s genuine concerns about antisemitism are being exploited by a small number of people for political purposes – a situation where Corbyn’s and Labour’s embrace of Jewish people is only considered valuable if they are the ‘right’ Jewish people, in more than one sense.
But Corbyn has done absolutely the right thing.
After all, where else should we expect to find Labour’s left-wing leader and lifelong champion of the marginalised than with with a group of left-wing Jews currently being marginalised?
As a statement of solidarity with all Jewish people – and of a refusal to be manipulated into political compromise – it’s perfect.
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