Over in the UK, there have been a series of vicious attacks on Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, charging that he is either an outright anti-Semite or that he coddles them, and that to allow him to continue as party leader would be to encourage a dangerous strain of anti-Semitism that is permeating British society. Norman G. Finkelstein takes a close look at these charges and the whole underlying issue of generalizations and stereotyping.
The current hysteria engulfing the British Labour Party resolves itself into a pair of interrelated, if discrete, premises: Anti-Semitism in British society at large and the Labour Party in particular have reached crisis proportions. If neither of these premises can be sustained, then the hysteria is a fabrication. In fact, no evidence has been adduced to substantiate either of them; on the contrary, all the evidence points in the opposite direction. The rational conclusion is that the brouhaha is a calculated hoax—dare it be said, plot?—to oust Jeremy Corbyn and the principled leftist politics he represents from British public life.
But even if the allegations were true, the solution would still not be to curb freedom of thought in the Labour Party. At its worthiest, the Left-Liberal tradition has attached a unique, primordial value to Truth; but Truth cannot be attained if dissentients, however obnoxious, are silenced. Given the fraught history of anti-Semitism, on the one hand, and its crude manipulation by Jewish elites, on the other, an objective, dispassionate assessment could appear beyond reach. Still, it must be attempted. The prospect of a historic victory for the Left might otherwise be sabotaged as, thus far, Corbyn’s supporters, whether it be from fear, calculation, or political correctness, dare not speak the name of the evil that is afoot.
Finkelstein then argues that anti-Semitism is a marginal issue in the UK and is far less salient than hostility to other minority groups. He then goes into a very interesting discussion of the nature of the generalizations and stereotypes that are commonly made about groups of people based on various identity factors and the conditions under which some are considered acceptable while others veer into dangerous and prejudicial territory. I am not going to excerpt those sections because doing so would not do justice to his argument but I encourage people who are interested and concerned about this issue to read it.
He uses that analysis to examine the charges against Corbyn and their merits or lack thereof and concludes:
[A]lthough fighting anti-Semitism is the rallying cry, a broad array of powerful entrenched social forces, acting on not-so-hidden agendas of their own, have coalesced around this putative cause. It cannot be gainsaid, however, that Jewish organizations form the poisoned tip of this spear.
It might still be asked, But is this “too much” power? Consider these facts. Jeremy Corbyn is the democratically elected head of the Labour Party. His ascendancy vastly expanded and galvanized the party’s ranks. Corbyn has devoted a lifetime to fighting racism; like eponymous labor organizer Joe Hill, where workers strike and organize, it’s there you’ll find Jeremy Corbyn. By British and even global leadership standards, he cuts a saintly figure. On the opposite side, mostly unelected Jewish bodies have dragged Corbyn’s name through the mud, slandering and defaming him. They have refused to meet with Corbyn, even as he has repeatedly extended olive branches and offered substantive compromises. Instead they issue take-it-or-leave-it ultimatums.
As it happens, Jews overwhelmingly do not support Labour, even when the head of the party list is Jewish (Ed Miliband in 2015). Nonetheless, these pious-cum-pompous communal leaders do not find it unseemly or even amiss to dictate from afar and from above internal Labour policy. This writer’s late mother used to muse, “It’s no accident that Jews invented the word chutzpah.” The transparent motive behind this cynical campaign is to demonize Corbyn, not because he’s a “fucking anti-Semite,” but because he’s a principled champion of Palestinian rights.
However, Corbyn’s candidacy is not just about Palestine or even the British laboring classes. It’s a beacon for the homeless, the hungry, and the hopeless, the despised, the downtrodden, and the destitute everywhere. If Corbyn’s traducers succeed, the glimmer of possibility he has held out will be snuffed out by a gang of moral blackmailers and extortionists. Is it anti-Semitism to believe that “Jews have too much power in Britain”—or is it just plain common sense? (It is, to be sure, a question apart and not one amenable to simple solution how to rectify this power inequity while not impinging on anyone’s democratic rights.) Still, isn’t it anti-Semitic to generalize that “Jews” have abused their power? But even granting that a portion have been manipulated or duped, it certainly appears as if British Jews in general support the anti-Corbyn juggernaut. If this indeed is a misapprehension, whose fault is it? The tacit message of the unprecedented joint editorial on the front page of the major Jewish periodicals was: British Jews are united—Corbyn must go! Is it anti-Semitic to take these Jewish organizations at their word?
But the truth is, Jewish elites do not for a moment believe that anti-Semitism is a burning issue. If they truly feared that it posed a clear and present danger now or in the foreseeable future, they wouldn’t be shouting from the rooftops that Corbyn was a “fucking anti-Semite.” For, if the UK was awash with closet anti-Semites, then, logically, broadcasting this accusation would hand Corbyn free publicity as it would be dulcet tones to the ears of potential voters. Far from damaging him, its diffusion could only facilitate Corbyn’s victory and pave the way for a second Holocaust. On the contrary, Jewish organizations know full well that vilifying Corbyn as an anti-Semite would drastically reduce his appeal, as anti-Semitism resonates only among assorted antediluvians, troglodytes, and fruitcakes.
In other words, the irrefutable proof that Corbyn’s pursuers don’t believe a word they’re saying is that by labeling him an anti-Semite they hope and expect to isolate him. However, as the accusation is manifestly a red herring, it’s also possible that the current hysteria will pass most people by entirely, not because they are unconcerned by anti-Semitism but because it hardly occurs to them as an issue at all. If the controversy has an effect it will be restricted to exacerbating divisions in the Labour leadership and perhaps also adding to a more general perception that the stories promoted by mainstream media are fake news.
The whole article is well worth reading.