The effort to undermine and remove Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader


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.

Comments

  1. screechymonkey says

    Wow.

    Mano, I am stunned to see you writing such nonsense and endorsing Finkelstein’s argument. The linked article substitutes innuendo and invective for actual argument. Just look at the portions you quoted: they do not include even an acknowledgement of, let alone a factual response to, the actual criticisms of Corbyn. I read the linked article to see if maybe you had just neglected to quote the portions that actually looked at specific incidents of Corbyn at a minimum playing footsie with anti-Semites, but no, there’s nothing there specific to Corbyn.

    Instead we are told only that “the hysteria is a fabrication,” (er, well, yes, by definition hysterias are not true), that Corbyn is “saintly” and anti-racist (argument by assertion), and that he is the duly elected leader (so what?), whereas his critics are unelected (I will keep this in mind the next time you criticize Trump or any other elected official), and — gasp — Jewish. (Finkelstein also tosses in, and you quote, the bit about how Jews don’t support Labour anyway, so… what? Antisemitism would be ok? Are U.S. Republicans justified in being racist because they draw such low levels of black support?)

    Yes, such a telling point that anti-Semitism is often called out by Jews. I await your breathless expose on the fact that Black Lives Matter is mostly led by black people.

    You’re actually favorably citing to an article that asks “Is it anti-Semitism to believe that “Jews have too much power in Britain”—or is it just plain common sense?” Really?

    And then it concludes by arguing that if anti-Semitism were really a “burning issue,” critics would shut up because calling out Corbyn would promote his popularity. That is quite a “heads I win, tails you lose” formulation: either this isn’t a problem, in which case shut up, or it is a problem, in which case you would shut up.

    This is a failure on multiple levels. It’s not even sound logical argument. I’m stunned to see it here on FtB, and on the blog of an author I thought was more sensible.

  2. jazzlet says

    Thank you Mano, an interesting read. I have been wondering about the whole Corbyn as anti-semite, not just because of what I know of his personal history, but because there is a clear pattern of demonisation of Labour leaders, especially the more left-wing ones. It has seemed to me to be remarkably convenient that these accusations have popped up after his remarkable popular success last summer.

  3. Pierce R. Butler says

    … anti-Semitism resonates only among assorted antediluvians, troglodytes, and fruitcakes.

    In the US, that, with a little electoral jiggery-pokery, is quite enough to win a majority of states and the presidency.

  4. Holms says

    #1
    And as a counterpoint to your case of the vapours at seeing support for Corbyn, I have yet to see any credible example of his alleged anti-semitism.

  5. mnb0 says

    “Finkelstein then argues that anti-Semitism is a marginal issue in the UK ”
    Yeah, why woujld any apologist look at inconvenient empirical data when the argument is so comforting?

    http://www.jewishpress.com/news/global/uk/cst-uk-anti-semitic-incidents-in-2017-highest-on-record/2018/02/01/

    https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/feb/01/antisemitic-incidents-in-uk-at-all-time-high

    “The whole article is well worth reading.”
    Alas, I do care for empirical data and hence lose my interest when I read quackery like quoted above. Life is too short to find out if stuff gets better after such crap. That about never happens, so the safe bet is that the whole article is a waste of time.
    As many jewish and islamic leaders have noticed in Europe the rise of antisemitism, the rise of islamophobia, the rise of anti-African racism and even the rise of misogyny go hand in hand. You know, because white supremacism. It’s not an American privilege. Shocking for many American citizens, I suppose, even when immigrated from other countries..
    Now accusing Corbin and other Labour prominents of anti-semitism is questionable indeed, but somehow I don’t think downplaying antisemitism is the best way. Perhaps MS does … because jews are special or something.

  6. mnb0 says

    @1: “I am stunned to see you writing such nonsense ”
    I’m not. MS has way too much sympathy for the quackery called marxism than is healthy for someone who claims to endorse the scientific method in all fields of knowledge. Especially regarding European politics and economy (I refer to the Cypriotic bank crisis once again, when MS simply was dead wrong and never admitted it) this becomes painfully clear over and over again. Then he suddenly has as much respect for facts as Ken Ham for evolution theory.

  7. springa73 says

    Yeah, just the parts quoted have several bad arguments. The argument that Jewish leaders in the UK wouldn’t be warning about anti-semitism if they thought it was real is so bizarre and backwards that it almost left me speechless. The idea that anti-semitism is not a big issue in the UK is simply asserted, without any evidence. The notion that Jewish leaders have no right to criticize Corbyn because most Jewish citizens of the U.K. Don’t vote for labor is a bizarre non-sequitur. The assertion that the idea of Jews having too much power is “common sense” rather than anti-semitism pretty much confirms the anti-Semitic leanings of the author.

  8. screechymonkey says

    Holms @4,

    Just to be clear about where I’m coming from: I am not a close follower of UK politics. I have no strong opinion about the Labour Party generally (other than that they seem less mixed-up than the Tories these days), or Corbyn specifically, other than that he seems to keep running into these controversies, including being caught in an apparent lie about his participation in a memorial ceremony for the 1972 Munich terrorists. I have no particular axe to grind here — don’t much care who leads that party, or how they do electorally, except in the general sense that I wish those in the UK good government.

    I have no particular fondness for the current Israeli government, and I quite agree that criticism of that government does not equate or even suggest anti-Semitism.

    So on the subject of Corbyn, I’m open to persuasion. Is Corbyn personally anti-Semitic? I don’t know, and I’m not even sure it’s the relevant question. Perhaps he’s not personally anti-Semitic at all, but has the common politician’s disease of being unable to take a stand against anyone who supports him. Perhaps it’s all unfair “guilt by association” and there was little more he could have done. Perhaps there isn’t even that, and even by association he’s done nothing wrong; that is not the impression I’ve gotten, but I haven’t done a deep dive and would be open to a fact-based debunking. But this sure wasn’t it.

    Now maybe that wasn’t the point of this piece. Sometimes you write for an audience that is already convinced, because you’re writing about why this happens or how to deal with it rather than whether or not it’s true. Maybe there’s some other article I was presumed to have read where the obvious falsity of the charges against Corbyn would have been explained. But when Mano says this article is a “close look,” and favorably cites some of the most facetious nonsequiturs I’ve seen in a long time… well, it doesn’t speak well of the case for Corbyn if this is supposed to be a good example of it.

  9. Rob Grigjanis says

    springa73 @7:

    The notion that Jewish leaders have no right to criticize Corbyn because most Jewish citizens of the U.K. Don’t vote for labor is a bizarre non-sequitur.

    Your comment is far, far more bizarre. Saying that Jewish leaders have slandered and defamed Corbyn is not even in the same galaxy as saying they have no right to criticize him.

  10. sonofrojblake says

    “Is it anti-Semitism to believe that “Jews have too much power in Britain”?”

    “Too much” – how much is too much? That their power is massively disproportionate however is not up for debate.

  11. sonofrojblake says

    it concludes by arguing that if anti-Semitism were really a “burning issue,” critics would shut up

    The phrase “burning issue” is not what these people used – that’s Finkelstein’s formulation.

    The phrase they used – all of them, in an openly coordinated multi-pronged attack clearly intended to give the impression that this is what ALL Jews in the UK think – was “existential threat“.

    And it is reasonable to point out that the last time a leader of a country posed a perceived “existential threat” to Jews, they fucked off out of there in droves and haven’t stopped talking, writing and making plays, television series and films about it ever since.

    Finkelstein’s point about their relative electoral insignificance is a good one. The entire Jewish population of the UK is less than population of the town of Derby. There is no better demonstration of the dangerous disproportionality of their power over politics and their willingness to abuse it than that we’re even discussing this in the first place.

    I just wish the Labour party leadership had the ‘nads to respond curtly along the lines of “We absolutely will not tolerate anti-Semitism in this party, and we shall define it as we please in consultation with our loyal paying Jewish membership. If for whatever reason you don’t like that, we refer you to the response given in the case of Arkell vs. Pressdram” – and then just stop talking about it at all. Disappointingly, nothing like that will ever happen, and principled leadership will remain vulnerable to miniscule special-interest groups wielding, yes, too much power.

  12. Holms says

    #8

    Now maybe that wasn’t the point of this piece. Sometimes you write for an audience that is already convinced, because you’re writing about why this happens or how to deal with it rather than whether or not it’s true.

    This is most likely the case with this article. I have seen it claimed that Corbyn is anti-semitic but have never seen an example of such, and so I have always wondered what the case against him was and whether it was just a propagandistic attempt to unseat a man that appears to be highly reluctant (from what I have seen) to do the bidding of the warhawks, who are almost universally pro-Israel.

    But when Mano says this article is a “close look,” and favorably cites some of the most facetious nonsequiturs I’ve seen in a long time… well, it doesn’t speak well of the case for Corbyn if this is supposed to be a good example of it.

    No it doesn’t. It doesn’t speak for or against the case against Corbyn, because as you stated earlier, it appears to assume the is already obvious to the reader, and so doesn’t bother rehashing that ground.

    And so, I am still left wondering what Corbyn supposedly did or said, to brand him anti-semitic… and so I continue to believe it propaganda as stated earlier.

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