Now that Labour has a new leader, who for all his faults is decidedly less radical than his predecessor (and is a professing Zionist married to a Jewish woman), I’d like to take the opportunity to talk about something other than Covid-19 and provide some retrospective reflections on the nature of the Labour Party’s antisemitism scandal.
Jeremy Corbyn may not be an overt blood libel anti-Semite as such, but he does otherize Jews. Reading between the lines in his tortured remarks on British Jews, Hamas, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it’s clear that whilst he doesn’t hold any overt hatred towards the Jewish people, he essentially sees them as foreign, not as a part of the fabric of British society. Perhaps he was not lucky enough, as many of us have been, to have lived his life with Jewish friends or relatives and can afford therefore to see them as the other with a clean conscience. This allowed him to be far too comfortable in his association and platforming-sharing with out-and-out anti-Semites
Take this gem for example, delivered during a 2013 conference in London hosted by the Centre for Palestinian Return: “…having lived in this country for a very long time, probably all their lives, they [Zionists] don’t understand English irony…”. These comments left many a journalist and pundit scratching their heads and even caused some die-hard Corbynistas to question his choice of words. Even when examined in their full context it’s essentially impossible to determine exactly what point Corbyn was trying to make here, so I will pass over the arduous duty of unpicking this tortured joke.
More important is the fact that it constitutes an obvious example of what I have already described – he does not see Jews (‘Zionists’ obviously being a clear euphemism for Jews) as essentially British; they aren’t in on our jokes, don’t understand our humour, and cannot comprehend our sublime sense of irony. Don’t get me wrong I’m as partial to a bit of ethnic Gnosticism as the next traditionalist, when it comes to humour. The problem here is that Corbyn fails to understand that all British Jews are just as in on our sense of humour and irony as the rest of us, not least because all of them are British, no matter how much he fails to recognise it.
Then there were his famous comments in 2009 to the effect that Hamas and Hezbollah were “friends”. Again, context did little, if anything to expiate his words. The only explanation I can see for this blunder is that Corbyn and his ilk, as 21st century secular leftists, are fundamentally disconnected from and have zero understanding of the religious mindset. Corbyn apparently thinks that groups like Hamas and Hezbollah (whose names translate to “Islamic Resistance Movement” and “Party of Allah” respectively) are secular Palestinian liberation organisations with a religious veneer. He has been quoted describing Hamas as “an organisation that is dedicated towards the good of the Palestinian people and bringing about long-term peace and social and political justice in the whole region.”
Since, in his mind, nobody really believes in God or religion anymore, their extremism must really find its roots in poverty, colonialism, and class struggle, and that we only need appease, befriend, and morally support them in order to reach peace. It certainly isn’t unprecedented for leftists to defend Hamas on the grounds that they have at various points formed a democratically elected government in the Palestinian territories, as if Hamas themselves could care less about democracy or freedom.
The problem with this is that anybody who has ever lived outside of the secular elitist Guardianista bubble knows that this isn’t the case, and that believers of all faiths really do believe, some of them violently so. Hamas and similar organisations make clear in their founding documents that they do not merely seek for the liberation of Palestine (to allow their terminology), but for the destruction of the State of Israel and even of worldwide Jewry. These are the people whom Corbyn, in his utter blindness towards the power of the religious impulse, combined with his indifference towards the wellbeing of the Jewish people and state, has no qualms describing as his ‘friends’.
I could go on with such examples, but these two shall suffice for now. The Labour Party lost the last election because they turned from the party of the NHS, broad-church left-of-centre economics, and governmental care for the working class, into that of transgender pronouns, fraternising with Islamists, up-to-birth abortion, and antisemitic revival. However politically expedient it may be for those of us on the Right, nobody can deny there is a certain tragic irony in this. The greatest test of Keir Starmer’s leadership capabilities will be whether he learns from the many mistakes of his forerunner and returns the Labour Party to a serious party of opposition.