4 May 2016

Antisemitism: the denunciation campaign

False claims of antisemitism are deployed to discredit the political left

The spring of 2016 has seen a bombardment of charges of antisemitism aimed at left-wing members of the Labour Party. The denunciation campaign, fuelled by the Tory Party, the Labour Right and reinforced by the press, with the liberal Guardian bating the pack, has led to the suspension of numerous members, including Labour’s former London Mayor, Ken Livingstone.

No-one but a fool would believe that that the denunciation campaign results from the sudden discovery that the Labour Party is constituted by ranks of Jew-hating Holocaust deniers, particularly as several of the people suspended are Jewish themselves. Indeed, the Labour Party is one of the places in British society where one is least likely to encounter antisemitism, or racism of any kind. The reasons for the denunciations are much more cynical. They serves two separate but related purposes: first, a drive to undermine the Corbyn leadership by smearing his supporters; and second an attempt to de-legitimise criticism of Israel by claiming such criticism is antisemitism.

It is worthwhile stating clearly what antisemitism is, and what it is not. Verbal and written antisemitism includes calling for discriminatory action to be taken against Jewish people, insulting them, or identifying people only because of of their ethnic origin. Antisemitism is about the attachment of negative characteristics, physical or cultural, to Jewish people solely on account of their ethnicity. It is about the peddling of myths, the purpose of which is to cast Jews in a bad light. Statements which are true are not antisemitic unless the purpose in uttering them is to fuel antisemitism.

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