Charlie Kaplan believes that there is ‘scant evidence for the claim’ that ‘most of Britain’s 270,000-strong Jewish community have for some time felt that the Labour Party was not a safe place for them’. He is mistaken. In 2018 The Guardian published an open letter, written and co-signed by sixty-eight British rabbis, representing denominations spanning the entire spectrum of modern Judaism, in which they expressed their concerns, and the concerns of their communities, about antisemitism in the Labour Party. So diverse were the signatories that they even included the late Hasidic rabbi and former Labour Councillor, Avrohom Pinter. In 2019 Britain’s Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, wrote an article in The Times, in which he stated that ‘the question I am now most frequently asked is: [w]hat will become of Jews and Judaism in Britain if the Labour Party forms the next government?’ In the same year a study by Survation, an independent research organisation, found that an estimated 86% of British Jews believe ‘that there are high levels of antisemitism among Labour Party members and elected representatives’. A further study, conducted by King’s College London and the Campaign Against Antisemitism, and published in 2020, reported that ‘British Jews feel that the Labour Party is more than twice as tolerant of antisemitism than any other political party’. Whether or not these feelings are justified may be up for debate, but it is resoundingly clear that the majority of British Jews do not feel welcome in the Labour Party, and have not for some time. Myself among them.
The year I turned eighteen, the majority of my peers were primarily excited about their imminent ability to (legally) purchase alcohol. Ever the politics geek, I was more excited to soon be able to vote. Since then I have never missed an opportunity to cast my ballot, and I have always voted for Labour. I was a proud party member for some years, but resigned my membership in 2018. That year saw Peter Willsman suspended from the party, and the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party (NEC), after a recording surfaced of him dismissing concerns from the Jewish community as being made in bad faith. He was quoted as saying that the aforementioned letter, from sixty-eight Jewish community leaders, was ‘obviously organised by the Israeli embassy’. He was condemned by the Jewish Labour Movement, and even disavowed by Momentum. Shortly thereafter he was reelected to the NEC. Reelected by fellow party members; members who evidently shared Willsman’s belief that when Jews voice fears about antisemitism on the left, they are lying to further a Jewish agenda. I resigned that day, and destroyed my membership card, though I remain a member of both the Jewish Labour Movement and the Fabian Society.
Like Corbyn, Livingstone, Willsman, and countless others, Charlie doesn’t actually address the concerns being raised about Jew-hate, instead he simply rejects them as ‘smears’, intended to silence critics of Israel, and in doing so obviates the need for a proper response. Likewise, he offers no reasoned critique of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, he just dismisses it as ‘flawed’.
While the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism, and its accompanying examples, may be imperfect, they certainly do not ‘stifle’ legitimate criticism of Israel. I am sickened when I read in Haaretz of instances of anti-Arab violence perpetrated by Jews. I’m ashamed of Jewish paramilitary actions in Deir Yassin in 1948. I curse the memory of the racist Meir Kahane, and that of Baruch Goldstein who, in 1994, massacred twenty-nine Muslims at prayer in the Cave of the Patriarchs compound in Hebron. I am vehemently opposed to the actions of the so-called ‘hilltop youth’ — Jewish religious extremists who wage guerrilla warfare against Arab civilians in Judea and Samaria. I believe that continued Israeli settlement in the territories captured during the 1967 Six Day War is at best a serious obstacle to a lasting peace, and at worst a possible violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. I also have little regard for the (likely corrupt) prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his Likud party, or his policies.
You’ll notice however, that none of the above devolves into frothy-mouthed vitriol about ‘puppet masters’, ‘the Zionist Entity’, the ‘Jewish Lobby’, the US and Britain being led by ‘Zionist Occupied Governments’, or Keir Starmer ‘taking the shekel’, and being ‘in the pay of Mossad’. I make no (blood) libellous claims that Israel ‘farms’ Palestinian children for their organs. Not once do I refer to ‘Zio-Nazis’, or ‘Ashke-Nazis’. I draw no comparisons between the Jewish Star of David and the Nazi Swastika. I don’t include cartoons depicting kippah-wearing octopuses spreading their tentacles across the globe, or hook-nosed spiders spinning intricate webs of lies. In short, I don’t employ classic fascist, or communist, antisemitic imagery or language.
As a politically engaged diaspora Jew, and a democratic socialist Zionist, I keenly scrutinise, and keep abreast of, Israeli affairs more than I do most other countries. However, I am always mindful not to apply double standards, or demand of Israel a level of conduct exceeding that which I expect of other democratic and embattled countries. Criticism of the Israeli government, its foreign or domestic policies, and condemnation of abuses by its military or civilian institutions, is of course not antisemitic in and of itself. But it is not unreasonable for Jews to worry that a great deal of anti-Israel sentiment is rooted in Jew-hatred. Just as contemporary sociological theories regarding systemic and structural racism in the United States do not suggest that the majority of white Americans are overtly, consciously, racist, I am not accusing all critics of Israel of being antisemitic. The problem is that ‘anti-Zionism’ has become something of a shibboleth among leftists today. If you hate Israel, you’re one of us. If you don’t, you’re wrong-headed and not to be trusted.
Indian and Pakistani students on university campuses are rarely (if ever) challenged to explain and justify their personal stance on Kashmir, or given ultimatums to either publicly ‘disavow’ their family’s nation, or be barred from membership of certain student clubs.
Hamzeh Daoud, a student at California’s Stanford University — one of America’s most prestigious seats of learning — proclaimed in 2018 that he intended to ‘physically fight Zionists on campus next year’. There have been no similar calls to physically assault, say, Stanford’s approximately 1,200 Chinese students in protest of their country’s actions.
From 2015 to the present date, the UN Commission on the Status of Women has issued a total of four condemnatory resolutions against Israel. In the same period Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Pakistan, Syria, Qatar, Turkey, Mauritania, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Lebanon, Mali, and Chad have received a combined total of zero.
The International Criminal Court recently decided unilaterally that it has the authority to investigate Israel (and Hamas) for alleged war crimes, despite the fact that Israel is not a State Party of the 1998 Rome Statute. In the same week the ICC declined to investigate similar allegations against China, because China was not a State Party of the Rome Statute, and therefore outside its jurisdiction.
This is not whataboutery — I am not arguing that the guilt of other nations absolves Israel of its own. However, this clearly points to an egregious lack of objectivity and, arguably, a pattern of targeted discrimination against one state: the Jewish state.
Contrary to popular opinion, relatively few Arabs in the West Bank are killed by Israeli soldiers, even during combat operations. Why? According to Rutgers professor Jasbir Puar it’s because the IDF ‘deliberately stunts and maims’ them instead, so that Jews can retain their monopoly on victimhood.
In many parts of the Middle East, LGBTQI+ people are publicly executed, frequently hanged from cranes, thrown from buildings, or stoned to death. Meanwhile, Israel has one of the most vibrant and celebrated gay communities in the world. Why? Not because Israeli society is tolerant. No, it’s a calculated Zionist ploy to give the illusion of tolerance — ‘pinkwashing’.
Since the late 19th century, more than 250 million trees — indigenous species such as olive, palm, oak, Jerusalem pine, sycamore, and cypress — have been planted across the Jewish state, mostly through the efforts of the Jewish National Fund. Israel is the only country in the world that ended the 20th century with more trees than it had in 1900. Why? Not because Israelis value the environment, or because Jews feel responsible for stewardship of their ancestral lands. Of course not, its all just a facade — ‘greenwashing’.
Charges such as these remind me of a quote from the 19th century Yiddish scholar and author Moshe Leib Lilienblum: ‘[e]ven our merits are turned into shortcomings. “Few Jews are murderers”, they say, “because Jews are cowards”. This, however, does not prevent them from accusing us of murdering Christian children.’
Many people visualise the left-right political spectrum as a single, straight, horizontal line; with the far-left, intuitively, located at the leftmost end, and the far-right at the polar opposite. However, in the field of political science, there is a popular theory which suggests that this spectrum would be more accurately represented as a ‘horseshoe’. In this formulation the left and the right bend downwards in their respective directions, away from the centre, but at the furthest points from the centre the right and the left begin to curve towards one another, demonstrating a tendency toward totalitarianism. To illustrate this theory we need only look at the similarities between Nazism and Stalinism, explored by Hannah Arendt in her 1951 book, The Origins of Totalitarianism. Both ideologies railed against the capitalist status quo. Both shared a fundamental aversion to democracy, and believed strongly in a dictatorial, and totalitarian, rule over the proletariat. Both engaged in populist scapegoating: dehumanising and portraying ‘globalists’, ‘elites’, and ‘the bourgeoisie’ as enemies of good, honest, folk. Both made extensive use of propaganda, often depicting political opponents as inherently evil and deserving of death. Both cultivated adoration of, and a cult of personality around, their leaders. Both utilised forced labour and secret police. Both constructed state-sanctioned systems of incarceration, torture, and mass-murder. I could go on, but the point has been made, and indeed much has been written on this subject already.
Keen-eyed readers may have noticed the pull-quotes included in this article, each split into two parts. The red parts contain quotes from Charlie Kaplan’s article in the February club newsletter. The black parts, which support Charlie’s thesis, are from an article published on the proudly neo-Nazi online ‘newspaper’, The Daily Stormer. Andrew Anglin, the founder and editor of The Daily Stormer, is also very concerned about Israel’s actions toward the Palestinians, and the ‘gagging’ of free speech regarding ‘the Zionists’. Anglin also fully agrees that the allegations of antisemitism in Labour are baseless, and simply represent the latest in a long line of Jewish plots to defame anyone who might stand in the way of their world-conquering schemes. Incidentally, readers of The Daily Stormer were extremely well represented at the January 6th insurrection in Washington, D.C. Perhaps Charlie can take some comfort in the knowledge that those young American fascists, whose visage he found ‘chilling’, are on comrade Corbyn’s side after all!
It’s a good thing we Zionists don’t understand irony.
I originally wrote this piece in response to a very problematic article which was published in the newsletter of a leftist club, to which I used to belong. To respect the privacy of the club and its members, both Charlie Kaplan and Louis are pseudonyms.