Why Corbynistas have such a problem with Jews

Why Corbynistas have such a problem with Jews

They view Jews as ‘privileged’. And we all know what privileged groups deserve – hatred.

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill
chief political writer

Topics Identity Politics Politics UK

The Corbynista movement has developed a very striking tic. Mention anti-Semitism and instantly, almost as an involuntary spasm, they will say: ‘What about Islamophobia?’ Mention Jewish suffering and, Tourette’s-like, they’ll bark back: ‘What about Muslim suffering?’ Mention the crisis of anti-Semitism in sections of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party and barely a second will pass before they robotically intone for the thousandth time that day: ‘And what about Islamophobia in the Tory party?’

They cannot abide any discussion of Jews alone. They cannot tolerate any focus on anti-Jewish racism. They must always, without fail, raise Muslims. This creepy instinct to distract attention from anti-Jewish hatred, or at least to dilute discussion about it, is perhaps the most revealing and alarming aspect of the new anti-Semitism scarring sections of the British left.

The ‘what about Muslims?’ response to any attempt to analyse the very specific form of racism that is anti-Jewish hatred was on full display this week. Even before the airing of the BBC Panorama programme about the Labour leadership’s interference in cases of anti-Semitism, the ‘What about Islamophobia?’ response to those who have the temerity to talk about Jews was being wheeled out.

In advice apparently sent by a top Labour aide to certain pro-Corbyn social-media activists, the very first tip for countering Panorama’s claims that Labour has failed to get a handle on its anti-Semitism problem was this: ‘Tonight C4 Dispatches are exposing Tory Islamophobia. Amplify. Amplify. Amplify.’ In short, drown out the discussion about anti-Jewish hatred by drawing attention back to anti-Muslim hatred. Do not let the Jews have their moment. Do not let their suffering become a talking point. Talk about Muslims, talk about Muslims, talk about Muslims.

This advice was actually unnecessary, because for months now the tactic of every Corbyn supporter has been to throw the issue of Islamophobia back at anyone who talks about the rise of anti-Semitism. There are so many problems with this approach it’s hard to know where to begin. The first is that no serious comparison can be made between anti-Muslim sentiment in the Tory party and the anti-Semitism crisis in the Labour Party. These are not symmetrical phenomena.

It is undoubtedly the case that members of the Tory party hold and have expressed anti-Muslim sentiments, whether about Muslim migration, alleged Muslim behaviour, or the wisdom of having a Muslim prime minister in the UK. But such individual expression of prejudice cannot be compared to left-wing anti-Semites’ almost systematic targeting of actual Labour members and even Labour MPs whose only crime is to be Jewish – or ‘Zios’, to use the left-racist parlance.

Labour’s anti-Semitism is a different order to the existence of anti-Muslim sentiment among individuals in the Tory party. There has been no racist hounding of Muslim members of the Tory party. Indeed, Sajid Javid did relatively well in the leadership contest and is quite popular among the Tory membership. What has happened in Labour is not simply the expression of anti-Jewish prejudice but the weaponisation of it; the use of it internally against certain members and MPs; the systemised politicisation of it to target MPs who are seen as suspect because of their support for Israel or their entanglement in a presumed Zionist Lobby.

The ‘socialism of fools’ outlook runs so deep in sections of the contemporary radical left that they have been content to weave conspiracy theories and even purges against members and MPs of Labour itself whose only ‘wrongdoing’ is to be Jewish. Or at least a ‘bad Jew’ – the kind who believes the Jews need their own nation state. One Jewish Labour MP, Luciana Berger, resigned from the party after being subjected to relentless anti-Semitic abuse from Labourites and other leftists.

There is individual prejudice in every political party. It would be weird if there was not. But what is happening in Labour is different. It is not simply the expression of prejudicial ideas but the actual organisation of factions and social-media sets and elements of the new membership around prejudicial ideas to the end of cleansing the party of those who are viewed as problematic. Who are predominantly Jewish or sympathisers with Jews. The new left-wing conspiracism, which sees Zionist Lobbies puppeteering British politics and considers the Jewish State to be the source of global instability and of anti-Muslim hatred, has become weaved into sections of Corbyn’s Labour Party, giving rise not merely to individual prejudice but to politicised prejudice, to an institutionalised form of racist speech and action.

But there’s another, even worse problem with the ‘what about Muslims?’ tic – which is that it actually feeds, however unwittingly, the new anti-Semitism.

The key motor of the new forms of anti-Semitism, especially in the way they manifest themselves on the left, is not the old politics of racial superiority, but rather the new politics of identity and victimhood. Identitarianism, the organisation of social and racial groups according to their presumed victim status, provides a great deal of the underpinnings of the new anti-Semitism. How? Because this politics, being always driven by a cult of competitive victimhood, by the bizarre, regressive urge to fashion a hierarchy of ‘victim groups’ and to create a corresponding list of bad ‘privileged groups’, has systematically called into question the history of Jewish suffering.

It has reconsidered the ranking of Jews in the identity sphere and decided that they are part of ‘the privileged’. Actual racists of the hard-right variety will say Jews have ‘Jewish privilege’; so-called anti-racists on the identitarian left say Jews enjoy ‘white privilege’. But the result is the same: Jews find themselves elevated into the category of the wicked, the realm of the hated, into an identity group that it is okay and in fact good to despise and agitate against: the privileged.

As part of this process, there has been a systematic dismantling of the history of Jewish victimhood. The specific nature of historic Jewish suffering is continually called into question. It must be, in order to prove that the Jews are privileged and also to create the space for new victim groups to move up the hierarchy: Muslims, gay people, trans people.

This dismantling takes many forms. There is Holocaust Relativism, the way the uniqueness of the Holocaust is continually undermined by other identity groups who claim to have suffered similar genocidal assaults. Witness the Muslim Council of Britain refusing to take part in Holocaust Memorial Day until it started to commemorate the genocide against Muslims at Srebrenica alongside the extermination of European Jews by the Nazis. This was a flagrant act of Holocaust Envy, an attempt to stake a claim on historic Jewish suffering, to say: ‘We’ve been through that too. You aren’t the only ones.’

Such Holocaust Relativism is rampant among Corbynistas, too, who will frequently ask why Jews keep going on about the Holocaust or will nauseatingly compare Israel to the Nazis and the Gaza Strip to the Warsaw Ghetto. Here, Holocaust Relativism reaches its dire and racist conclusion. It doesn’t only say ‘Jews are nothing special when it comes to suffering’. It also says they are the Nazis now, the genocidaires, the privileged persecutors of minority groups. This is an explicit attempt to erase or make meaningless the history of Jewish persecution by insisting they are now the persecutors, doing to others what was once done to them.

The chipping away at historic Jewish suffering can also be seen in the way the racism they suffer is always, without fail, contrasted with other forms of racism. Jews might face a little bit of hatred, but at least their white privilege protects them from the most visceral forms of hatred, the identitarian racists will argue. Agains the aim is the systemised dilution of Jewish experiences to the end of demoting Jewish suffering and elevating other forms of suffering – in particular the prejudice suffered by Muslims.

When Corbynistas continually say, ‘What about Islamophobia?’, they think they are being good, progressive anti-racists. But in truth what they’re doing is reorganising ethnic, racial and social groups according to their own view of whether they are good or bad, deserving or undeserving, sympathetic or privileged. Their instinct is to demote and by extension denigrate Jews through saying: ‘You have privilege. You have media attention. You are always treated as special people. And we’re sick of it.’ And this, of course, is nothing more than a rehash of the old hard-right hatred for these arrogant, rich, well-connected ‘Chosen People’.

The Corbynistas’ anti-Semitism problem is far more profound than they could ever realise. It points to one of the most terrible things about the relentless rise of identity politics on the left – the way it unwittingly rehabilitates old racial thinking and even old racial hatred through its myopic reorganisation of ethnic groups according to the new morality of victimhood. That some leftists are denouncing the Jews as privileged and overly pampered, and are attempting to distract attention from the racism they suffer today and the horrors they suffered in the past, confirms that so-called progressive identitarianism is in truth the means through which some very old, very ugly prejudices find expression today. Identity politics looks increasingly like a gateway drug to racism itself.

Brendan O’Neill is editor of spiked and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. Subscribe to the podcast here. And find Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy

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Topics Identity Politics Politics UK


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