Jeremy Corbyn hasn’t got an ‘antisemitism problem’. His opponents do. | openDemocracy


The most high-profile ‘antisemitism’ case to date implicates Labour MP Naz Shah. In 2014, before Shah became an MP, she reposted an image on Facebook suggesting that the Israel-Palestine conflict be resolved by relocating Israel to the United States. Obviously, there is no prospect of something like this happening; it was a Facebook meme, not a U.N. draft resolution. Shah was well aware of this, as her accompanying comments (‘I will tweet Barack Obama and David Cameron and put this idea to them’) indicate. The tongue-in-cheek proposal may have been tasteless, but that doesn’t make it antisemitic. And to present it as, Labour MP endorses ‘chilling “transportation” policy’, or, Labour MP ‘[backs] plan to “relocate Israelis to America”’, or ‘Labour MP backed moving Israel to US in antisemitism row’, as if Shah had put her name to a Nazi-like deportation scheme, is obscene.

Shah was further accused of tweeting a link to a ‘blog post comparing Zionism to al-Qaeda’ and accusing ‘Zionists of “grooming” Jews to “exert political influence at the highest levels of public office”’. The article in question reads:

“In my view Zionism like Al Qaeda was and is a political movement layered with religious symbolism that was (in the case of Zionism) responding to a millennia and more of European pogroms, persecution by people who were fuelled by hatred and need to find any excuse to persecute Jews. Zionism used this and the colonial period to groom other modernised men and women of Jewish decent to exert political influence at the highest levels of public office by using the guilt of the pogroms and offered a solution to the ‘Jewish Question’ in Europe.

Zionism is compared to al-Qaeda in the sense that both are politico-religious movements; that is the only mention of al-Qaeda in the piece. The claim in the paragraph above appears to be that the Zionist movement leveraged antisemitism, which the author emphasises was real, brutal and pervasive, to win Jewish support, and exploited European guilt over anti-Jewish persecution to persuade colonial elites to support the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. There is nothing remotely antisemitic about any of this. The article also explicitly distinguishes Israel and Zionism from Judaism.

The only substantive allegation of antisemitism against Shah is that, during Israel’s 2014 Gaza massacre, she urged her Facebook contacts to vote in an online poll about whether Israel was committing war crimes. With the results leaning heavily towards the negative, Shah warned her followers that ‘[t]he Jews are rallying to the poll’. No doubt, Shah should have referred to ‘Israel’s apologists’ rather than ‘the Jews’, and for this, it is right that she has apologised. But the response – a Telegraph editorial headlined ‘Labour’s disgusting anti-Semitism’ condemned Shah’s comments as ‘shocking’, ‘truly disturbing’, ‘repellent’ and ‘quintessentially anti-Semitic’, while John Mann MP and the BBC’s Andrew Neil compared Shah to Eichmann – has been beyond hysterical. It also merits notice that, while Shah has been suspended over a two-year old Facebook post imagining the relocation of Israel to the U.S., many Labour and other MPs in good standing make it their business to defend and facilitate Israel’s active and on-going dispossession of the Palestinians. Truly, it is cause for wonder, which is the bigger sin, Shah chastising ‘Jews’ for denying Israel’s criminal conduct in Gaza, or the perpetrators of and apologists for these crimes. Attempts to use Shah to discredit Corbyn are also somewhat undermined by the fact that her problematic comments were made before Corbyn became Labour party leader, while in the 2015 leadership election, Shah endorsed Yvette Cooper.

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