Smearing Jeremy Corbyn

Photo by Garry Knight | CC BY 2.0

Jeremy Corbyn has for decades been a resolute opponent of the Zionist project in Palestine-Israel, and a steadfast supporter of the rights of the Palestinian people.  There are many in the Labour party who support Corbyn in this view.

Corbyn’s Labour has a clear lead in the opinion polls, and the arrival of a Corbyn-led Labour government after the next election would probably herald a sea-change in the UK’s relationship with Palestine-Israel.

This prospect has sent a shiver or two down the spines of Israel’s Zionist supporters in the UK.

The most recent controversy with regard to this issue stems from Corbyn’s opposition, via a Facebook post, to the removal in 2012 of an antisemitic mural in the East End of London, on the grounds that this was censorship of an artist.  Corbyn has since apologized for not taking into consideration the content of the mural, and said he would have supported its removal given what he found out subsequently.

In April 2016, it was revealed that the Labour MP Naz Shah had called for Israel to be “relocated” to the US and posted a message saying “the Jews are rallying”. Shah apologized, saying her comments had been “ignorant” and “antisemitic”, and was suspended by Labour, though the suspension was subsequently lifted.

Also irking these critics of Corbyn has been his refusal to support the expulsion from the Labour party of his longtime ally “Red Ken” Livingstone, the former mayor of London, for the latter’s highly garbled interpretation of the 1933 Haavara (transfer) Agreement between Germany and German Zionists, to facilitate the emigration of German Jews to British Mandate Palestine in return for the purchase of German goods for the Jewish settlement in that territory.

Livingstone’s absurd claim that “Hitler was a Zionist supporter”, though appealing to a kernel of truth he then twisted, overlooked two issues: (1) the dire situation facing German Jews at that time; and (2) that the Haavara agreement, which was designed to foster the migration of German Jews in line with Nazi policy, made no reference to the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine, a vital precept of Zionism.  Hitler was a proponent of ethnic cleaning, and the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine, which only occurred in 1948, was certainly not something he had in mind in 1933, or indeed any time before or after.

Livingstone, an ardent supporter of the Palestinian people, continues to be suspended from the Labour party for making his claim, but has so far not been expelled.

The party leadership is deeply divided over Livingstone.

Expelling “Red Ken” would probably seem to some like a good idea, except that there are others high-up in Blighty’s establishment who have displayed a manifest fondness for things Nazi, without facing any real consequences.

The soon-to-be wed Prince Harry was photographed some years ago at a fancy-dress party in an SS uniform (for which he apologized afterwards).  He was allowed to go his merry way, though hovering uneasily behind images of the SS-uniformed Harry is archival film of his grandmother, the current queen, being taught as a young girl to give a Nazi salute by her mother, who is on historical record as wanting a policy of appeasement towards the Führer, until Hitler decided it was time Blighty was bombed to smithereens.

In 2011 the Oxford-educated Tory MP Aidan Burley organized a Nazi-themed stag party for a friend at a French ski resort.  The Guardian reports this event thus:

Burley was filmed raising his glass in a toast before… another guest beside him made a speech, in which he [the other guest] said: “Let’s raise a toast to Tom for organising the stag do, and if we’re perfectly honest, to the ideology and thought process of the Third Reich.”

The party was said to have moved on to a British-themed pub, where partygoers adopted thick German accents and chanted: “Mein Fuhrer! Mein Fuhrer! Mein Fuhrer!”, “Himmler! Himmler! Himmler!” and “Eichmann! Eichmann! Eichmann!”.

Burley duly apologized, and a report commissioned by his party concluded that while he had acted in a “stupid and offensive way, Mr Burley is not a bad man, still less a racist or anti-Semite”.  Burley lost his post as a ministerial aide as a result, but was not disciplined in any other way.  He is a member of the Conservative Friends of Israel, and criticism of his “senseless prank”, “high jinks”, and “tasteless antics” from UK Jewish organizations was relatively mild and formulaic when compared to what Corbyn has had to endure.

People such as Burley and his chums in all likelihood typify a rightwing phenomenon known on both sides of the Atlantic, namely, the seemingly incongruous convergence between pro-Zionism and antisemitism.  History shows the two are however not mutually exclusive.

A well-known current example of this convergence is Steve Bannon, who during his tenure as the editor at Breitbart News published several articles making derogatory and antisemitic comments about Jews, including one which referred to Bill Kristol as a “renegade Jew”, another which said with regard to the Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum and “cosmopolitan elitists” like her and George Soros, that “hell hath no fury like a Polish, Jewish, American elitist scorned”.  Applebaum, who is married to a former Polish foreign minister, is accused of having the “dream of being Poland’s first Jewish-American first lady”.

People who are disposed to wanting Jews to be in “one place, over there” (such as the American Christian right), can be virulently pro-Zionist, while using their Zionism as a way to shield themselves from their displays of antisemitism.  Breitbart uses the same ploy to defend Bannon from the charge of antisemitism.

The irony here is that Red Ken would not in his wildest dreams deck himself out in a Nazi uniform, nor attend a party where a toast was drunk “to the ideology and thought process of the Third Reich”.

Likewise, there has not been a Labour leader with Corbyn’s consistent 40-year record of antiracist struggle.

The UK Board of Jewish Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council organized a protest against antisemitism in Labour outside parliament last week, and claimed Corbyn “personifies” the “problems and dangers” of “left-wing antisemitism”.

Corbyn has since acknowledged that “there are pockets of antisemitism” in the Labour party.

And indeed there is antisemitism on the left—undeniably, there are some leftists still wedded to the pernicious trope of “the Jews controlling the capitalist system”, sometimes accompanied by absurd conspiracy theories about what Rothschild bankers “get up to in secret”, and so forth.

There is no room for abhorrent sentiments of this kind on the left, as Corbyn himself has said.

But how are vile assertions about “the Jews controlling the capitalist system”, or Ken Livingstone’s perverse and uninformed assessment of Nazi history, really different from today’s routine alt-right pronouncements about the malign influence and power of “liberal cosmopolitan Jews” (this of course being an absolute staple of Nazi propaganda)?

So Bannon, whose Breitbart News peddles guff about “liberal cosmopolitan Jews”, gets invited into the White House’s Oval Office to be the Orange Swindler’s senior adviser until he was ousted in a power struggle with “Jarvanka”, while Red Ken is suspended from the Labour Party.

Oh wait, the alt-right in both the US and UK are pro-Zionist, despite oftentimes being visibly antisemitic.

There is nothing more palpably antisemitic than espousing the purportedly pro-Zionist “theology” of the American evangelical right, which enjoins that Israel has to exist in order for the apocalypse or Day of Judgment to occur, at which time G_d will decree that Jews have to convert to Christianity or be consigned to eternal damnation.

Israel condones American evangelical antisemitism because the latter’s pro-Zionism helps ensure that US politicians, afraid of the powerful evangelical voting bloc, approve virtually unlimited military aid for Israel.

The UK is not similarly beholden to a significant voting bloc with this crackpot pro-Zionist antisemitic theology, but Zionism still exerts its pressures on British politics.

The elephant in the room in all of this farrago is Corbyn’s and Livingstone’s enduring support for the liberation of the Palestinian people, and of course the fact that “liberal cosmopolitan Jews” tend to be amongst the strongest critics of Israel’s extensively criminal treatment of the Palestinians.

The Zionist strategy here has been evident for a long time:  when dealing with anti-Zionists such as Corbyn, do everything to blur the line between anti-Zionism (which has become increasingly acceptable in the mainstream as a result of Zionist Israel’s systematically brutal treatment of the Palestinians), and antisemitism (which, given what Jews have had to suffer in their long history, is categorically unacceptable).

The rote and reflex conflation of anti-Zionism with antisemitism will probably make it harder for actual antisemitism to be responded to with the seriousness it always merits.

Many are maligned routinely as antisemites because they oppose Israel’s repellent treatment of the Palestinians– if time after time, principled pro-Palestinians such as Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, let alone Corbyn, are deemed antisemitic by virtue of their insistence on Palestinian legal rights vis-à-vis Israel, then there will be more than a few, some of whom may in truth alas be antisemites, who will be inclined to laugh-off this imputation of antisemitism.

Nelson Mandela an “antisemite”?  Give me a break, as the Americans say!  Most of the legal team which helped Mandela avoid the death penalty at his treason trial were Jews.  In fact, Mandela made Arthur Chaskalson, a Jewish member of his legal team at this trial, the first Chief Justice of post-apartheid South Africa.  When the ANC decided to engage in armed resistance, the head of its military wing and its chief of military intelligence were both Jews–  Joe Slovo (born Yossel Mashel Slovo) and Ronnie Kasrils respectively.

Mandela showed it is absolutely possible to be a lifelong comrades-in-arms with Jews and not be a “friend” of Zionist Israel.

Mandela thus had many closer personal associations with Jews than many of the phony philosemites who populate the American Christian right, who would be absolutely appalled at the prospect of (say) a secular Jew becoming the US Chief Justice.

Can one somehow anticipate here the response of Trump’s for-now Attorney-General, Jeff Beauregard (“Beauracist”) Sessions, at such a dreadful possibility?

Corbyn in recent weeks has had to endure the media-driven charge that he was a Czech spy.  Corbyn sued the Tory MP who propagated this accusation, the latter settled out of court, and paid undisclosed damages to a charity of Corbyn’s choice.

Corbyn then had to face rightwing tabloid accusations that he was a “Putin stooge” when a Russian double agent, exiled in the UK, and his daughter visiting from Russia, succumbed in a quiet English town to almost lethal doses of a toxic nerve agent.  Putin was blamed, immediately, by the poll-faltering Tories for the attack.

Corbyn, mindful of how his then party leader Blair had joined Dubya Bush in faking so-called military intelligence justifying the overthrow of Saddam Hussain, called for detailed and conclusive evidence before responsibility for this attack was placed on Putin.

Corbyn had been an opponent of the Iraq war, unlike the feckless Blairites in his own party and the Tory parliamentary chorus which, without exception, also sang to Blair’s twisted and bellicose tune.

Corbyn’s caution regarding the ascription of blame for the nerve-agent attack could perhaps be justified by taking a look at recent history, not just the fakery used to justify the Iraq war, but also the precipitate and disorderly collapse of the Soviet Union, which left its biological and chemical warfare facilities unguarded and available for plunder by a range of state- and non-state agents until a semblance of order was restored.

The “Corbyn is a figurehead for antisemitism” campaign is the latest in such recurring attempts to discredit the most radical party leader in Labour’s history.

There are likely to be many more such attempts to tarnish Corbyn and his supporters made by the UK’s rightwing tabloids, joined by the Blairite vipers in the Labour party (some of whom joined last week’s protest against antisemitism in their party, having been notably silent when the Tories ran a viciously Islamophobic election campaign against the Muslim Sadiq Khan, who was Labour’s candidate for London mayor (Khan won)—as well as the more genteel but equally cobra-like hacks in the supposedly “liberal” Guardian newspaper who support these Blairites tooth and nail.

The thirst of the Zionists, and their convenient abettors in Blairite Labour and the latter’s supporters in the UK media, in wanting Corbyn’s “apologies” in order to undermine him and his allies, is unslakable.

As exemplified by the cases of Prince Harry and the Tory MP, a swift apology, however insincere, can work wonders with those predisposed to permit wearers of Nazi uniforms off the hook.

Corbyn though is not in the position of the elite’s insouciant antisemites.

Such perfunctory apologies– along the lines of Prince Harry’s blithe “OK, I got caught, let’s do damage control” — will be rejected when tendered by staunch anti-Zionists.

As Corbyn is discovering, every apology or promise of an inquiry he makes now is disdained as “insufficient”, “too weak”, and “too late”.

The strategy of Corbyn and his supporters has therefore to be simple: be unyielding in battling the antisemitism in some sections of the left, and be equally intransigent in challenging those who have a deeply vested interest in conflating anti-Zionism with antisemitism.

For Zionists and their allies, the pro-Palestinian Corbyn and his supporters will always be irremediable “antisemites”.  Zionists allow us no alternative to this travesty.

Meanwhile, one suspects that Corbyn and his team, like the Zionists wanting to undermine him, know that politics is war conducted by other means.

Kenneth Surin teaches at Duke University, North Carolina.  He lives in Blacksburg, Virginia.