Why Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis is Wrong About Labor Anti-Semitism

The Tories strategy for ‘hiding’ their deep-rooted racism involves them perpetuating gratuitous acts of racism so regularly that they are effectively normalised. Nothing to report here apparently.

Yet the corporate-owned, Tory-supporting media can’t stop discussing Labour’s alleged racism, which has them furiously salivating over Jeremy Corbyn’s covert anti-Semitism.

The main reason for this focus revolves around Corbyn’s legitimate criticisms of the far-right government that maintains an iron rule over Israel. But these views are not Corbyn’s alone and are well-supported by the public and by hundreds of thousands of Labour members.

Hence it is significant that the Labour Party’s current manifesto pledges that a Labour government would “immediately suspend the sale of arms” to Israel, halting the flow of weapons that are currently being used to violate the human rights of Palestinian civilians. This pledge also extends to suspending the provision of arms to Saudi Arabia (with reference to their use in Yemen), and as the manifesto adds: Labour will “conduct a root-and-branch reform of our arms exports regime so ministers can never again turn a blind eye to British-made weapons being used to target innocent civilians.”

Such bold actions clearly enrage all those uncritical supporters of Israel, which is why the Tory-supporting Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis made headlines today with his unfounded accusations that Corbyn was a dangerous anti-Semite.

This smear campaign of course informed the lead story on BBC Radio 2’s flagship news program, with Jeremy Vine allowing ex-Labour MP Ian Austin (and longstanding supporter of the Israeli government) to meld nearly all of the false accusations of anti-Semitism that have been laid against Corbyn into his own diatribe.

Compared to the previous day’s radio show — where Vine had two Tories attack Corbyn and the Labour manifesto under the guise of discussing the release of the Conservative Party’s manifesto — Austin’s anti-Corbyn hate-speech was at least countered by a Labour supporter. Thus Jonathan Rosenhead, a representative of Jewish Voice for Labour, successfully refuted some of Austin’s lies. And importantly, when Vine asked Rosenhead why Corbyn had been slow on kicking people out of the party, he pointed out:

“What happened in the early days was that the party machine was still staffed by people who were employed under Tony Blair and were actually undermining Corbyn, and they held-back on those disciplinary cases [concerning anti-Semitism] to make the Labour Party look bad. I am afraid that there are people in the Labour Party who have been trying to make sure that Corbyn does not become Prime Minister.”

This Blairite problem is far from over, and a large proportion of Labour MP’s and councillors still oppose both Corbyn and the socialist policies backed by the vast majority of the Labour Party’s membership. This is precisely why socialists have continually raised the need for the reintroduction of mandatory reselection processes within the party to allow genuine working-class fighters to replace many of the right-wing leaders still ensconced in positions of leadership many of whom are keen supporters of the actions of the Israeli government.

Irrespective of the contorted views of such Labour right-wingers, there are many good reasons why many people in both Britain and Israel fight against the brutal actions of the Israeli state, and it is certainly not anti-Semitic to oppose the oppression of the Palestinian people. Indeed, the deep-seated nature of this problem reared its head again in yesterday’s news when it became clear that the Israeli government had decided to deport the local Director of Human Rights Watch from Israel because his organisation has urged businesses to stop operating in illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank. Hardly a reason for a so-called democratic state to deport someone!

The Tories of course do not take issue with such anti-democratic actions that are being carried out by the Israeli government, which is why in their own latest attack on British democratic rights their manifesto commits to “ban[ning] public bodies from imposing their own direct or indirect boycotts, disinvestment or sanctions campaigns against foreign countries.” This pledge is clearly focused upon Israel, which is precisely why Conservative Friends of Israel were so quick to welcome the Tories commitment to “ban[ning[ councils from boycotting products from Israel.”

Besides the ongoing tragedy’s in the Middle East, there is much injustice across the globe, which is why electing a Labour government will help provide much-needed sustenance to people fighting oppressive regimes all over the world. Corbyn has already pledged to end our government’s involvement in supporting human rights abuses worldwide which would represent a massive step forward for working-class struggles everywhere, and Corbyn’s policies to foreground workers’ rights and to nationalise key industries will no doubt continue to inspire socialist action globally.

This is why it is so critical that at this current juncture that we work towards building vibrant mass movements to help elect a Labour government, and build the necessary groundswell of popular support that will enable an incoming Corbyn government to make good on its socialist promises. Moreover, if we are serious about the restructuring of society along democratic and socialist lines then there is no doubt that we will need to go further than Corbyn has so far been willing to go in his manifesto demands, including not least the nationalisation of the finance sector under democratic workers control. Now let’s get on with the task of electing a Labour government and work towards building a mass movement for socialist change that will really have the Tories quaking in their boots!

For further discussion of the anti-Semitism smears, see my earlier articles:

The Hypocritical Roots of the Anti-Semitic ‘Mear One’ Smear Against Corbyn” (March 25, 2018)

How Corbyn’s Critics Use the Accusation of Anti-Semitism As a Weapon to ‘Embarrass the Left’” (July 28, 2018)

Corbyn Attack-Piece in The Times Inadvertently Traces Anti-Semitism to the Tories” (September 2, 2018)

The Blairite Roots of the IHRA Controversy” (September 5, 2018)


Michael Barker is the author of Under the Mask of Philanthropy (2017).