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Eyes Left A right Balls-up as Ed draws the line on anti-semitism hypocrisy

The suspension of Labour MP Graham Jones over his mild rebuke of Israel has proved a bridge too far, even for those supporting the Starmer path to power — what on Earth is going on here, asks ANDREW MURRAY

ED BALLS emerged from the political history books last week to let the cat out of the bag.

Criticising the suspension of ex-MP Graham Jones as Labour candidate for Hyndburn by the party’s high command after he had been caught cursing out Israel on a secret recording, the former shadow chancellor said of Jones: “He is not a Corbynite, not hard left. Absolutely not anti-Israel  …  he is not anti-semitic.”

The immediate point is not whether Jones is anti-semitic — we will get to that in a moment. Rather it is the brazen implication of Balls’s remarks — that had he been a “Corbynite,” on the left or critical of Israel then he would have been guilty as charged and merited his punishment.

Similar factional considerations prompted the ultimately futile effort to keep the hapless Azhar Ali in the field as Labour candidate in the Rochdale by-election.

For 36 hours Keir Starmer refused to drop him after he had been recorded — at the same event as Jones — promoting a mad conspiracy theory regarding the October 7 attack on Israel.

Instead, all manner of Labour panjandrums, including the Jewish former MP for Liverpool Louise Ellman, were wheeled out to ensure the world that Ali was a good guy really.

It was only after the emergence of a further remark concerning Jewish influence in the media that he was finally cut loose.

These two examples, following hard on each other’s heels, prove that Starmer’s “zero tolerance” for anti-semitism really only means “zero tolerance” for the left, for supporters of the former party leader and for critics of Israel.

After all, Ali’s original offence was several orders of magnitude worse than left MP Andy McDonald’s call at a Gaza ceasefire demonstration to campaign “until all people, Israelis and Palestinians, between the river and the sea can live in peaceful liberty.”

He remains suspended from the Labour whip in Parliament more than three months later.

Starmerite logic: calling for peace is a disciplinary offence while trading in barmy conspiracies is excusable provided you are the right sort of chap.

This is not the first example of factional double standards. Shadow cabinet rightwinger Steve Reed got a pass for referring to Jewish media proprietor Richard Desmond as a political “puppet master,” deploying old anti-semitic imagery.

For Reed an apology was sufficient. Not so for McDonald, who really had nothing to apologise for anyway, and who is joined in his whiplessness by Diane Abbott and Kate Osamor.

Will Jones, a former MP for the seat, stay suspended? We will see, but I imagine his mates are lobbying for him now.

He is, after all, a virulent rightwinger mainly distinguished when in Parliament for his unstinting backing for the Saudi regime and its murderous British-armed war in Yemen.

He is one of a very few MPs who continued to accept Saudi largesse even after the brutal murder and dismemberment of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the regime’s Istanbul consulate.

So it is not easy to feel sorry for Graham Jones, and not worth the effort. And it is surely tempting to enjoy the spectacle of the Labour right now being devoured by the monster of “anti-semitism” which was only ever intended to be utilised against Labour’s anti-imperialists.

Indeed, the irony grows only richer when one considers that Labour’s blundering in Rochdale over the issue has opened the door to foremost anti-imperialist George Galloway to return to the Commons.

Nevertheless, the left needs to do more than simply gloat at the well-merited discomfort of its enemies. The fact is that what Jones did — referring in private to “fucking Israel” and asserting that it was illegal for British citizens to sign up for the Israeli armed forces — does not meet any rational definition of anti-semitism.

The first remark is merely rude in a common-or-garden fashion, while the second is apparently wrong in point of law but no more than that.

The problem is that sanctioning Jones on those grounds can only lead to still further confusion as to what anti-semitism is and confound the fight against it.

That struggle could hardly be more important when one reads of the astonishing rise in anti-semitic incidents across Britain in the wake of the Gaza conflict.

Yet rather than build unity and solidarity against this plague, Labour’s right prefer to use the issue to bait and harass the left, as Balls helpfully revealed.

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has done his bit too. In a speech last month he referred to “our heroic soldiers,” and he wasn’t talking about the British army, who he willed to a comprehensive victory or “we” would be in trouble.

That “our” and “we” are hardly helpful to those of us who insist that British Jews, individually and collectively, bear no responsibility for what Israel does or does not do.

It is one of the more reasonable examples of anti-semitism given in the otherwise lopsided list advanced by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. Surely the religious leader of a significant number of Jewish believers in Britain, with a portentous title to match, would have got the memo.

We need to be clearer. Chanting “Free Palestine” at a march is not anti-semitic. Shouting it at a Jewish person in the street or painting it on a synagogue wall is.

The Liberal Democrat councillor in Yorkshire ranting about “vile Jews” is an anti-semite. Graham Jones, however objectionable otherwise, on the evidence is not.

These are vital distinctions. Rabbi Mirvis only obscures them.

The struggle against anti-semitism is not safe in the hands of Starmer, Balls or Mirvis. Their agenda appears either purely factional or about defending the Israeli state even as it commits the most abominable atrocities.

The left, which has sometimes ignored evidence of anti-semitism among its own supporters and floundered when challenging the issue, surely needs to retrieve the cause from the mire in which the supporters of imperialism have now embogged it.

No more than any other democratic demand is the struggle against anti-semitism safe in bourgeois hands. Only the left’s neglect can leave it there.

Russian regrets on ‘Carlson meets Putin’? Not enough gay-bashing!

QUITE a lot was wrong with the interview that right-wing US pundit Tucker Carlson conducted with Russian President Vladimir Putin this month. For one thing, I doubt if a US presidential candidate would have been allowed to dawdle quite so long in the 10th century in his answers.

But the most depressing critique came from Putin’s own propaganda chief, Margarita Simonyan.

She regretted that her boss had not taken the opportunity to aggressively promote cultural conservatism. People are, she said, “waiting for a country that would become a safe haven for people who are not ready to send their children to be raised by LGBT and other woke religions.”

“This is the only thing on which Russia can and should now build an ideology externally,” she added. “Just as the USSR once built it on the ideas of social equality.”

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