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We can’t let smears be used to silence criticism of the Israeli state

Resisting the right-wing witch-hunts means defending Corbyn while maintaining zero-tolerance for anti-semitism and all forms of racism, says LINDSEY GERMAN

WE have reached an incredibly dangerous moment for the left and the whole labour movement with the latest onslaught on Jeremy Corbyn. 

It unites right-wing media, the Tories and those MPs on Labour’s right who are viscerally opposed to everything that he represents and are doing everything they can to destroy his leadership. 

In the process, they are maligning many on the left, in the trade union movement and in grassroots campaigns, accusing them of a racism which should be unacceptable to any socialist, and which is still thankfully a rare occurrence within the left. 

The meeting this week in London — which promises to be very well attended despite the holidays — is an attempt to reverse the right-wing onslaught, to discuss what the issues are, and to argue that we have to oppose anti-semitism, at the same time opposing Israel’s attacks on the Palestinians. 

The accusation of left anti-semitism is particularly upsetting coming from those who have themselves fostered racism such as the Mail and the Express.  

It is more so since Jewish people have played such a big part in left and progressive movements historically. 

If it were really the case that this was a widespread problem on the left then it would necessitate urgent changes. 

As it is, however, the publicised cases represent a tiny minority and there is no evidence of anti-semitism to lay against Corbyn despite repeated attempts to find it.

The wave of accusations about Corbyn and anti-semitism reached its crescendo with the alleged wreath-laying on the graves of alleged terrorists — which turned out to be false. 

But not before it had been parroted across every news outlet, dissected night after night on Newsnight, repeated by dozens of politicians. 

If we want to consider what these charges mean, we need to first understand that they are not primarily about anti-semitism. Indeed the wreath-laying incident was not claimed to be anti-semitic. 

They are about politics here and in the Middle East. And their target is more and more obvious — not Corbyn “rooting out” anti-semitism in Labour, but his opponents rooting out Corbyn from the Labour leadership and seeking his replacement with someone much more amenable to the needs of British capital, whether in the arena of foreign policy or in terms of domestic policies. 

The row over anti-semitism has been erupting periodically for months but blew up again in July over Labour’s NEC decision to accept the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-semitism but not all its accompanying examples — a perfectly reasonable point especially given concerns that the Israeli government and its supporters here will use the examples to prevent any criticism of Israel’s repression of the Palestinians. 

This led to rightwinger Margaret Hodge MP calling Corbyn a “fucking racist and anti-semite” for which she was initially subject to a disciplinary inquiry. 

Since then Hodge has seen her charges dropped but has continued her abuse of the party leader, most ludicrously and offensively comparing Labour’s letter to her with the treatment of her father in nazi Germany.

There is no evidence of anti-semitism on the part of Corbyn but he has been subject to appalling abuse, as have other Labour members in what is increasingly a witch-hunt against those who criticise Israel or support the Palestinians.  

It looks likely that right-wing pressure means the NEC may back down and accept the full definition — thus opening the door to further widespread witch-hunting of Labour members who criticise Israel.

The politics behind this are clear. Labour’s right remains incandescent about Corbyn three years after he first won the leadership and a year after his election results were far better than they predicted. 

There is talk of a split to form a centre party with Tories and Lib Dems. The aim of the anti-semitism accusations is to create a crisis where such a split becomes viable and on an issue which isn’t just a return to Blairite politics. 

The left has to do three things in these circumstances. We have to oppose all forms of anti-semitism, something which the vast majority of socialists never had any difficulty in doing. 

We have to defend Corbyn and all those who are being attacked and witch-hunted in this appalling way. And we have to insist that justice for the Palestinians means that it is essential that we have the right to criticise Israel. 

Any retreat on the IHRA example will make this much more difficult and open the door to further witch-hunts. 

The threat of racism in this country is real, as we see the far right growing. It is astonishing to see Corbyn attacked in this way when government in Hungary instrumentalises anti-semitism to maintain its support, where one minister in Austria wants Jews to register to receive kosher meat, and when far-right parties across Europe are rehabilitating fascism. 

Here in Britain the deep strain of Islamophobia in the Tory Party is far less remarked on, and Boris Johnson treated like a hero by many for insulting Muslim women and fostering racism. 

We can be certain that any Corbyn government would oppose this kind of racism. But the possibility of such a government depends on the left mobilising on a mass scale to stop these attacks and defeat the right.

Jeremy Corbyn, Anti-semitism and Justice for Palestine is a public meeting and will be held at Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL tomorrow at 7pm. For more information visit www.facebook.com/events/1419622408182810/

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