It’s a good job that Jeremy Corbyn has many years experience of maintaining his allotment, as dealing with manure for his spuds will have set him up nicely for managing all the shit that has been thrown at him recently.
One the countries longest standing anti-racist activists is now an anti-semite. This will be a surprise for many, not least of which for Jeremy Corbyn himself. But I suppose these things can sneak up on you.
In one corner you have a group of Jewish people complaining that the Labour party has a problem with antisemitism. In the other corner you have Momentum, and Corbyn’s supporters in general, that say that all accusations of antisemitism are simply a right-wing smear against the left.
Through all of this, nuance, and empathy, seem to have little place in the discussions. Perhaps if those on all sides of the debate could step back, they might appreciate the concerns of the other side.
There can be no doubt at all that the right, including the press, have gleefully jumped on the opportunity to have a dig at Corbyn, and the left wing movement within the Labour party that he represents. But it isn’t just them that are arguing about antisemitism being a problem, nor is it just in parts of the Jewish community that are automatically against Corbyn for his position on Israel/Palestine. If you are willing to listen, you realise that a large number of Jewish people are concerned. That cannot just be ignored.
I don’t think that the left has a major problem with antisemitism, but turning a blind eye when it does come up is unacceptable. Activists sharing posts on social media denying the holocaust, for instance, is abhorrent.
Momentum activists have had to develop an Elephant strength hide in order to rightly defend Corbyn since his election as Labour leader (so good he did it twice, just for good measure). However, I think this can mean that the blinkers go on sometimes, and the reflex to firmly push back against any attack on their membership is not automatically always the best response. A moment to breath is sometimes wise.
A consideration for what is the best way to debate is also wise.
The Labour MP for Bradford, Naz Shah, was accused of antisemitic comments some time ago, and Ken Livingstone came to her defence. Some of her tweets were wrongly misconstrued as such, but then tweeting that ‘the Jews were rallying’ is clearly antisemitic.
In his response, Ken Livingstone said that Hitler supported Zionism. When challenged he did not back down in any way, and kept repeating the same thing over and over again. Eventually he apologised for ‘causing offence’, but did not back down from the comments.
The reality is that there were some Zionists who thought that doing a deal with Germany to allow Jews to leave for what was then Palestine was a good idea, and some Nazi’s also agreed. However, there is nothing to suggest that Hitler agreed with this. Also, it is worth noting, that many Zionists understood that the Nazi’s had to be fought to the death – no deals would ever be acceptable.
So whilst I don’t think it would be fair in that example to accuse Livingstone of antisemitism, to speak of Hitler supporting Zionism (and therefore the setting up of Israel) was at the absolute least unhelpful, and at worst grossly insensitive.
When you consider further that he did not see why he should apologise, you can understand why many Jews, inside and outside of the Labour party, would be uncomfortable.
This kind of language, and insensitivity, needs to be addressed. As I’ve said, it isn’t just the right attacking Corbyn through these protests, there are also Jewish people involved who feel that their home is within the Labour party. We cannot just ignore their concerns, and write them off as part of a right wing conspiracy. Jewish people understand the real dangers of conspiracy theories, of where they can lead.
But at the same time, those leading the protests from within the Labour party also need to step back. Understand that Corbyn has been consistently attacked on any front possible because he is a consistent left winger. When you look around the protest and see people like Sajid Javid and Ian fucking Paisley Jr, you should be concerned.
Arch bigots, since when have they cared about the rights of minorities? Or for that matter, the Blackshirt supporting Daily Mail?
Try and understand why many on the left feel that this is an attack on them as a whole.
The left needs to call out genuine antisemitism when it surfaces, and Jewish members who consider themselves on the left of the Labour party need to defend Corbyn from the attacks of the right. Doing this and fighting antisemitism do not need to be mutually exclusive.