"SE PROMENER D'UN PAS AGILE AU TEMPLE DE LA VÉRITÉ LA ROUTE EN ÉTAIT DIFFICILE" VOLTAIRE
février 4, 2023
Jew hatred has re-entered the European mainstream. It makes an irrefutable case for the need for a Jewish homeland.
LONDON — Europe’s gathering Jewish question came into sharp focus this month when a British M.P. declared that she had come to the “sickening conclusion” that one of the country’s two main political parties, Labour, is now “institutionally anti-Semitic.”
Imagine, to gauge the import of this statement, Bernie Sanders suggesting the same thing of the Democrats.
Jew hatred has re-entered the European mainstream through a toxic amalgam of spillover from vilification of Israel, the return of the Jewish plutocrat as hated symbol of the 1 percent, and the resurgence of the Jewish “cosmopolitan” as the target of ascendant nationalists convinced a cabal of Jews runs the world.
The British politician was Luciana Berger, who is Jewish and has been M.P. for Liverpool and Wavertree since 2010. She has watched, with dismay, as Jeremy Corbyn has allowed a demonological view of Israel to foster Jew hatred in the Labour Party since taking over its leadership in 2015.
So, I asked in an interview, is Corbyn an anti-Semite? “Well,” she said, “he’s certainly been responsible for sharing platforms with anti-Semites and saying things that are highly offensive and anti-Semitic.”
Corbyn, Berger suggested, has contrived to make British Jews different in some way, a process she called “othering.” She’s had to endure “pictures of Stars of David superimposed on my forehead, and my face imposed on a rat, or many rats. There are pornographic images, violent images, oversize features like a witch. You name it, they’ve done it.”
Nine months pregnant, the mother of a small child, she’s faced death threats and has to take security measures “a lot more now than I did before.”
Not all the anti-Semitic slurs have come from within the party, but the volume of attacks from the left has convinced Berger she had to quit Labour. “I didn’t make that decision lightly,” she told me, having always believed that Labour was Britain’s anti-racist party par excellence.
Corbyn, who has taken the party sharply leftward from the now reviled Blairite center, and whose anti-Zionism has long been apparent, has insisted, “I’m not an anti-Semite in any form.” He has promised (and promised and promised) to rid the Labour Party of any such poison.
There’s nothing anti-Semitic about sympathy for the Palestinian cause or support of Palestinian statehood or disdain for the rightist government of the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and its kick-the-can policies to prolong or eternize the occupation of the West Bank. That should be obvious.
But where anti-Zionism crosses into anti-Semitism should also be obvious: dehumanizing or demonizing Jews and propagating the myth of their sinister omnipotence; accusing Jews of double loyalties as a means to suggest their national belonging is of lesser worth; denying the Jewish people’s right to self-determination; blaming through conflation all Jews for the policies of the Israeli government; pursuing the systematic “Nazification” of Israel; turning Zionism into a synonym of racism.
The denial of the millennial Jewish link to the Holy Land and the dismissal of the legal basis for the modern Jewish state in United Nations Resolution 181 of 1947 (Arab armies went to war against its Palestinian-Jewish territorial compromise and lost) as a means to argue for the abolition of the Jewish homeland and portray it as an immoral, colonial exercise in theft often flirts with anti-Semitism.
It is at its most egregious when it issues from Europeans who seem to have forgotten where the Holocaust was perpetrated. Once in the gas chambers was enough for the Jews.
For Corbyn, who turns 70 this year, misunderstandings or imprecision explain incidents like his description of British Zionists as having “no sense of English irony;” or his inviting to Parliament a Palestinian Islamist who had suggested Jews were absent from the World Trade Center on 9/11 (“I have on occasion appeared on platforms with people whose views I completely reject,” Corbyn says); or his appearance in 2014 at a wreath-laying ceremony in Tunis that appears to have honored Palestinians associated with the 1972 Munich Olympics terrorist attack that killed 11 Israelis.
(Corbyn has said he was present but “not involved” in the wreath laying and that he attended out of a desire to see “a fitting memorial to everyone who has died in every terrorist incident everywhere.”)
The semantic evasions and denials that Corbyn “just kind of trots out,” in Berger’s words, have not dented the persistence of the problem, to the point that she’s had it: “Enough is enough.”
Berger is not alone. Eight other Labour M.P.s have quit the party, mainly in protest at Corbyn’s leftward lurch and rule by diktat. All but one of them, Ian Austin, who decried Labour’s “culture” of anti-Semitism, have joined a new Independent Group, bolstered by three Conservative parliamentarians, in an attempt to rebuild the British political center.
The jolt to Labour seems to have galvanized the party to confront the seeping infiltration of anti-Semitism. Tom Watson, the deputy leader, has called on Corbyn to expel Labour members accused of anti-Semitism. They’ve tended to face mild reprimands, if that. John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, said there’d been “a lot of listening but not enough action.” Jon Lansman, a founder of the Momentum organization that has supported Corbyn, now says there is “a major problem” with “hard-core anti-Semitic opinion.”
Where have these guys been in recent years during what Pat McFadden, another Labour M.P., described to me as “open season for the abuse of my Jewish colleagues”?
In a typical incident this week, a Labour M.P. who is a Corbyn ally, Chris Williamson, tried to express regret for saying the party had been “too apologetic” about anti-Semitism, only to claim in his “apology” that it is “often forgotten” how few cases of anti-Semitism there are. He has been suspended.
Under Corbyn, actions have usually lagged words. The party decided in 2016 that “Zio,” an insult used by the Ku Klux Klan, was unacceptable. Its use persists as an abbreviation of Zionist, itself turned into a dirty word.
“I am very proud and very relaxed about the fact that I openly support the creation of the State of Israel and the right for the Jewish people to have a homeland,” Berger said, noting that she’s a Zionist but “others have sought to hijack the word” and “we know” what “language can inspire and what actions it can result in.”
We do. This month, Yellow Vest protesters in Paris accosted Alain Finkielkraut, a leading French essayist and the son of an Auschwitz survivor. Their abuse included cries of “Back to Tel Aviv” and “France belongs to us.” A Jewish cemetery was desecrated. Anti-Semitic incidents rose 74 percent in France in 2018.
The eternal Jewish ogre resurfaces — a convenient scapegoat for economic resentments, precariousness, fear, frustration or Israel’s oppression of Palestinians. Corbyn, wittingly or not, has fed this poison, as his party is now realizing. He has made an irrefutable case for Israel through Labour’s abetting of revived European Jew hatred.
The fundamental link between European anti-Semitism, annihilationist at its apogee, and the decision of Jews to embrace Zionism in the conviction that only a Jewish homeland could keep them safe is something contemporary European theorists of a demonic Israel prefer to forget. This amnesia is an additional reason that I, too, like Berger, am a proud Zionist.
A homeland for the Jewish people, which is what the State of Israel was created to be, can’t be majority Palestinian. At the same time, a legitimate democracy can’t deny rights to a national minority. Israel walks this fine line; in the 52-year-old West Bank occupation it tramples on it. That is why Israel needs a two-state solution. There is no other way to remain Jewish and democratic, no other way to escape the insidious moral corrosion of dominion.
I don’t believe Jews would be just fine without Israel any more than I believe the moon is a balloon. To criticize Israel is imperative; to disavow it, for a Jew, a form of ahistorical folly.
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