The paper repeatedly denounced mainstream Jewish positions
While they subsequently published a strong rebuttal by Jon Lansman, defending Momentum and acknowledging left antisemitism, the editorial’s antagonism against JLM typified the hard left’s broader hostility towards mainstream British Jewish positions.
Those hostilities strongly influence the current crisis between the Labour Party and the mainstream of British Jewry and are outlined below in the order they occur in the editorial.
1. Wrongly saying that Jackie Walker was called antisemitic
The editorial is about Jackie Walker being removed as Momentum vice-chair by the Momentum steering committee. It wrongly states this was:
“…in response to allegations by the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) that this black Jewish woman made anti-semitic comments…”
In fact, JLM did not use the word “antisemitic”. JLM described Jackie Walker as being:
“provocative, offensive and a stark example of the problem facing the Labour party today”
(See JLM’s statement here in the Guardian).
The hard left routinely alleges that mainstream British Jewish groups call people antisemites, but such language is very rarely used in leftist contexts by JLM, CST and other leading UK Jewish groups.
2. Hateful depiction of mainstream UK Jewish-Zionist sentiment
Instead of acknowledging JLM’s strongly pro-two states and anti-Netanyahu politics, the editorial malignly summarises it as:
“It [JLM] supports Israel’s dispossession of the Palestinian people, Tel Aviv’s wars against its neighbours and rejects the worldwide boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign…”
This repeats how normal Jewish support for Israel or Zionism is maliciously spun in hard left circles, causing hostility to mainstream Jewish positions and risking antisemitic outcomes. It is fundamental to how Labour ended up in its current mess with Jews.
3. Describing British Jewish groups as Israeli agents
The editorial says JLM “is effectively an arm of Israel’s Labour Party inside Labour”.
This is a deep charge, mirroring how mainstream UK Jewish groups are accused in far left, far right and Islamist circles of acting for Israel or Zionism, rather than for British Jews. It resounds with older antisemitic themes of Jews as hostile liars, conspirators, always alien to their host and untrustworthy.
4. Wrongly claiming UK Jewish groups do not reflect majority Jewish opinion
Having malignly portrayed JLM as supporting Israeli wars, dispossession of Palestinians and being an arm of Israeli Labour, the editorial states:
“Many British Jews, including Labour members, reject that stance and oppose this zionist group having pride of place to put forward unchallenged its view of what constitutes anti-semitism.”
Naturally, JLM does not represent all Labour Jews (even without the malicious summary of its politics), but it does represent most of them: and to call JLM “this zionist group” spins mainstream Jewish opinion as not merely outside Labour, but as conspiratorially hostile.
The hard left champions Jewish anti-Zionists, as if their egocentric behaviour somehow negates the fundamental point that mainstream Jewish groups simply reflect and represent majority UK Jewish opinion, including on Zionism and understandings of antisemitism.
5. Calling Jews liars on antisemitism
The editorial summarises the antisemitism fears as:
“…the wave of largely spurious allegations of anti-semitism being rampant in the party”.
Rejecting Jewish concerns as fakery, has underpinned far left reactions to antisemitism throughout the post-2000 period. During that time, combined heightened antisemitic, anti-Zionist and anti-Israel hatreds have left many European Jews questioning their future, causing many thousands to emigrate to Israel and elsewhere.
The hard left does nothing against this. If anything, it helps fan the flames. This is the big picture against which the Labour controversy occurs, and why it is so important for British Jews.
UK Jewish organisations have not described antisemitism as ‘rampant’ in Labour, but have stressed the importance of understanding and reversing the situation. For example, see the CST / Jewish Leadership Council submission to the Chakrabarti Report.
The hard left’s misrepresentation of what groups like JLM and CST actually say about Labour has been hard-wired since this controversy began. Their contempt for the majority Jewish position contrasts with their eager citing of racism in other settings.
The editorial also describes reactions to Jackie Walker as:
“…a tidal wave of feigned shock and outrage designed to produce maximum impact.”
This repeats the claim that Jewish concerns are faked lies, when witnesses to this latest Walker controversy know the reaction in the Labour Conference training room was utterly genuine and spontaneous.
6. Wrongly asserting that the left cannot be antisemitic
After all of the above, the Morning Star finally gets to the point:
“left anti-semitism” – an absurd formulation comparable with left racism or left Islamophobia.”
Because really this is their premise. The Morning Star, whilst denouncing mainstream British Jewish positions, and ordering British Jews how to feel and behave, simply believes that the left, definitively, cannot be bracketed with antisemitism.
According to their own ideological theory, the Morning Star may be correct, but such revolutionaries are rarely tolerant of alternative opinions. Furthermore, in these would-be revolutionary circles, Jews and Judaism are regarded with scientific certainty as some kind of weird dinosaur class, outmoded and basically destined to gradually disappear come the revolution.
Until the revolution comes, the Morning Star will keep telling Jews and (especially) today’s Labour Party what to do: but should the paper ever actually become Labour’s house daily, mainstream ordinary Jews will know that their lengthy relationship with the Labour Party is finished.
Mark Gardner is director of communications at the Community Security TrustLike this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.