Jewish Labour activists defend Corbyn as Israel lobby attacks

Jeremy Corbyn speaking against the 2009 Israeli bombing of Gaza. An estimated 50,000 people demonstrated in London.

TLA Newscom

Jewish Labour activists demonstrated in support of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on Monday afternoon in London.

Left-wing group Jewish Voice for Labour has praised Corbyn’s “consistent commitment to anti-racism” and condemned current right-wing attacks.

The show of support comes after two Israel lobby groups issued a call on Sunday to demonstrate against alleged anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, for which they hold Corbyn responsible.

But Jewish Voice for Labour has called an emergency rally as a counter-demonstration, accusing the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council of “playing party politics” ahead of May’s local elections.

Mick Davis, chief executive of the ruling Conservative Party, is former chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council – a leading part of the UK’s Israel lobby.

On Monday morning’s edition of BBC Radio 4’s flagship Today program, the Jewish Leadership Council’s current chairperson Jonathan Goldstein issued an unprecedented personal attack on Corbyn.

Goldstein claimed that “Jeremy Corbyn is now the figurehead for an anti-Semitic political culture, based upon obsessive hatred of Israel, conspiracy theories and fake news.”

Labour witch hunt

Since Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party in 2015, he has faced relentless attacks from right-wingers and supporters of Israel due to his long-standing support for Palestinian human rights.

Exaggerated and often entirely fabricated charges of anti-Semitism against Labour activists have been used to attack Corbyn and his grassroots supporters.

These activists have often been Jewish themselves, targeted for supporting Corbyn and for longstanding Palestine solidarity activism.

Polls ahead of May’s local elections have predicted that Labour under Corbyn will make significant electoral gains.

Jewish Voice for Labour on Monday accused the Israel lobby and its allies of using the current wave of anti-Semitism allegations to undermine Labour’s chances.

Appalling

The JVL statement said that as Jews in Labour currently campaigning in local elections, “we are appalled by the actions and statements of the Board of Deputies. They do not represent us or the great majority of Jews in the party who share Jeremy Corbyn’s vision for social justice and fairness.”

“Jeremy’s consistent commitment to anti-racism is all the more needed now,” the group added.

Jewish Voice for Labour also accused Israel lobby groups of being “silent” on the “massively more anti-Semitism on the right of politics.”

They pointed to a “senior ex-adviser to the prime minister who recently used a national newspaper to dredge up anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.”

In February former Theresa May advisor Nick Timothy wrote an article in the Conservative-supporting Telegraph accusing Jewish billionaire George Soros of a “secret plot to thwart Brexit.”

The piece was widely condemned for “dog-whistle anti-Semitism.”

But some on the pro-Israel right supported the piece. Anti-Muslim journalist Melanie Phillips claimed “there was nothing whatsoever anti-Jewish, with or without the dog-whistle, in anything Timothy wrote.”

Soros is often a hate figure for right-wing anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists, especially those promoted by the Hungarian government – which is closely allied with Israel.

Mark Elf, the Jewish anti-Zionist who has for years blogged at Jews Sans Frontieres tweeted on Monday evening that the Jewish Voice for Labour counter-demonstration outnumbered the pro-Israel one.

Times correspondent Lucy Fisher tweeted that there were ten Conservative lawmakers at the demonstration, but only a “handful” of Labour lawmakers “milling around solo.”

Mural controversy

The current wave of right-wing, anti-Palestinian attacks on Corbyn’s leadership was triggered last week after a Facebook comment by Corbyn from six years ago was dredged up.

Labour lawmaker Luciana Berger Tweeted a screenshot of Corbyn commenting on Facebook in 2012, criticizing the removal of a mural in East London titled “Freedom for Humanity.”

Berger is parliamentary chairperson of the Jewish Labour Movement – a group which lobbies for Israel and has strong links with the Israeli embassy.

The group said in a statement on Sunday night it would be joining the demonstration against Corbyn.

Corbyn responded to Berger with regret over the old Facebook comment and said he should have “looked more closely at the image” of the mural first.

He also issued a statement on Sunday saying he was “sincerely sorry for the pain which has been caused” by what he described as the “anti-Semitism [which] has occurred in pockets within the Labour Party.”

Conspiracy theories

Mear One, the Los Angeles artist behind the 2012 mural, on Sunday denied it was anti-Semitic.

In a 2012 video showing how he painted it, he said it depicted “the elite banker cartel known as the Rothschilds, Rockerfellers, Morgans, the ruling class elite few, the Wizards of Oz … The symbol of the Free Mason pyramid rises behind this group.”

Lutfur Rahman, a left-winger and then the elected mayor of Tower Hamlets in East London, had the mural removed, saying at the time that whether “intentional or otherwise, the images of the bankers perpetuate anti-Semitic propaganda about conspiratorial Jewish domination of financial and political institutions.”

In the late 19th century, some leading members of the Rothschild banking family financially supported early Zionist colonization of Palestine.

Indeed, the infamous Balfour Declaration – which announced the British Empire’s intent to hand Palestine over to colonization by the Zionist movement – was addressed to Lionel Walter Rothschild.

Zionism, however, was an idea intricately tied to British imperialism and principally supported by Christian Zionists, while being opposed by a majority of prominent British Jews at the time.

Yet British and American anti-Jewish and right-wing conspiracy theorists ignore these facts and regularly cite the Rothschilds’ role in Palestine as part of their claims asserting secretive “Rothschild” control over the world.

Palestinians have repeatedly made clear that they want such conspiracy theorists to have no part in their struggle.

Updated since publication.

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There certainly seems to be a lot of ginned up outrage over anti-Semitism in Labour meant to attack Corbyn for his solidarity with Palestinians, and I think Corbyn's record shows that he is a staunch anti-racist. But I still don't know how anyone can look at that mural and not be instantly alarmed. A bunch of bankers sitting around running the world as part of an illuminati conspiracy — it's pretty explicit, and plays into the most obvious anti-Jewish tropes. Even though the artist denies there was any ill intent, the imagery is very clearly problematic.

Even if the years-old Facebook comment is being instrumentalized by bad actors, I'm disappointed this Intifada article downplays the anti-Semitism of that imagery. Invoking the Rothchilds' connection to the Zionist project feels out of place when the mural in question is not anti-Zionist in nature, but rather references the "New World Order" conspiracy frequently part of anti-Jewish propaganda.

Asa Winstanley's picture

The article describes the mural as the product of “anti-Jewish and right-wing conspiracy theorists.” I’m not sure how that qualifies as “downplaying.”

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Photos provided by the redoubtable Mark Elf illustrate the small scale of the rally for Israel. It's always like that, because most Jews want nothing to do with international lawlessness, torture, persecution, ethnic cleansing and mass murder. That's what the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council stand for, while standing behind the hijacked group identity of Judaism. But then, the revulsion is mutual, because Zionists don't much care for Jews. They've exerted uncommon pressure to force the expulsion of Jewish activists from the Labour Party from the time Jeremy Corbyn was first elected leader. Now they're staging yet another smear campaign ahead of the May elections in hopes of handing the party a defeat at the local level. They'll fail once again. But that won't bring this vicious travesty to an end. The party itself has to make it clear that Corbyn's support for Palestinian rights is at the core of the antisemitism charges. As such, the time for a reckoning is approaching. The question before this house is this- is Britain to be allowed its own foreign policy with respect to Israel/Palestine, or is policy to be set by the Israeli state?

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I have heard the BBC Today programme this morning (Tue 27th; available on internet). Dozens of opportunities (Zionist and Labour-saboteurs interviewed, "political commentators", news bulletins): not a decent question was asked. Not even the first and foremost question: "*What* antisemitism actually?", or "Why do you see this especially in Labour"? Even Middle East Peace Angel/warcriminal Tony B. was consulted for his opinion.

So far for "BBC" and "journalism". Yes somewhere, somewhere there is an issue with anti-semitism. If the BBC only knew where to look.

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So much nonsense about anti-Semitism when criticizing Israel. Yet none about the vicious Islamaphobia coming from the Cons, UKIP and BNP.
Why is it not possible to say anything critical of Israel yet okay to bash Muslim or Muslim nations.
The real hatred is from the Right not the Left. The media is so much under Israel's thumb its terrible!

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Asa Winstanley

Asa Winstanley's picture

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist and associate editor with The Electronic Intifada. He lives in London. Biography here.