The Electronic Intifada 13 December 2019
The Labour Party suffered a devastating defeat on Thursday.
Jeremy Corbyn immediately announced he would not lead the party into another election.
With this defeat, the UK – and the world – have lost perhaps the best opportunity in a generation to send a resounding message through the ballot box against neoliberal austerity and endless war.
But Labour’s worst performance since 1983 carries an important lesson for the grassroots left-wing campaign in the United States to elect Bernie Sanders as president: You must defeat false anti-Semitism smears at all costs.
Do not indulge, entertain or appease them.
The main issue that dominated the UK’s election campaign was the European Union.
Brexit-supporting working class seats in the North punished Labour for endorsing a second referendum. The party was blamed for blocking the result of the 2016 vote, which endorsed leaving the EU.
But aside from Brexit, the only other issue that dominated was “Labour anti-Semitism.”As I have reported for more than four years, Corbyn’s new Labour Party has been subjected to an unprecedented smear campaign.
Yes, of course, in a mass movement of half a million people, there will inevitably be a few with reactionary views.
But the idea that Corbyn’s Labour Party had any unique problem with anti-Semitism was always a deliberate smear campaign. There is simply no evidence for this.
It was a lie manufactured to smash the left and the Palestine solidarity movement.
Smeared from the start
When it became clear in 2015 that a veteran Palestine solidarity activist would lead Britain’s main opposition party, the campaign began to falsely paint the movement that swept Corbyn into the leadership as anti-Semitic.
People are not stupid and usually know when they are being lied to. But propaganda sustained for long enough works. In this election, the lie began to cut through to the electorate.Several Labour activists told me anti-Semitism came up on the doorstep and in conversations as reasons people could not vote Labour.
These views were held in a shallow, but wide fashion. When challenged, they crumbled.
But the problem was they were so rarely challenged as mainstream media repeated the claims about the party’s anti-Semitism as a given, with no need for evidence.
Indeed, Labour activists were even punished for challenging the smears.
A national poll commissioned by the Jewish News – a consistently anti-Palestinian publication – found that 55 percent of those surveyed earlier this year agreed with the claim that Corbyn’s “failure to tackle anti-Semitism within his own party shows he is unfit to be Prime Minister.”
The poll found that half of British adults agreed that Labour “has a serious anti-Semitism problem,” up from just a third less than a year earlier.
Four and a half years of relentless smearing of Jeremy Corbyn took its toll.
This woeful situation came about because the British establishment, the Labour right and the pro-Israel lobby teamed up to fight a war to the death against Corbyn and what he represents.
Labour’s long-dominant and intransigent right-wing always refused to accept the democratic result of the 2015 leadership election, launching a failed coup against Corbyn in 2016.
But the right continued to sabotage the party, even as many anti-Corbyn lawmakers quit Labour.
Britain’s permanent security-intelligence apparatus was also involved.
Former and current military and intelligence sources constantly leaked and fabricated claims against Corbyn portraying him as a “security threat” and “extremist.”
In the days before the election a group of “former” British spies even peddled a far-right conspiracy theory against Corbyn, dubbed “Hijacked Labour.”
It was published by The Sun, Britain’s most read newspaper and a cheerleader for the Conservative Party.
Both the article and the website were later deleted but, as so often, the damage was done.
The spooks relied on neo-Nazi sources and anti-Semitic ideas about “Cultural Marxism” – the same poisonous idea that animated Norway mass shooter Anders Breivik to massacre dozens of members of the youth wing of that country’s Labor Party in 2011.
Yet the military intelligence-linked site still smeared Corbyn and the left-wing Labour leadership with “anti-Semitism,” which, it claimed, was “inevitable because they are Marxists.”
The smears worked
Meanwhile, Israel and its lobby groups inside and outside the Labour Party continued to attack Corbyn.
Even on polling day, Shurat HaDin, an acknowledged front-group for Israel’s Mossad spy agency, tweeted at high-profile Labour supporters accusing them of encouraging a “a vote for terror.”Earlier in the week Yair Lapid, co-leader of Israel’s main opposition party openly stated he was going to “interfere” in the UK’s election.
He then asserted that “Jeremy Corbyn is an anti-Semite.”
This came after years of open and covert interference to abort the threat of Corbyn reaching 10 Downing Street.
The lie was always the same – presented without evidence – that the massive popular movement that elected Corbyn to the leadership was infested by anti-Semites.
But propaganda – as powerful and widespread as it was – is not the main reason the anti-Semitism smears worked.
The same poll for the Jewish News also found that 52 percent of Labour voters agreed that “Jeremy Corbyn is the target of a concerted smear campaign by his political opponents to try to discredit him over anti-Semitism.”
The smears worked because instead of pushing back, Corbyn and his advisers capitulated to them.
This was a fatal mistake.
Instead of challenging lies as lies, Corbyn kept robotically condemning anti-Semitism, even when there was no real anti-Semitism to condemn. He hoped that would be enough to make the issue go away.
The time to condemn anti-Semitism is when real and lethal anti-Semitism is happening – overwhelmingly from the right.
But condemning “anti-Semitism” in the face of a fabricated smear campaign to defend Israel and smash the left was a recipe for disaster.
Corbyn effectively accepted the lie that Labour had a “problem” with anti-Semitism and opened himself to more attacks that he wasn’t doing “enough” to combat it.
As the anti-Semitism witch hunt escalated, many good socialists were pushed out of the party for doing nothing wrong.
Corbyn was unable or unwilling to prevent it, while Labour centrists hoped that throwing just one more comrade under the bus would finally put the accusations to rest.
These retreats set a long pattern.Well-known British figures were targets of the witch hunt: They included former London mayor Ken Livingstone, socialist lawmaker Chris Williamson and anti-racist and left-wing campaigners Jackie Walker, Marc Wadsworth and Tony Greenstein.
Many of those suspended, expelled or investigated are Jewish anti-Zionists.
They were falsely accused, demonized and then forced out – with Corbyn’s acquiescence.
But the Israel lobby and the the intransigent Labour right were never appeased because the “anti-Semitism crisis” was never about real anti-Semitism.
It was about removing Corbyn and ending the left-wing ascendancy whose platform included support for Palestinian rights as part of a foreign policy with justice and solidarity as central values.
The damage goes far beyond Labour, with the emergence of open threats to ban Palestine solidarity and crack down on left-wing publications.
John Mann, a former right-wing Labour MP who now works for Boris Johnson’s Conservative government, plans to investigate The Canary and other independent publications for supposed anti-Semitism. In other words, the witch hunt is far from over.
Lesson for America
The “Labour anti-Semitism crisis” strategy is already being rolled out across the Atlantic against anyone who challenges support for Israel or US imperialism.
One of the most high-profile targets of false accusations of anti-Semitism has been Congresswoman Ilhan Omar.
The lies about Omar – gleefully amplified by Donald Trump – were meant to protect Israel and smash the left.
Instead of fighting back, Democratic Party leaders have chosen appeasement: apologizing for anti-Semitism where it doesn’t exist.
That’s the strategy that helped sink Corbyn.
Now Bernie Sanders and the party’s left are being targeted too – and the attacks will escalate if he wins in Iowa in February.It does not matter that Sanders is Jewish. It does not even matter that Sanders has pronounced himself “100 percent pro-Israel.”
A smear that goes unchallenged can eventually gain traction.
Democratic Party and Israel lobby mega-donor Haim Saban made clear in July, when the primary field was much wider: “We love all 23 candidates … minus one. I profoundly dislike Bernie Sanders.”The Israel lobby and the Democratic Party right will use the anti-Semitism smear against Sanders and the left because it has been proven effective in the UK.
It cannot be a good sign that Neera Tanden, a key Hillary Clinton adviser, helped spread the smears against Corbyn:Sadly, some on the British left indulged the smear campaign.
Jon Lansman, supposedly a key Corbyn ally and leader of the left-wing Momentum movement, at one stage in 2016 wanted Corbyn out, and claimed baselessly that Corbyn’s Labour had a major problem with anti-Semitism.
American friends and comrades: Do not make the same mistake as Corbyn and Lansman. Do not apologize for anti-Semitism where there is none.
Forcefully reject the lie that the left that supports equality and freedom for Palestinians and opposes US imperialism is anti-Semitic.
Do not buckle, do not bend. Reject the smears. Denounce the smearers.
It’s the right thing to do in principle and it’s the only way to win.
- Labour witch hunt
- Labour Party
- Jeremy Corbyn
- Bernie Sanders
- European Union
- The Sun
- Shurat HaDin
- Yair Lapid
- Ken Livingstone
- Chris Williamson
- Jackie Walker
- Marc Wadsworth
- Tony Greenstein
- John Mann
- Ilhan Omar
- Donald Trump
- Haim Saban
- Neera Tanden
- Hillary Clinton
- Democratic Party
- Jon Lansman
Permalink Frank Dallas replied on
Disastrous, Asa? A poor result but just 300,000 votes across the 59 seats Labour lost gave BJ his majority. The Tories always were going to get more seats and votes. Our aim was to deny BJ. 300,000 votes and we would be looking at a Tory crisis not a Labour disaster. And 10 million + have just voted for a transformation of the British economy and society in the direction of equality. Those 300,000 votes are cracked crystal. At the first hard knock they will fall apart. Given the relentless onslaught on Corbyn, this is a remarkable result. We voted Labour in Manchester, as they did in Liverpool, most of London, Bristol and even Lisa Nandy won comfortably in Wigan, a small, left-behind Leave town of the kind the Tories were after. We are trying to change society, not give seats to time-serving careerists. We've built a bridgehead.
You're absolutely right about the evil antisemitism smear. Corbyn should have come out fighting. He ought to have refused to take lessons in anti-racism from Zionists and should not have been afraid to produce the evidence of historical and contemporary Zionist racism, including antisemitism. He should have sternly rebutted any suggestion that Zionists are innocent and should have defended vigorously his and Labour's record in fighting racism. The choice to simply repeat his opposition to racism made him look defensive and did appear to concede that Labour has a major problem with antisemitism. It is a truly evil thing for those who ethnically cleansed nearly a million Palestinians in 1948, who hold them prisoner in Gaza and who have reviled and abused their own people when they resist their creed to accuse others of the crimes they are guilty of. According to these people, Noam Chomsky is an antisemite. This is an evil in defence of injustice, the world injustice of wealth made by all in the possession of a small minority. Bernie Sanders and his supporters must fight this evil by laying the blame where it truly lies.
No Way Back
Permalink Mhara Costello replied on
Spot on. I respect Jeremy Corbyn immensely. A more decent, principled, honourable human being would be hard to find. Sadly, by pandering to the twisted/sadistic mindset of BULLIES waging a relentless personal attack 24/7, he dug not only his OWN grave, but that of the country, his loyal supporters with it. No way back.
Permalink Eliza replied on
Yes, the British establishment, Labour Right and pro-Israel lobby were a formidable combination and the anti-Semitism 'crisis' was the main weapon of choice. For my money it was the Labour Right which was often openly working against Corbyn that tipped the balance and allowed the attacks by the British establishment and Israeli lobby to be so effective. A full bodied defence of the spurious anti-Semitic allegations was required and Corbyn did not bring this about. But Corbyn was not in control of the disciplinary process and there were (are) serious divisions within Labour. How much could Corbyn rely on the leadership group around him for support? How much of his appeasement was due to his natural instincts and how much to his obligation as Leader to minimise internal disunity?
But the lesson is clear. There should be no appeasement or half-apologies for bad faith allegations of anti-Semitism. If the new Labour leader is safely pro-Israel enough or a reincarnated Blair, we can expect this witch hunt to fade away. Its important to fully document and expose what happened to Corbyn and not let this be forgotten. It is material ripe for a black humour cutting edge satire, though can't see the BBC coming on board; thank heavens for the alternative media.
The lesson is not just for politicians. Academics who do not toe the Zionist line are also at risk.
Given the changling meaning attached to 'anti-Semitism', no-one can win these arguments. Correlation with one of the many tropes must not be allowed to be sufficient to shut down criticism of Israel/Zionism if the facts behind the criticism are solid. Most claims of anti-Semitism centre on latching onto a historical trope rather than anything derogatory about Jews per se. The more we talk about the Palestinian people, the less we talk about anti-Semitism.
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