Robert Cohen – blogpost on yesterday’s events

photo: Ben Brosnan

A blogpost by Robert Cohen

27 March 2018

Yesterday’s demonstration outside Parliament against Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to recognise and deal with alleged antisemitism in the Labour Party has become a textbook study in the complexity of the Israel/Palestine debate. So many political agendas at play that I imagine it’s impossible for the casual observer to unravel it all.

It can’t be understood without acknowledging the right wing of the Labour Party’s desperation to remove Corbyn, still seeing him as an electoral liability. It can’t understand without remembering that we have local elections coming up in the U.K. It can’t be understood without understanding how fragile Brexit makes Theresa May’s Government. It can’t be understood without acknowledging the mainstream media bias against Corbyn too, even from the Guardian.

It can’t be understood without having any empirical data on the scale of antisemitic sentiment among Labour members. Roughly what percentage of Labour’s 500,000 members would have to be proven antisemites to justify the charge of “rampant” and “epidemic” Jewish hatred?

It can’t be understood without understanding that Israel is still considered a well functioning democracy despite its control over the lives of 4 million Palestinians in the West Bank and 2 million in Gaza. It can’t be understood without acknowledging that Zionism is still considered a legitimate expression of Jewish national self-determination despite the past and present catastrophe it has created for another people.

It can’t be understood without acknowledging that anti-Zionists easily slide into antisemitic tropes because Israel presents itself as the nation state of the Jewish people rather than the nation of its citizens. It can’t be understood without acknowledging that the Jewish communal leadership believe they have a responsibility to advocate for a foreign country.

It can’t be understood without acknowledging that there exists a significant number of British Jews who support Corbyn and support Palestinian solidarity. It can’t be understood without acknowledging that Jeremy Corbyn cannot face down his critics on their own blindness to the “rampant” discrimination caused by Israel’s actions without imploding his leadership of the party. So, indeed it’s complicated. All of these things are ‘in play’ and the stakes just got higher.

As I said yesterday morning, the blatant attempt by the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council to topple Corbyn could backfire very badly on them and whole Jewish community.


Comments (23)

  • Ruth Truswell says:

    I am absolutely amazed that these sentiments get no airing on mainstream media, and it is a sorry reflection on the lack of interest in a balanced story. More interested in fanning the flames of hatred – thank you x

  • Igi Moon says:

    I am also frustrated and appalled but not surprised that the right wing media and the right wing of labour are using the Jewish Community in this way – disgusting

  • Paul Sparks says:

    Thank you for injecting a note of sanity and moderation into this issue. It is depressing that those qualities are almost entirely absent from mainstream media coverage, which seems to be pursuing a completely different political agenda by stealth.

  • Mike Godwin says:

    Well said!

  • Edward Mander says:

    Excellent thoughtful piece

  • Bill Williamson says:

    I think you are speaking for many people who are appalled at the behaviour of Labour MPs who lent their names to this demonstration. Your account of the forces at play is clear and credible. My fear is that the actions of the demonstrators and of the main stream media dovetail with a a growing sense – articulated this weekend by John Simpson of the BBC – that there is a growing risk of war in the Middle East. Israeli hawks are keen to destroy the Iran deal with an attack on Iran and Hezbollah In Lebanon. In this they have the support of the USA. If it happens there will be violence which may not be containable since it will drag in Russia and Saudi Arabia and Turkey. If it happens, its would be a war driven in large part by Israel and its western supporters. Corbyn is a handy distraction to soften us all up into accepting that unqualified support for Israel is a necessary condition for peace in the region. To the warmongers, Corbyn is a threat to be neutralised.

  • Frank says:

    A good, lucid comment. Thsnks! God bless you.

  • Constance says:

    were? a diverse country now can learn from each other we have mixed marriage vote out faith is our personal choice choice and how we respect each other and witch party we vote for


    At a time when Netanyahu moves towards an apartheid state where Palestinians will not be accorded equal rights, I am not surprised at the attempts to dismantle legitimate support grouos, including Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour.

    I am not surprised by the ludicrous claims that antisemitism is rife in Labour when all the evidence contradicts such assertions.

    I am not surprised that certain anti-Corbyn Labour MPs are prepared to damage our electoral chance once more, allowing our vulnerable to continue as victims of a selective and ideological Tory austerity programme.

    I am surprised that Corbyn’s advisers propose appeasement to those who demand the scalps of Shami Chakrabarti and Jackie Walker, without due process, which could be considered clearly racist.

  • Alexander Harper says:

    Wonderful blog, succinct, says it all. You should try and publish it in the correspondence columns of one the national newspapers.

  • Teresa Steele says:

    Well said, and thank you for a measured article. If I were Jewish I would be very upset at being politically used in this way.

  • Christine Gormley says:

    Thank you for injecting some common sense into this whole affair. I’m glad I’m not the only one who sees the web of lies being spun

  • Evelyn Bowles says:

    Thank you for this post, Robert, you pick up on many strands of a complicated picture. The political context for the right-leaning BOD protest was not explored AT ALL on the main Radio 4 News programs throughout Monday, and the field was left almost entirely to those constructing the narrative of ‘antisemitism at all levels of the Labour Party’. The protest AND ITS REPORTING was so biased it almost appears as if designed to illicit a backlash – which IF it occurs will be seized upon as post-facto ‘proof’ of the original charge.
    You demonstrate the correct response – analysis of who is saying what and the whole range of their possible motives. We must all educate ourselves on the background to these claims (looking at the BOD website and then finding JVL was most enlightening) and use rational and factual argument to counter the slur.

  • Jim Denham says:

    From the Graun; Christine Shawcroft realises she’s made a terrible mistake:


    [This comment has been edited. The original contained the complete Guardian article.

  • Ron Moule says:

    Some very good points but what an outdated and tedious writing style. I am sure written in anger and wanted to make those links (all legitimate) but it is hectoring and unimaginative.

  • Ron Moule says:

    There are also proofing errors which, in this type of repetition, completely break the flow.

  • “It can’t be understood without acknowledging that anti-Zionists easily slide into antisemitic tropes”. Robert, the question at this point is not whether antizionists easily slip into antisemitic tropes but the extent to which the Jewish community might be held collectively responsible for turning a blind eye or actively condoning exercises of power in Washington and elsewhere thus effectively perpetuating such tropes by turning them into a reality. As a Jew and an Israeli I say that the refusal of a large majority in the Jewish community to condemn Israel for its human rights breaches and violation of international treaties and their refusal to extend solidarity to other vilnerables refugees, immigrants, muslims in those parts of the world being attacked by US neocon forces etc is highly problematic. We need to distance ourselves not just from Israel but also from the political elites and economic system that are promoting these injustices. If we do not do that, we risk being identified with them… again!

  • keith r lay says:

    This is a very significan piece of journalism Mr Cohen, thankyou massively

  • Jeffrey Harris says:

    Very Good Piece .Thank You

  • Linda Vaux says:

    Excellent piece, but I have one slight but important quibble. The saboteurs do not in fact oppose Corbyn because they believe he is an ‘electoral liability’. Their problem is that they know full well he is not. A real left leaning, socialist Labour party and government is the stuff of neo liberal nightmares. Hence their frantic attempts to unseat the best hope of such a government.

  • Jenny Weinstein says:

    The problem is that rank and file labour party members have not been given the opportunity to hear about and discuss these complex issues. Remember anti racism training? We need something like that.

  • I saw the first 2 lines on a Tweet and thought “Oh no its still going on”, I very nearly responded badly…but then I did, follow the link, and read the article, and read all the comments, AND feel the need to write one myself.
    What a great piece of work, thank you and all of the commentators too(Except the guy nitpicking about your writing style…there is always someone who can do better, but didn’t)

  • Vince Martin says:

    As all the above, I am pleased to see a nuanced appraisal of the situation around the protests. Dare I just say though that being a part of British society it must be expected that some level of anti-semitism, deliberate or unintentional, will exist in any British organisation, including the Labour Party. Training against this as against islamophobia, homophobia, racismn and any other divisive and hate instilling tendency can only be good. All that said, I have yet to experiencebanti-semitism in Stockport CLP.

Comments are now closed.