JVL Introduction

Justin Schlosberg, media researcher and activist, reminds us that a particular hatred expressed by antisemites has been reserved for leftist and especially socialist Jews: “some of the most blatant and vicious anti-Jewish abuse has surfaced amongst the very people who have been (literally) screaming about anti-semitism within Labour”

Anti-Jewish hatred is becoming normalised on the right, and Corbyn’s critics are turning a blind eye

Justin Schlosberg, Medium

For some time now — and before the emergence of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party — right wing forces in British politics and media have been raising the alarm about anti-semitism on the left. This is broadly to be welcomed. There have long been isolated but unambiguous examples of anti-Jewish hatred surfacing in left-wing discourse, especially around the issue of Israel/Palestine. Alarmingly some of these utterances — including language that adopts or treads dangerously close to the diatribe of holocaust denial — have been voiced by people who have held elected office within the Labour Party.

Alongside this, there have been considerably more examples of insensitive statements which, although not anti-semitic, amount to the kind of language all too easily embraced and exploited by those who are. Pete Willsman’s recent reference to“some of these people in the Jewish community” who support Donald Trump is a prime example.

But Willsman did not say, as widely reported, that the whole issue of anti-semitism within the Labour Party had been fabricated by Trump-supporting Jews. The disjuncture between what was said and what was paraphrased in headlines has become all too familiar, and it is precisely this kind of distortion that has led many to call ‘smear’.

But those who suggest that the issue of anti-semitism has been even partly hijacked for political gain, are accused in turn of being complicit in the ‘problem’, denying its existence or seeking to distract attention from it. Or, in a particularly twisted logic, adopting the anti-semitic trope of conspiracy.

Contrary to received wisdom, the impact of this narrative on the polls reached its zenith under Corbyn’s predecessor, Ed Miliband. It was under Miliband, not Corbyn, that Jewish support for Labour collapsed. Ironically, Miliband was Labour’s first ever Jewish leader who was himself subjected to deeply personalised and insidious anti-semitic attacks in the right wing press.

And here lies the burning paradox of this whole debate. It’s not just that widespread disinformation, amplified by the BBC, is weakening the fight against real anti-semitism by exploiting and distorting it in ways that can actually help to normalise it. The ugliest aspect is that some of the most blatant and vicious anti-Jewish abuse has surfaced amongst the very people who have been (literally) screaming about anti-semitism within Labour.

Take the Daily Mail’s Dan Hodges, a front line champion of the cause to the extent that he has adopted — in some warped gesture of solidarity — the anti-semitic triple brackets symbol for ‘Jew’ on his own Twitter handle. Last year, he openly referred to one Jewish Corbyn supporter as a “useful Jewish idiot”. That kind of statement doesn’t require any nuanced definition or elaborated code in order to ascertain exactly what it is.

But the problem doesn’t end there. Hodges was speaking to a broader and more subtle identification of ‘bad Jews’ that has endemic anti-semitic undertones. The most vivid manifestation of this occurred earlier this year when Jeremy Corbyn attended a Passover ‘seder’ hosted by the progressive collective Jewdas. Front and home page lead headlines condemned Corbyn in literal terms for fraternising with a “militant Jewish group” whose satirical mockery of the British monarchy was described by the Daily Mail as “sickening attacks on Queen and Philip”.

The historical roots of anti-semitic tropes associated with conspiracy and power are now well-known. Less well-known but no less steeped in the narratives adopted by anti-semitic ideologues is a particular hatred reserved for leftist and especially socialist Jews. There is perhaps no more disturbing illustration of this than the fallout from an article which appeared in the Jewish Chronicle in 2011, with a derogatory headline referencing ‘top Jewish socialists’ that would not have seemed out of place in an extreme right publication.The headline itself would not have seemed out of place in an extreme right publication. Indeed, it was recently revealed that the family in question subsequently pleaded with the paper’s editor to remove the article, following receipt of death threats and having their personal details profiled on overtly racist platforms such as Stormfront. The editor, Stephen Pollard, refused.

Such is the protection afforded to anti-Jewish hatred so long as it doesn’t confront Israel; so long as it is couched within the language of right-wing ideology; and so long as it targets the ‘wrong’ sorts of Jews.