Right wing Labour MPs are using accusations of antisemitism up ramp up the pressure on Jeremy Corbyn.
Deputy leader Tom Watson has tried to characterise a split by nine Labour MPs last week as driven by antisemitism inside the party.
He wants to suggest there has been a rise in antisemitism inside Labour caused by its left wing membership—and by extension Corbyn.
A group of seven Labour MPs intially resigned last week to form a new group in parliament, along with three Tory defectors.
Two more Labour MPs—Joan Ryan and Ian Austin—quit Labour two days later and joined the Independent Group.
Both Ryan and Austin cited alleged antisemitism in the Labour Party. Both have shown that their understanding of antisemitism includes criticism of Israel such as branding it an apartheid state or discussing the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.
In a resignation statement, Ryan linked antisemitism to opposition to Israel. She complained that Corbyn had tried to “preserve the right ofantisemites to label Israel a ‘racist endeavour.”
And at a fringe meeting at Labour Party conference last year, Austin branded people who call Israel racist as a “poison that’s been brought into the party.”
The idea is to link antisemitism to opposition to Israel in order to accuse the left of being naturally antisemitic.
Giving in to this argument would be disastrous for the left.
Watson announced live on national television on Sunday that he had a dossier of 50 cases of alleged antisemitism by Labour members. He said he wanted Corbyn to deal with them all personally. He hoped to trap Corbyn.
If Corbyn refuses to handle them personally, he can be accused of tolerating antisemitism.
If he takes them on, the only conclusion acceptable to right wing MPs would be expulsion for all 50 cases. That would effectively mean Corbyn having to concede that Labour has a problem of widespread antisemitism, and that his leadership is the cause of it.
Despite this one of Corbyn’s key allies—Momentum founder Jon Lansman—said on national radio on Monday morning that Labour had “a much larger number of people with hardcore antisemitic opinions”.
Lansman also led calls last year for Labour to accept a definition of antisemitism that restricted legitimate criticism of Israel.
He hoped that this would end accusations of antisemitism against the left. But it only opened the left up to further smears and attacks.
The best response to the slew of claims about antisemitism is to stand firm on the insistence that it is not antisemitic to call Israel racist—and to go on the offensive over Palestine.