The left faces further assaults from the right following a huge pay-out and apology to so-called whistleblowers who appeared in a BBC documentary last year.
Labour’s former right wing general secretary Ian McNicol has said he is suing the party. It follows a leaked report that appeared to show his role in undermining Jeremy Corbyn. And John Ware, who made the documentary “Is Labour antisemitic?”, has said he will sue Corbyn.
It comes after Labour, under current leader Keir Starmer’s leadership, apologised for criticising the documentary last year. The party also paid out a figure of around £180,000 to Ware and former Labour staffers who appeared in the documentary, in a court settlement.
The apology and settlement effectively concede the documentary’s accusation that Corbyn’s left wing politics encouraged antisemitism to grow inside Labour. In written apologies, Labour said, “Antisemitism has been a stain on the Labour Party in recent years.
“If we are to restore the trust of the Jewish community, we must demonstrate a change of leadership.”
It comes ahead of the imminent publication of an investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission into Labour’s handling of antisemitism accusations.
Many left wing Labour members are furious at the decision. They say Labour had strong legal advice that it could have won the cases in court.
And the leaked report appears to show that some who appeared in the documentary worked to undermine Corbyn and disrupt the party’s handling of antisemitism cases.
Yet the strongest response to the documentary is to refute its central allegation—that the left’s opposition to Israel encouraged antisemitism.
The whole documentary rested on a very dangerous conflation of Jewish people with the state of Israel and its founding ideology, Zionism. This is the idea that Jewish people should have a state of their own in Palestine, and that in this state they should be the majority.
It justified the ethnic cleansing of some 850,000 Palestinians from their homes when Israel was created in 1948. And it justifies the racist exclusion of Palestinians from Israel today.
Many Jews oppose Zionism because of this. Yet in the documentary Ware simply said that criticism of Zionism is “offensive to Jewish people because Zionism is the project that established Israel as a secure Jewish homeland”.
It made Zionism appear as something integral to being Jewish, and therefore anti-Zionism as essentially antisemitic. The left’s opposition to Israel was presented as the root of the problem—and clamping down on it the solution.
The documentary featured footage of Corbyn at a Palestine Solidarity Campaign demonstration leading a chant of, “We are all Palestinians.”
Some of those who appeared in the documentary—including those who received pay-outs—went along with the argument. One, Mike Creighton, called opposition to Israel “an obsession that just spills over all the time into antisemitism”.
He said Corbyn could have dealt with antisemitism “with a significant speech on the issue of the Middle East, particularly saying that Israel has a right to exist”.
The Labour left keep losing the battle over accusations of antisemitism because they keep refusing to challenge the claim that opposition to Israel is antisemitic.
The accusation is more than an attack on the Labour left—it’s an attack on Palestine solidarity as a whole. The fight against it can’t be won by trying to overcome the rottenness of Labour’s internal politics.
There must be a fight to defend the right to call Israel a racist state, and to resist the central accusation that opposition to Israel is antisemitic.