Socialist Worker

Fight the claim that the left is antisemitic 

by Nick Clark
Issue No. 2715

The lefts politics must not be discredited by the right.

The left's politics must not be discredited by the right. (Pic: Guy Smallman)


The renewed assault on the left is bigger than Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party. Disgraceful accusations of antisemitism are flung almost indiscriminately at the whole of the left.

At the root of it is an attempt to claim that the left’s opposition to Israel, and its support for Palestinians, is motivated by antisemitism.

One aspect of this is an attempt to conflate Jewish people with the state of Israel and its founding ideology Zionism.

The 2019 BBC Panorama documentary Is Labour Antisemitic? is an example of that.

Zionism 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 the documentary 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 cast 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.

Linked to this is an attempt to proclaim anti-war and anti‑imperialist politics in general as antisemitic.

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The left often focuses on Israel because of its role as the chief military defender of the US’s interests in the Middle East.

The US has given more money in aid to Israel than it has to any other country. It is increasingly in the form of military aid, fuelling the growth of the military that occupies Palestinian land.

In return, Israel defends the US’s interests in the Middle East. US and Israeli officials frequently describe their relationship in these terms.

The right want to claim that highlighting this is an antisemitic conspiracy theory.

Discredit

But the left opposes Israel because it’s an integral part of the US’s military domination of the Middle East that wrecks the lives of ordinary people, not because it’s Jewish.

Such attempts to discredit anti-war and pro-Palestine politics as antisemitic are nothing new.

But they only really got any purchase once Labour’s leadership under Jeremy Corbyn began giving ground to them. Now the right hope to cast other aspects of left wing politics as antisemitic too.

Antisemitic conspiracy theories, such as the idea that Jews control the banks and the media, have always been hallmarks of the far right. But now there’s an attempt to attribute those ideas to the left as well.

After the grime musician Wiley launched an antisemitic tirade on Twitter last weekend, some commentators tried to link him to Corbyn.

And, a series of wild and unfounded accusations against the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) also went viral on Twitter over the weekend.

Attempt

Claims that SWP members believe in “Jewish power over finance and the media” were shared by journalists and Labour politicians. None of them made any attempt to check if this was true.

But what the SWP actually believes didn’t matter to them. The SWP was just a handy stand in for a caricature of the left the right wants to invent.

The Twitter furores are just the start. The outcome of all this has consequences not just for the left inside Labour, but for other aspects of the left’s politics.

First and foremost, it will make it harder to campaign against Israel, but will also tarnish anti‑austerity, class politics with the brush of antisemitism.

Resisting the assault means a fighting a battle that’s much bigger than the Labour Party. It means unashamedly defending the politics of anti-Zionism and Palestine solidarity.


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