Claims that Corbyn personally is an antisemite have gone hand in hand with attempts to cast anti-Zionism—opposition to Israel’s racist founding ideology—as antisemitic.
The right have come up with increasingly outrageous attacks on Corbyn.
Last week right wing rabbi Jonathan Sacks compared Corbyn to the notorious racist Tory MP Enoch Powell
And on Sunday Labour MP Margaret Hodge repeated her accusation that Corbyn is a “fucking antisemitic racist”.
She can only get away with this because of the right’s success in characterising anti-Zionism as inherently antisemitic.
Zionism is the belief that Israel should exist in Palestine as an exclusively Jewish state—and that Palestinians should be excluded from any form of independent political control.
Modern Zionism justified the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians when Israel was established in 1948. It is used to justify the occupation of Palestine—and explains the oppression of Palestinians—today.
Also last week two bodies that claim to represent “mainstream Jews” demanded that Labour clamp down on antisemitism.
In a letter to Labour’s general secretary, they demanded a “deep cultural change” from Corbyn, including an apology for associating with anti-Zionists.
“Israel and Zionism are both inextricably Jewish. The more hatred they are subjected to, the more antisemitism there will be”, it said.
It’s not true that support for Israel and Zionism are intrinsic to Jewishness. But claiming there is makes it possible to discredit solidarity with Palestine as antisemitic.
The attacks on Corbyn began almost as soon as he was elected Labour leader. The accusations then were rarely that he himself is antisemitic—but that his long-standing support for Palestinians encouraged antisemites to join Labour.
Now, having gradually forced the left to make concessions to this argument, the right can say that opposition to Israel encourages antisemitism because anti-Zionism itself is antisemitic.
So it’s now possible for the right to openly brand Corbyn an antisemite—but only because they’ve discredited anti-Zionism.
In doing so, they hope to roll back years of growing support for the Palestinians and opposition to Israel.
Over 50 students and activists attended the National Student Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) conference last weekend at the University of Manchester.
Representatives from Palestine societies from around Britain came to discuss how to build an effective BDS campaign.
Workshops discussed British universities’ complicity with the Israeli state, from academic links to Israeli products sold on campus.
Huda Ammori, the organiser of the event, spoke about the successful BDS campaign that took place at Manchester last year.
But the conference didn’t deal with the question of the IHRA definition accepted by the National Union of Students and what this means for Palestinian activists.
It is vital that the left on campus, working with wider forces, does not dodge the question of the IHRA.
We have to be confident in rejecting that criticism of Israel is in anyway antisemitic and take up the issue of Palestine.
Socialist Worker Student Society delegation to the national BDS conference