Britain’s Labour Party overwhelmingly voted at its annual conference last week in Brighton to stiffen its rules against all forms of hate-speech, with a particular emphasis on anti-Semitism. Indeed the affiliated Jewish Labour Movement originally proposed the motion. Surely that’s a good thing, though had you been comatose for the last couple of years, you may have asked yourself why would a social-democratic party in the 21st century even have the need for rules on anti-Semitism?
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But this is Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, and ever since his surprise election as party leader in September 2015, Labour has been rocked with constant anti-Semitism scandals, the perpetrators of which have always been diehard Corbyn supporters. So tighter, more explicit rules are necessary, but Labour has hardly covered itself in glory for passing them. The conference itself was ridden with its own anti-semitism incidents, when at one fringe event a speaker (not a Labour member himself) said that such rules inhibit freedom of speech and that everyone should be allowed to question everything, even whether the Holocaust happened.
This may have been excused as a freak occurrence at an event on the far margins of the conference, but some of Corbyn’s closest allies were just as bad. Film director and veteran activist Ken Loach refused to rule out Holocaust denial as legitimate either, and said that he had never hear any anti-Semitic statement in all his many decades in the party. Len McCluskey, leader of the biggest trade union in Britain and one of the most powerful men in today’s Labour said the accusations of anti-Semitism were just “mood music that was created by people who were trying to undermine Jeremy Corbyn.” Add to this leaflets handed at the conference equating Israel with Nazi Germany and calls there to banish the Jewish Labour Movement from the party, and you sort of understand why Labour needs new rules and that they are still far from being sufficient.
None of this even begins to explain why the political party that has traditionally been at the forefront of protecting Britain’s minorities, and for which as recently as the late 1970s the majority of British Jews voted, has now become under Corbyn such an attractive venue for Jew-haters and Holocaust deniers. Those who seek to defend Corbyn and deny that Labour even has an anti-Semitism problem claim that is only because of Israel. Corbyn, who has campaigned over his long career in favor of just about every fashionable radical-left and anti-Western cause, from Castro’s Cuba to Irish Republican terrorism, is of course also a stalwart of the pro-Palestinian campaign. That, his defenders say, is the reason he is being tarred with anti-Semitism. It is simply a devious method of his opponents within Labour and from the right to delegitimize him.
Corbyn himself, while he has embraced many bona fide Jew-haters over the years, has never himself been tainted with actual anti-Semitism and indeed includes a not insignificant number of prominent Jewish activists in his entourage. That still doesn’t explain why he seems to attract so many anti-Semites. It certainly isn’t just because of Israel – after all you would find it hard to find a more muscular pro-Israel party in the western world than today’s Republican Party in the U.S., and yet Republican President Donald Trump has also drawn to his flag the worst of America’s white supremacists, neo-Nazis and Klansmen. And this is the first president with Jewish grandchildren.
The attraction both Corbyn and Trump hold for anti-Semites cannot be explained by their own very different views on Israel or their personal views towards Jews. And while there are probably no two politicians leading major western political parties further apart than Trump and Corbyn, there are some striking similarities in their attitudes that make them so attractive to Jew-haters.
If there’s one thing above all else the Trumpists and Corbynistas have in common, it’s their deep hostility toward the “fake news” media and anything it reports. In both cases it has led to an increasing reliance on the echo-chambers of social media, the flourishing of “alternative” websites which tell the faithful what to hear – Breitbart and its ilk in the U.S., The Canary and similar offshoots in the U.K., and to an atmosphere of thuggishness towards mainstream journalists who have the temerity to ask difficult questions. This has become so bad in Corbyn's Labour that the BBC felt the need at the party’s conference last week to provide its political editor Laura Kuenssberg with bodyguards.
The Corbyn-loving Canary has been running a sexist hate campaign against Kuenssberg for not being sufficiently reverent of the Great Leader. One of its correspondents, who ran a totally fabricated piece last week on her speaking at the hated Tory conference, is a man called Steve Topple, a habitual tweeter of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories (he claims among other things that the Jews have somehow taken over the British royal family). This is just one example of how the anti-media atmosphere in these seemingly very different circles on both sides of the Atlantic have allowed all manner of racists, conspiracists and deniers to be treated as legitimate sources. These alternative “news” organizations have of course learned from the Kremlin-sponsored and directed Russia Today, which has regularly featured white supremacists and Holocaust deniers as bona fide commentators, and was an early endorser of Corbyn and Trump (as well as more recently the far-right Alternative for Deutschland party in Germany).
Politicians who foster a fact-free environment in which alternative-truth journalism prospers draw by nature propagators and believers of creeds that hold devious hidden forces responsible for all that is wrong in today’s world. And even if these politicians themselves don’t hold to all these beliefs, they will always include the oldest conspiracy theory of all – that the Jews run everything. And they can’t repudiate these unsavory allies; indeed both Trump and Corbyn have gone out of their way not alienate them, because they agree with them on many other things and rely on them to put their message out.
It used to be said that the Jews were the canary in the coalmine, their situation a barometer of how free and democratic a society is. Today it is the Jew-haters who are the barometers and there’s something fundamentally wrong with a politician who attracts anti-Semitic supporters like the writers of The Canary.