Is anti-Semitism being manipulated for political gain, to oust Corbyn?
What will be the likely consequences of this?
by Dr Alan Maddison
“We must not inflame the situation beyond the facts” Bill Clinton once wisely said.
Yet that is what seems to be done by a Coalition of the Willing comprised of Tories, a minority of right-wing Labour MP’s and various supporters of the Israeli Government.
They have made heavily mediatised accusations that anti-Semitism is “endemic” in Labour, and this is somehow Corbyn’s fault. Rather strange as the man has a clear track record of fighting anti-Semitism all his life, as did his parents.
Of course there is anti-Semitism everywhere and no reason Labour, or any other political party, should be spared. It needs to be stopped. But is it really “ endemic” in Labour and is Corbyn really to blame?
Lets explore those accusations and see if they are supported by the facts. If they are not is this a political manipulation to oust Corbyn as many now suggest? Have those perpetrators in Labour really considered the broader consequences of their questionable tactical action?
- Anti-Semitic incidents in the UK
There has been a rise of anti-Semitic incidents in Europe relating to events in the Middle East. The Community Security Trust published in 2015 a report that indicated a significant increase in anti-Semitic incidents during 2014 in the United Kingdom.The report indicated that the number of anti-Semitic incidents more than doubled in 2014 compared to the previous year, reaching 1,168 incidents. As the largest contributing factor to this worrying increase, the CST name the conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip (resulting in deaths of 2,131 Palestinians, including over 550 children, and 71 Israelis).
Data for 2015, show a decline of around 20% for the whole UK but with increases in London.
- Anti- Semitic Incidents in Corbyn’s Labour Party
It is difficult to obtain historical data but it appears that there are currently 18 reported allegations of possible anti-Semitic incidents. Some of these relate to events which predate Corbyn’s leadership. All are investigated promptly to determine if they are true anti-Semitic or anti-Israel policy, and will be dealt with firmly we are told.
The Labour membership doubled in 2015 from around 200 000 to 388 000 so one could anticipate an unfortunate increase in absolute anti-Semitic incidents even if the rates are similar to the UK average yet do not change. As the 18 allegation cover incidents from over more than one year then this does not indicate that anti-Semitic incidents are more prevalent in the Labour Party than in the UK generally as claimed (around 0.002% per annum per capita). There is no evidence either for any increase under Corbyn’s leadership either in absolute or relative terms.
- Anti-Semitic sentiment in the UK
According to one recent UK survey conducted in June 2015 (Bruce Stokes, Faith in European Project Reviving www.pewglobal.org), 83% of those asked had a favourable opinion of jews, whilst 7% had an unfavourable opinion. In addition 20-50% felt UK jews had too much influence in politics, finance etc.. This survey is a snapshot of opinions that will vary over time related to external events as the CST indicated.
- Anti-Semitic sentiment in Corbyn’s Labour Party
I can find no evidence that the prevalence of negative views on UK jews is higher or lower than the published 7% estimated for the general UK population.
Many Labour members are critics of the current Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians, as reflected in the United Nation’s resolutions. Some may be anti-Zionist. I do not have figures for either group except to say that it is not anti-Semitic to hold or express such views. The fact though that this may be done rudely, or with line-crossing into anti-Semitism is to be deplored and stopped.
There are reports of some jews feeling “ uncomfortable” in Labour, yet other jews in Labour challenge this as a political smear to oust Corbyn.
So, as with anti-Semitic incidents, again I can find no convincing objective evidence to support the accusation that anti-Semitic sentiment is more prevalent in Labour than in the general population.
- Labour handling of anti-Semitism
Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell have made it clear publicly that there is no place for anti-Semitism in the Labour Party or anywhere, and that it should be stamped out wherever it is found. This includes the allegations regarding Ken Livingstone and Naz Shah which are being investigated following their suspension.
There is a procedure for handling anti-Semitic complaints by the NEC and this has been maintained by Corbyn, but two criticisms have been made by anti-Corbyn Labour MP’s;
- – combining statements of anti-Semitism with anti- Racism
The facts are that other racist attacks, including islamophobic incidents, are over five times more prevalent in the UK. Corbyn must mention this broader context so as not to upset or offend the 2.7 million muslims and other minorities in the UK, many of whom are fearful of attacks too.
- – slowness in reacting
Corby has at least to consult those accused of anti-Semitism, to hear their side of the story, or this becomes a witch hunt. Sometimes as with Ken Livingstone’s answer to a question on Hitler from Vanessa Feltz the answer is insensitive, but probably not anti-Semitic. So bending to vigilante pressure from anti-Corbyn MP’s is hardly desirable, we need a calm measured and fair procedure. Having said that recent complaints were handled quite promptly.
So once more the facts do not justify the accusations that this measured approach somehow means Corbyn in encouraging anti-Semitism.
The Consequences of this Political Inflammation.
In the previous section we see that accusations of anti-Semitism being “rife” in Labour, or as depicted below, are not supported by the facts.
Why Britain’s Labour Party Has Suddenly Become Synonymous With anti-Semitism United Kingdom. When senior party members spout vile anti-Jewish theories and at the same time insist they are in no way anti-Semites, they truly believe they are not lying.Anshel Pfeffer May 01, 2016 9:39 AM http://www.haaretz.com/world-news/europe/1.717050
Not only is there no evidence to support such claims but they are likely to incite hatred towards the Labour Party and its leaders.
Here we appreciate the advice of Bill Clinton, “We must not inflame the situation beyond the facts.” As all the previously described ‘inflammation beyond the facts’ will have several undesirable consequences as listed below ;
- It creates unnecessary worry amongst UK jews that Labour would not protect them against rises in anti-Semitism happening globally. They will have anxiety for themselves and their families. They should be reassured by the truth, because as a Labour party and its vast majority of members, we have always stood against anti-Semitism and always will. Under Corbyn’s leadership we will continue to do all we can to stamp out anti-Semitism and protect all jews and their families
- It creates unnecessary tension between communities by generating public arguments exposing emotional events such as ‘ the burning of a Palestinian baby by jewish settlers’ as aired on BBC April 30th, or the ‘ killing of jewish children by muslim fanatics in Toulouse.’
- It will upset UK muslims who suffer at least 5x more racist attacks each year and feel they are being ignored. They may question why the remarks of Tories against muslims are not given the same attention, especially in the media or by the vocal anti-Corbyn Labour MP’s. They may ask why they may not be allowed to criticise Israel’s policies against Palestine if such legitimate comments are conflated unfairly with anti-Semitism.
- It will feed prejudices that Jews or Israel have a disproportionate influence over British domestic politics.
- It will adversely and unfairly affect Labour chances in these local elections and the subsequent General Election. Labour would then be unable to protect the millions of poor who are victims of a Tory political austerity, the NHS, Public Services, Education, and our Economy.
- It damages the Labour Party itself. Corbyn was elected by a huge majority and is extremely popular in the party (and has an increasing lead with voters). He has started a vibrant participative programme for members who would resist any retrograde move back to the blairite out-dated top down process. Such conflicts will damage the party further – currently described as ‘tearing itself apart!’
So my message to any anti-Corbyn MP’s involved in this manipulation, and the other groups including the media; Lets stamp out anti-Semitism and all forms of racism, but it really is time to take Bill Clinton’s advice.