UK Labour's predictable descent into anti-Semitism
The British Labour Party's descent into totalitarian, anti-Semitic bigotry has been driven by the false belief that hatred of the Jewish state of Israel -- itself a vile form of bigotry -- can truly be divorced from hatred of the great mass of Jews
Back in September last year, The Commentator wrote a quick editorial explaining our view of Jeremy Corbyn's victory in the Labour Party leadership election. We billed it as the "retotalitarianisation" of the British Left. We condensed our concerns thus:
"Now, Labour has a leader who is essentially anti-Western, and that manifests itself in a multiplicity of ways from opposition to domestic free market economics to a systematic rationalisation of the anti-freedom agendas of groups such as Hamas and international leaders such as Vladimir Putin."
The latest string of anti-Semitic outbursts to come out of the Labour Party -- culminating in the party's much loved former London Mayor Ken Livingstone suggesting that Zionism was a kind of conspiracy between Nazis and Jews in 1930s Germany -- emphasises how far that process of retotalitarianisation has already gone.
As the centre-Left(ish) columnist Nick Cohen put it in an article in the Guardian on Saturday:
"When Jeremy Corbyn defended the Islamist likes of Raed Salah, who say that Jews dine on the blood of Christian children, he was continuing a tradition of communist accommodation with antisemitism that goes back to Stalin’s purges of Soviet Jews in the late 1940s.
"It is astonishing that you have to, but you must learn the worst of leftwing history now. For Labour is not just led by dirty men but by dirty old men, with roots in the contaminated soil of Marxist totalitarianism."
And so it is. But it is also important to underline the very specific reasons why, among all the other possible outcrops of totalitarianism, it is anti-Semitism that has taken centre stage.
At the top layer, the reason is an obsessive hatred of the Jewish state of Israel that has been building for decades, but which went into overdrive after the second Palestinian intifada and the failure (due to Palestinian rejectionism) of the Clinton-brokered peace talks of 2000.
A generation of Labour youth has now reached political maturity believing that Israel represents some kind of demonic evil. Quite ordinary party members therefore think nothing (indeed they are proud) of turning up on anti-Israel demonstrations alongside supporters of murderous anti-Semitic terror groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah.
It is often argued that anti-Zionist fanaticism started out in anti-colonialist, rather than traditionally anti-Semitic, Leftist traditions positing the Palestinians as a kind of pet, Third World liberation movement. But by now, what's the difference? Traditionally anti-Semitic and modern anti-Zionist tropes are largely interchangeable.
In both incarnations, real-world Jews are (and were) targeted for deligitimisation, boycotts, and, ultimately, destruction.
Where it started, is not an excuse for where it ended up. Nazism drew much of its early appeal from German resentment at the humiliation of the country attending the onerous impositions of the post World War I settlement.
Did Germans who felt that way have a point? Argue that point if you want to. But who cares when one considers where it all subsequently went?
In the end, one can go as deeply into the ever more blurred distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism as one wishes. But consider this: they're both mired in hatred, and they're both about Jews.
The fact that two closely related bigotries have intersected in the 21st century British Labour Party may be a cause for dismay, but it is not a cause for surprise.
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