Editorials: The Antisemitism Paradox


This post does not condone antisemitism in any form. Antisemitism; as with any form of racism, should be condemned and attacked. But with the recent clustercrap regarding Jeremy Corbyn and antisemitism in the Labour Party, antisemitism has become the hot topic in politics.

So, let’s take this back to the beginning, specifically in the 1980’s. According to author Dave Rich, who’s 2016 book The Left and Antisemitism, antisemitic views trace back to the 1980’s, whereby some Labour members began to condone or advocate the Israel apartheid analogy; whereby Israel’s actions towards Palestinians were similar to the actions of South Africa during the apartheid. The indigenous populace being ruled by a minority.  Something I wish to add as a short postscript to this section is the difference between Antisemitism and Antizionism. While not mutually exclusive ideologies, there are differences. Antizionism is the belief that there should not be a sovereign Jewish state, and there are Jewish people who support that line of thinking. Antisemitism, however, is a hatred of Jewish people and culture, beyond the opposition of a nation state.

Understanding the origins, you can see where these critics of the Labour Party are coming from. If these sources are to be believed, then there has been a minority of Labour antisemites within and without the party. That does not mean, however, that the party is therefore antisemitic. Considering that the State of Israel was founded after a postwar Labour government ended the mandate of Palestine in the region, Labour could also be seen as an ally to the Israeli state.

Labour, in itself, is not an antisemitic party. An all-party Home Affairs Select Committee held an inquiry in 2016 into antisemitism in the United Kingdom. The committee found “no reliable, empirical evidence to support the notion that there is a higher prevalence of antisemitic attitudes within the Labour Party than any other political party, or indeed in this country as a whole”. That’s not to say that it doesn’t exist; as there is no denying its existence, though one must wonder why these claims are not being taken ‘seriously’ in the eyes of the press.

My theory is this: this is seen as a vicious media cycle. Since 2015, when Jeremy Corbyn was elected, and he had a huge base of support amongst the young, and the left of the party, these guys have defended the man, because of perceived media bias. In the context of antisemitism in the Labour party, when accusations are made by someone, the supporters on both sides double down. One siding with Corbyn, and the other attacking. This antisemitism paradox is a catch 22 situation. Something happens, media do their stuff, supporters double down defence and get nasty, and media double down on their attack. And this is not a media bias against somebody and for somebody else. It is a means of selling papers. It can be used by an opposing party to bolster their support or to divert attention, though I don’t consider it to be biased. Its just shock tactics selling papers. Heck, I am using it right now.

Antisemitism has no simple fix, it is a longstanding prejudice against a group of people, and against a religion. I just wish we’d stop fighting each other and work on it together. Jeremy Corbyn is doing what he can, but the Jewish Chronicle needs to offer solutions as well. We all need to be offering solutions. We don’t need massive fluff campaigns or a change in party policy. We need decisive action, and we all need to be pushing this boulder uphill, rather than in a perpetual struggle.

About the author


Since 2012, Benjamin Attwood has written for the If you Ask Ben blog.

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