Jeremy Corbyn threatens the structures of racism in British politics. Don’t buy the smears.

Jeremy Corbyn
John McEvoy

Jeremy Corbyn opposes the structures of racism in British politics. That’s why political elites see him as a threat – and why their attempt to smear him as an enabler of racism is so absurd.

Anti-racists must resist attempts to get rid of him on these grounds.

Corbyn as a threat to imperialist racism

In the decades since World War II, says historian Mark Curtis, British foreign intervention has directly or indirectly caused the deaths of around 10 million people.

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If an alien were to visit planet Earth and review British foreign policy over these years, they would have no means of telling that political power in Britain ever changes hands. British imperialism, in other words, is a cross-party project. And it’s grounded in an institutional racism – one that, according to Curtis, reduces foreign humans to “Unpeople – those whose lives are seen as expendable in the pursuit of Britain’s economic and political goals”.

Jeremy Corbyn is the nearest that an anti-imperialist British politician has ever come to derailing this racist system. In a parallel universe where racism was the real concern of the British political and media establishment, this would dominate public conversation. Instead, we relentlessly hear of a ‘crisis’ of antisemitism in the Labour Party – led by the liberal imperialists at the Guardian – which seeks to make a Corbyn government an impossibility and frame the wider movement around him as racist.

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And it’s working. Around 27% of the UK public think Corbyn is an antisemite (incidentally around the same proportion of the population that trusts “the media in general”), and false accusations of antisemitism are toppling key Corbyn allies. Now, in the words of journalist Jonathan Cook, “the witchfinders are… ready to burn Corbyn”.

The attacks on Corbyn should horrify all anti-racists

Anti-racists should be horrified by this for three reasons.

Firstly, manufacturing a ‘crisis’ of “rampant” and “institutional” antisemitism (the number of accusations of antisemitism relate to 0.08% of the Labour Party membership – less than the average across British society) both dilutes the power of the word and undermines the credibility of genuine accusations within the Labour Party. Of course, one case of antisemitism is one too many and must be dealt with. But the wildly disproportionate response suggests these arguments are being made in bad faith. And as Jewish Voice for Labour wrote:

Crying wolf is dangerous when there are real wolves around the corner.

Secondly, the Israeli government has for years lobbied “for the inclusion of criticism of Israel in laws against anti-Semitism in Europe and the United States of America”. As James Wright wrote for The Canary, meanwhile, “Israel’s strategic affairs ministry has an outright ‘black ops’ policy of smearing the Palestine solidarity movement”. So Israel is clearly seeking to weaponise antisemitism to silence legitimate criticism of its actions.

Thirdly, the smear campaign’s main target is one of the most fervent anti-racists in British politics. To quote Malcolm X:

The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power.

Foreign policy is the area of government with the greatest potential for death and destruction. So keeping Corbyn out of Downing Street will likely have fatal consequences for the “unpeople” being gunned down with British-made arms; for the invisible victims of Britain’s future imperialist conquests. And that includes Palestinians.

Palestine

On 28 February, a UN Human Rights Council inquiry found that Israeli soldiers may have committed “war crimes” during 2018 by murdering Palestinian civilians including paramedics, journalists, and children. For many people following events in Palestine, the only surprising part of the report were the words “may have”.

Every Friday since 30 March 2018, Palestinians have demanded their right to refugee status and the end of the “prison” conditions imposed on Gaza by Israel and Egypt. Israeli soldiers have often responded by gunning them down. On 1 March 2019, the day after the publication of the UN report, Israeli forces reportedly injured a further 17 Palestinian protesters.

The protests are born of Israel’s racist treatment of Palestinians and its imposition of apartheid. As Jewish intellectual Noam Chomsky wrote in 1992:

If we’re not racists, then the indigenous [Palestinian] population has the same rights of self-determination as the settlers who replaced them.

But today, equal rights for Palestinians still remain a distant hope.

Corbyn, Labour, and arms sales to Israel

Corbyn is an outlier in the Labour Party, which has historically offered assistance to Israel during attacks on its neighbours. As Corbyn told then-PM Tony Blair in 2002:

The only way for a long-term, realistic peace in the region is for Israel to withdraw from Palestine; to accept United Nations resolutions on Palestinian self-determination; allow an independent… investigation into the massacres of Jenin; and to recognise a Palestinian state. And until that position has been achieved, will he ensure that the British government ceases all arms sales to Israel?

Britain’s collusion in Israeli war crimes is longstanding, yet barely reported in the corporate media. In 2016 and 2017, the UK sold over £400m worth of military goods to Israel. Further export licences were approved in June 2018, at a time when the British state was surely aware that they could be used to murder Palestinian protesters.

The UK also assists Israel with “cybersecurity”, components for nuclear submarines (while Israel’s nuclear weapons remain undeclared), and diplomatic ties are extensive.

The British government is, therefore, assisting a state allegedly involved in racist war crimes, while the British establishment stages a ‘crisis’ of antisemitism against one of the few people seeking to address this. This is the absurd and cynical inversion of ‘anti-racism’ that we’re currently seeing across British politics.

The UK’s foreign policy record on Israel – supporting an oppressive state with no apparent concern for the human consequences – is nothing new; it’s consistent with British foreign policy worldwide.

The real target’s not antisemitism. It’s Corbyn.

It’s almost like the British corporate media and political elite care less about racism than getting rid of Corbyn.

Indeed, many of those who enthusiastically backed the disastrous invasion of Iraq are the same people slandering Corbyn with charges of racism and antisemitism. Mike Gapes MP, for instance, is now in charge of “foreign affairs and defence” for the newly formed Independent Group. Gapes left the Labour Party on 18 February, saying he was “sickened that Labour is now perceived by many as a racist, anti-Semitic party”. Despite the many hundreds of thousands of Iraqi casualties and the invasion of Iraq leaving the country in ruin, Gapes still believes it wasn’t a mistake.

Ultimately, we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that Corbyn threatens to dismantle the racist structures of polite British political culture that offer legitimacy to politicians like Gapes and Tony Blair. Though the odds are stacked against Corbyn, that’s a revolution worth fighting for.

Featured image via screengrab via Owen Jones

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    1. Jeremy Corbyn threatens the structures of racism in British,
      politics. Don’t buy the smears.
      ///
      Some home truths for Tory Govt that needs addressing NOW
      Before March leaving D/ DAY for E.U. when all hell could
      KICK OFF HERE ON leaving day in our area over resist Tory Cllr
      Problems with the Migrant people round here.

      Just tell my why all Tory party members including Tory voters
      reinstating proven offenders of racism by Tory party members,
      So why was racist Tory Cllr to our area of Lancashire (Pendle area)
      reinstated Just win power round here in May 2018 local election.
      Some POINTs residents of P.B.C area under Tory rule NOW.
      We resident are outnumbered by 8-1 by Migrant people in population
      So why did Tory Govt reinstate the racist Tory Cllr that have Offended
      the Migrant people in our area on web platforms or over means

      When Tory M.P + Minister + Tory voters have a go at Labour party?
      what about you Tory racist Cllr in my area of Pendle all Tory Govt members supported back into their jobs as Cllr in Pendle area.
      WHEN or IF all hell kick off on the streets in our area when the Tory racist Cllr start up again attacking on web platforms tweets and over ways the Migrant people, that live in “my area who will keep us NON-Tory resident safe? WHO

      We are short of police Officers on our streets because of Tory FUNDING cuts. WILL the Tory Govt members + out Tory M.P. Andrew Stephenson,
      including our Tory P.B.C. leader Paul White + Tory Cllr Joe Cooney will you ALL? Be on the front line in the streets protecting us NON-Tory voters (residents) of Pendle Borough Council + Colne AREA YES OR NO.
      When your racist Tory Cllr all Tory member voted back in their seats this includes Tory voters in our area start another campaign against the Migrant people again that have lived here for many years now.

      FINALLY!
      To ALL Tory party members including Prime Minister Ms MAY do NOT
      have a go at Labour all the time when your own party is full of racists,
      members now, after you reinstated them in our area ,Pendle Lancashire
      That is run by Tory party now after May 2018 local election when you
      reinstated your Tory racist Cllr round here to win power ONLY.
      NONE-of Tory party members give a darn about our safety here
      WILL you Tories Cllr + our Tory M.P. be on the front line in the
      streets protecting us NONE Tory voters YES OR NO.
      I DO HOPE THIS TORIES PARTY PROBLEM NEVER UNFOLD HERE
      AFTER MARCH 2019 LEAVING DATE OF E.U. MESS.
      To all Migrants in “my area of Pendle Lancashire.
      Please be understanding over Tory Cllr problems has,
      you are better than them in many ways O.K.

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