How to fight the witch hunt, and win

Kerry-anne Mendoza

Anyone still arguing the antisemitism smear campaign is anything but a witch hunt is a liar, an idiot, or both. It is a cynical attempt to shutdown the anti-apartheid struggle of the Palestinian people and their allies. It is a horrific abuse of Jewish trauma and identity. And for a campaign claiming to act on behalf of Jewish people everywhere, it saves some of its cruellest abuse for anti-zionist and/or left wing Jews. Every capitulation emboldens them. And that’s why it has to stop.

The Corbyn Issue

The rise of Corbyn threatened overlapping interest groups. Zionists of all stripes; conservatives; middle class liberals who prefer working class voices on mute; all recoiled in horror at the mass movement of working class, internationalist, anti-racist socialists. What to do?

First Corbyn was laughed off as a “Magic Grandpa“. When that didn’t work, he was made out to be a “terrorist sympathiser“. At one point they even alleged he was a Czech spy. It was smear after baseless smear, and none of it stuck. And so began a near half-decade campaign to pretend he was an “existential threat” to British Jews. Anyone reviewing Corbyn’s decades-long career in parliament, and his actions outside of it, knows this is nonsense. Most of the people promoting it feverishly know it’s nonsense. But instead of confronting that directly, a policy of appeasement has put Labour back in the hands of these gaslighting smear merchants.

We can forgive anyone who was put on the back foot by this on day one. As anti-racists, our very first response is – and should be – to treat accusations of racism in good faith. But when it becomes abundantly clear that people are using the issue to wage a factional political battle, indulging it is a catastrophic mistake. It’s a failure of solidarity and strategy to reward your enemies and punish your allies. And anyone advising Corbyn to capitulate any further to this campaign is jeopardising the Left and the Palestinian struggle.

Why it matters

Above all, this is a disinformation campaign. It seeks to make the simple complex. The fact that Israel is an apartheid state, illegally occupying Palestine, is simple. The role of hasbara (Israeli disinformation) is to fudge the issue. As Tanzil Chowdhury wrote for openDemocracy during apartheid Israel’s Summer 2014 assault on the Gaza Strip:

The hasbara machine is most dynamic in the crescendos of the illegal occupation and blockade such as we have seen unravelling before us over the last month. But it moves beyond mere silencing tactics, equating criticism of its government with anti-Semitism or exceptionalising suffering.

The witch hunt argues people oppose Israel, not because of apartheid, but because of their hatred of Jews. No evidence is required to substantiate the claim. If offered, it mostly amounts to the last five times the witch hunt smeared someone. This self-referential disinformation network picks a target, drops its payload, and hopes the pressure generated will force a reaction. An apology, a cancellation, a suspension, a hostile environment. And so every time anyone gives them that, they enable and embolden the witch hunt. Each bogus apology empowers those false narratives, giving them a weight and a credence they don’t deserve. Ultimately, it makes it more likely that they will continue to escalate their attacks.

And they did. This is why Corbyn is now unable to sit in parliament as a Labour MP.

Censorship

The witch hunt continues to attempt to shut down its critics with bogus accusations of antisemitism. On Sunday 29 November, they attempted to claim I was suspended from Twitter for antisemitism. In fact, my two suspensions were for criticism of the far-right. In one case, a literal Nazi. I shared the image of a story circulating since 2016, of a man wearing a swastika neck tattoo and a poppy at a Remembrance Service.

They reported that tweet en masse, triggering an automatic suspension. It didn’t matter to them that I was explicitly condemning Nazism in the tweet, they reported it as hate speech. They risked making Nazis a protected category in order to pretend I am an antisemite. Let that sink in.

Then on Sunday, another suspension. This time, the witch hunt took full credit online, with a number of figures claiming to have reported a tweet of mine as antisemitic. What was the tweet?

There was a sincere attempt to claim this fair, obvious and widely-shared comparison was actually antisemitic. As Jewish former South African ANC MP Andrew Feinstein points out, this is nonsense.

Thanks to an amazing response from new left media and socialist Twitter, the social media company restored my account, claiming the suspension was a “mistake”.

Enough

You cannot appease emotional terrorists.

The only appropriate response to a mendacious smear campaign like this is solidarity and truth. The only way forward is to reject the false reality promoted by the witch hunt. It is not antisemitic to oppose apartheid. It is not antisemitic to compare apartheid and occupation undertaken by Israel with that undertaken by any other ethno-nationalist regime. These things are not antisemitic unless you equate global Jewry with the State of Israel, which (ironically) actually would be antisemitic.

We need to do this with our chins up and our chests out. Enough of being cowed and apologetic for our very existence. Enough with the godawful attempts at optics-friendly triangulation. And for goodness’ sakes enough with shunning new left media while embracing a toxic establishment media.

These people are lying, and it’s time to say that out loud. Because, in the words of Russian revolutionary Victor Serge:

“… after all, there is such a thing as truth.”

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons

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  • Show Comments
      1. Or as Julian Assange said, “Truth, ultimately, is all we have.”
        Our Emergency Motion in our London CLP was blocked but we put our statements in the chat.
        “Angela Rayner admitted that Jeremy Corbyn was telling the truth and if it were true as is recorded that the real numbers of cases of suspected antisemitism in the Labour Party was 0.03% instead of the public perception of 34% wouldn’t it be unacceptable that the truth was not told? Wouldn’t that mean that the fear and hurt stoked by the vicious right-wing press and others and introduced into some Jewish Communities was a cruel act and that it would be a humane response to alleviate that fear engendered by historic trauma? That is what Jeremy Corbyn did. And, the EHRC Report stipulated that he had a right to do this by quoting Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
        Let’s be clear, in the EHRC Report there is no finding of institutional racism nor any evidence of widespread antisemitism in the Labour Party.”
        Also quoted from a letter signed by 2000 South Africans:
        “Jeremy Corbyn’s suspension from the Labour Party is shameful, not least because he is one of the party’s most steadfast long time anti-racist activists. We should know: we fought by his side to end apartheid in South Africa.”
        We are fighting back. To remain silent is to consent.

    1. Couldn’t agree more. If you give ground to baseless accusation and apologize when there is nothing to apologize for. You just just give credence to the false narrative. This attack is especially diabolical in that it relies on the strong principles of many on the left of anti-racism. It also uses the horrific historical persecution of Jewish people as a political tool (itself antisemitic). When you cry wolf, none will come when the real wolves come to your door. The far right is on the march again
      with ground gained in many parts of the world, most crucially the US. Those behind this witch hunt are endangering the very community the purport to support.

    2. I couldn’t agree more. The Labour Party are doing a great disservice to Jewish people everywhere when they conflate the actions of Israel and Judaism. This really IS anti-semitic.

      Israel is a country and, like every other country, has it’s faults for which it should rightly be criticised. No one, no country is beyond reproach.

      I’ve never seen such a prolific and bitter smear campaign as the one against Jeremy Corbyn. After failing to oust him they went straight to dirty tactics. Continually briefing against him using smears and innuendo and feeding it to the press, mostly the right wing press, who lapped it up. This wasn’t right wing smears, this was internal Labour policy in action.

      Of course the thing that finally did for Corbyn’s leadership was NOT the anti-semitism smear, Labour voters knew this was manufactured. Rather it was Kier Starmer leading the charge to change Labour policy on the referendum by having a second vote instead of ‘respecting the vote’ and trying to get the best deal possible. This one decision, pushed by Starmer, cost Labour many seats and the possibility of a win. And this was not by accident. Starmer and his part of the party KNEW that smearing Corbyn had a negative impact on the vote and what’s more, they knew that pushing a second vote would turn away enough dyed-in-the-wool voters to cause a massive loss. Starmer & Co deliberately decided to lose big to get Corbyn out. Now though the thinking (Starmer’s) on Brexit has completely changed!! Proving the point..

    3. “If you let it slide it will continue. If it continues it will escalate.”

      I saw this quote in the essay “When someone you love is racist”. It was used in a different context but I think it fits in with the left”s appeasement of the right in the Labour Party. As McDonnell said, in a rather surprised voice, “But we did everything they asked of us”. Did he not know you can never bend backwards far enough for a bully.

      https://www.embracerace.org/resources/when-the-racist-is-someone-you-know-and-love

    4. My thoughts are that by constantly lying about anti Semitism and Jeremy, the message the British people heard was that he was a nasty horrible human being. Anyone with an ounce of sense knows that to be complete and utter rubbish, anyone with sense knows that the British people couldn’t care less about anti semitism but when told what to think by the MSM they do so. How many times did I hear the words “i couldn’t vote for that nasty man” ? And when asked why? almost to a man they replied “because he will not push the nuclear button” !!!! So they wouldn’t vote for a man that would save them from certain death !! I think Kerry hit the nail fair and square with the sequence of events, the silly old leftie, the terrorist sympathiser the commie spy who wouldn’t defend the country by ending the world and then the master stroke of anti semantic. No one knows what that means no one cares about foreign countries or foreign religions but when told its bad by the MSM stenographers they believe it without question.

    5. You are utterly disgusting. What will it take for you and your thick racist friends to realise you’re in the wrong. Apparently the EHCR are all ‘Zionists’, but you fail to see that you’re in the same bracket as the BNP. At least they didn’t hide behind Palestine as a smoke screen. Nick Griffin even endorsed Corbyn for fucks sake. Instead of anyone who disagrees with you being a racist, you call them a Zionist. It’s pathetic.
      Aljazeera reported last month that a quarter of Muslims in the Labour party have experienced Islamophobia. Just look at Ali Milani’s comments. How dare you and the hard left of the labour party describe yourself as anti racists and scream insults at the right when in reality you’re twisted bigots with hateful views.
      87% of British Jews could see the anti-semitism in the Labour Party. How many times on these pages do we hear you preaching about listening to victims and minorities. Yet this goes down the pan when it comes to you and your approach to the Jewish community. You are on the wrong side of history.

      1. It is indeed rare to find ANYONE that actually believes all that guff, you are a rare and a rarified individual indeed, Dianesglassslipper.

        However, perhaps you should have a read of this article, written by a Labour-member Jewish person.

        It would be very odd, would it not, if a move to expell anti-Black racism in a party lead to mainly Black members being forced out? I mean, you’d wonder what the hades was going on, right?

        And yet, in that zeal for eradicating “Anti-Semitism within Labour”, the MAJORITY (!!!!!) of htose suspecded and expelled have all been jewish themselves.

        Don’t worry, I know you cannot explain this mystery. If you could, you wouldn’t be so rare, and you’d have joined us on the moral and ethical side of History..

        https://www.jewishvoiceforlabour.org.uk/article/jews-accused-of-antisemitism/

      2. DRS, little toy soldier, it seems your mendacity, or perhaps lack of intelligence, rears its tumulous head once more. I pursued the CLAIM that the Griffin character supported Mr Corbyn. Surprise surprise it was all a ruse to generate a negative reaction from the M$M, and of coourse the ruse worked. (https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/11/nick-griffin-does-not-back-corbyn.html) I wouldn’t accuse you and your sad misinformation strategy of being disgusting, although I do have a quote from your predictable rant: “It’s pathetic.” Griffin’s motivation for his statement appears to have been entirely negative: ” I did give the Zio-media a stick to beat Corbyn by saying I’d vote for him on foreign policy grounds.” No doubt the rest of the so-called ‘facts’ you throw into your “…hateful views” and bigoted mindset are equally suspect. We already know that the UK is institutionally racist and we beginning to see more clearly that the officials and representatives of political parties, civil servants, local council employees (at every level), uncle tom cobbley and all are representative of that institutionalised mindset. It’s not just a cultural remnant of ’empire’ that will take several generations to wither away. It is an issue being fanned back into life because it’s a convenient way to ‘divide and conquer’ and on a practical level in a society that depends on a permanent under-class to maintain our prosaic class structure it also needs some version of a ‘universal whipping-boy’ to appease the economic under-class’ sense of worthiness. As for the ‘87% of British Jews..’ comment; it seems that “The report’s findings are based on a representative sample of 1,614 British adults, who were asked for their views on seven statements about Jewish people.” (https://www.channel4.com/news/factcheck/factcheck-antisemitism-political-parties). As I have written before, you are little more than a needle-point injury Blimpy.

      3. Mind your language missy right shoe.
        If you need to resort to using foul swear words to make a point, (unsubstantiated) you have lost the ability to make a reasoned point in a debate.
        It also makes you look like the pub drunk being arrested in the car park, after his car keys have been removed by the landlord, for his own and other’s safety.

    6. Bookmarked. Thank you for a clear-hearted and well written article Kerry-Anne.

      Although one has to wonder how many “Socialists” are even left inside Labour to have it thrown at them still.

      “Anti-Semitism”; – also known as “Anti-racist Socialism”.

      It is easily observed that the majority of those who ‘accuse’ are wealthy, upper middle class individuals who are not at risk walking the streets from the far-right.

      We are literally at the edge of seeing the brave people who face up to and confront the far-right from physically attacking Jews being themselves labelled anti-Semitic.

      The irony – and of course this informs all the intelligent manipulators on the ‘other side’ – is that Zionism itself is an openly anti-Semitic idea and enterprise.

      How else could it not be? It is an openly racist and fascist ideology.

      Adolf Hitler would be so proud of what Israel has become. And it didn’t have to be like that.

    7. Bravo Kerry-anne! . A refreshing dose of honesty, at last in print. Brightened my day no end. Thank you for putting yourself out there ..
      We’ll get there .. that’s what’s so terrifying for the accusers.
      Stay strong.

    8. Some very interesting views and opinions here, not just from Kerry but from the numerous commentators. I must admit I’ve always wondered how a Jew could be an anti-semite, are they anti themselves? The first instance I remember was when Gerald Kaufman was called an anti-semite because of his views on Palestine. Such accusations, of course, expose the very nature of this whole campaign, it’s about preventing criticism of the Israeli state machine and has nothing to do with racism against Jewish people. In fact it detracts from the latter and means the rising power of the right wing “fascist” elements throughout the World goes almost unnoticed. The question we must ask ourselves is what is the best way to counter this? We must keep arguing and debating with left leaning friends and acquaintances who were take in by the constant barage aimed at JC, I’m sure you’re all doing this. However, the views of Jewish thinkers, authors, philosophers, writers, politicians and journalists must be at the fore of a counter attack. There are a huge number of Jewish people who were very supportive of the “Corbyn” project and we need to ensure that their views and ideas are published, promulgated and understood.
      As a final thought, I wonder if the time has come to set up a new socialist party? The support of at least one major union would be needed but there is a huge groundswell of support in the country, there are already a decent number of MPs in Parliament and there is Momentum amongst other groups. Just a thought.

    9. Sound article, however I find it comforting that there are still many outlets that calmly & rationally expose the attempts to discredit Corbyn, mainly by character assassination.
      In particular, I’d cite as I’ve done before ‘Bad News for Labour’ by Philo, berry et al. But I’m also well aware of what we are up against – the mighty media machine backed by equally powerful interests as exposed by Al-Jazeera, so as Kerry points out, now’s not the time to give up.
      Media Lens is also worth a mention.

    10. I am always so surprised that Jeremy Corbyn ever had enough time to be Leader of the Opposition and Labour Leader.
      What with being a Russian agent, a Czech spy, mates with the IRA, anti war, refusing to push the nuclear button, which is based in Scotland of course, being so nasty to Jews etc etc.
      Still the anti semantic problems in the MSM seems to have cleared up now, not a mention since the election.
      Marvellous! It’s no longer a problem now.

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