I was getting to the stage where I didn’t think it was possible for the Labour Party antisemitism row to go any further. But it has. Jeremy Corbyn is now antisemitic because… yep… wait for it… he celebrated Seder with Jewish people. And, shock horror, he took a gift of beetroot from his allotment. Perhaps even more bizarrely, we’re supposed to accept without question the accusations from right-wing blog Guido Fawkes and believe the hype the Daily Mail is whipping up over the event.
I’ve been writing this piece in my head for a while. My background is Jewish; my father’s family are all Jewish. I describe myself as culturally Jewish. I don’t practise any religion, but Judaism is still my personal history and a big part of my family.
Antisemitism is on the rise and it is scary. I have friends who’ve been abused for being Jewish. And while most antisemitism is still the preserve of the far right, it also exists on the left. I’ve seen it in the tired trope of rich Jews – the Jewish conspiracy to run the world.
Momentum is right. There is antisemitism on the left, and it needs to be dealt with.
But here’s where the nuance comes in. Yes, nuance. It’s not very popular in modern-day politics when we are all supposed to scream from one side or another with our fingers in our ears.
Because it’s not just about challenging antisemitism on the left. We have to stamp out any and all racism and discrimination. We have to expect and demand better from our politics. We can leave the dog-whistle racism to the Conservatives and their cronies.
And we need to tackle it because two wrongs don’t make a right. We can all list countless examples of Conservative and right-wing media racism – as we should. It needs calling out and the comparisons have to be made. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t have to challenge what happens on the left.
Yes, there’s a big ‘but’ coming. A massive fucking ‘but’. Honestly, it’s getting boring having to say it, but being anti-Zionist is not being antisemitic. Questioning Israel’s aggressive policies, Palestinian deaths, and illegal land occupations does not make anyone antisemitic. Protesting Israeli interests and supporting the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign does not make someone antisemitic. Being Jewish is not being Israeli, and we need to stop conflating the two.
And for me, this is where the real danger lies. Calling people antisemitic for questioning Israel creates the real problem of dismissing the rise of antisemitism; it replaces actually doing something to stop the real nastiness with a witch-hunt.
Antisemitism needs to be challenged on the left – but because that’s the right thing to do, not because it suits the agenda of anti-Corbyn media and politicians.
Corbyn is one of the most genuinely committed anti-racist campaigners in mainstream politics. Current antisemitism accusations are mostly being led by politicians and a media that are using racism and discrimination against Jewish people for their own cynical agendas.
I don’t want the struggles my family has lived through to be used in this way. It disgusts and appals me. I want to see antisemitism stamped out for good; I don’t want to see it being manipulated.
So yes, let’s stamp out any and all real antisemitism. Not because of a right-wing agenda, but because all forms of racism need to be tackled; because the politics of the left should be about embracing diversity and challenging and fighting discrimination at each and every turn.
But let’s not forget that media agenda. Let’s not forget the “endemic racism” that exists in the Conservative Party. And let’s constantly remember that, for the majority of us, this is one of the reasons why we believe in left-wing politics. Because we believe that a better, fairer world is possible. For all.
– Support grassroots action against racism.
Featured image via Wikimedia/Rwendland