There has emerged a new and ugly McCarthyism in our midst that if not confronted will ensure the ignominy and disgrace of the left in this generation and for generations to come.
Instead of fuelling a political witchhunt of supporters or sympathisers with communism, the modern variant of McCarthyism is fuelling a campaign to identify, smear and demonise opponents and critics of the state of Israel with the charge of antisemitism. The specific focus of this new McCarthyite campaign is the Labour Party. Even more specificially, its focus is the Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour Party.
The resulting media storm over incidences of alleged and actual antisemitism by a tiny number of Labour Party members, uncovered over the past few weeks, is conspicuously absent when it comes to the existence and activities of Labour Friends of Israel, a faction within the Labour Party committed to building and offering political support for Israel, which by way of a reminder is a racist, supermacist, apartheid state founded on a programme of terrorism and the mass ethnic cleansing of Palestinian people between 1946-48. This ethnic cleansing and theft of Palestinian land has continued in the decades since, accompanied by illegal military occupation, home demolitions, siege, the theft of natural resources, and the periodic mass murder and slaughter of Palestinian civilians, including women and children, utilising the most advanced weaponry in the world today.
This aggressive witchhunt of ‘anti-semites under the bed’ we are witnessing is less to do with confronting a rising tide of antisemitism within and without the Labour Party, as important as that would be if it comprised the threat some are attempting to argue it does, and more to do with delegitimising solidarity with the Palestinians and their ongoing struggle for human rights, self determination, and liberation from the most sustained oppression of any people in modern history, outlined in the previous chapter.
It is the fact that Israel’s brutal subjugation of an entire people for the crime of daring to exist is allowed to go on year after year, with the support and connivance of the political mainstream in the UK and throughout the West, which leaves us in no doubt that those who have extended themselves in exposing and rooting out antisemitism are complicit in that subjugation.
Labour Friends of Israel counts among its members many of the party’s most senior politicians, officials, and donors. We are talking about the great and the good of a Labour Party establishment, people for whom Israel represents a beacon of democracy in a region beset by extremism and barbarism. The problem with this narrative, of course, is that Israel is a state whose democracy – democracy, that is, for the chosen few – itself rests on foundations of extremism and barbarism. This particular brand of extremism and barbarism, however, is packaged as modernity and security.
What these supporters of Israel are really responding to is not the recrudescence of the fascism-cum-1930s they would like us to believe is upon us. What they are responding to is the growing support for BDS and its success in highlighting the grotesque injustice that describes the day to day reality for the Palestinians, and in breaking through the political cordon sanitaire around Israel that had long prevented any serious challenge to its right to exist as an apartheid state. We know this to be the case because Western governments, still wedded to unconditional support for Israel regardless of its repeated violations of international law and refusal to budge an inch from the exceptionalism it has long exploited to be able to so with impunity, are intent on making boycotting Israel a criminal offence.
If allowed to obtain, such a legal stricture on one of the most precious of human attributes – namely the ability to act in solidarity with the victims of injustice – would constitute a monstrous violation of individual and moral conscience. It also lays bare the nauseating hypocrisy of those who speak the language of democracy and human rights while acting to protect and preserve the right of a particular state to trample both beneath an apparatus of oppression which stands as a rebuke to those who would have us believe that human rights are anything other than a gift to be bestowed rather than the universal rights enshrined in the UN Charter (1945).
Antisemitism is so serious, has led to some of the most heinous acts of human cruelty ever committed, that exploiting it in pursuit of censoring those who are committed to confronting the cruelty of apartheid and occupation in the name of its past victims, is the real offense. Here, it must be recognised that it is in the interests of Israel and its supporters to conflate criticism of Israel with antisemitism in order to attack their credibility and to deter others from joining them. Indeed, given the growing traction of BDS, this now constitutes a key front in the struggle for Palestinian human rights and liberation.
In the last analysis, there is nothing more contemptible than bigots taking the moral high ground against bigotry.
Step forward Labour Friends of Israel.