There’s an acrid stench of stale turgidity emanating from the inexorable anti-Semitism headlines. This week, commentators accused Jeremy Corbyn of bias for standing against anti-Semitism and, racism in any form. Condemning anti-Semitism doesn’t count, it seems, unless it is singled out for special treatment.
To suggest that some forms of racism are more worthy of censure than others is a disturbing development. Racism, in all its forms, must be called out. There can be no hierarchy where the oppression of one group is deemed more tolerable than that of another.
In ten years of genocide prevention, I have worked with faith leaders of all denominations. One of them, a rabbi, called me yesterday. He was dismayed at how Judaism is being “hijacked by the unrepresentative, yet omnipotent, pro-Israel lobby”. In a misguided attempt to discredit Jeremy Corbyn (for the crime of speaking out against the plight of Palestinians), he said, “They are sabotaging our fight against real anti-Semitism”.
In 2009, Peter Oborne exposed the ubiquitous, insidious reach of the Israel lobby in his Dispatches programme. In it, Michael Ancram, a former Conservative shadow Foreign Secretary said, “The pro-Israel lobby is the most powerful in British politics”.
Speaking at a Conservative Friends of Israel (CIF) dinner in 2008, amid accusations of Israel’s human rights abuses in Gaza, David Cameron addressed the party’s “biggest donors”. Gaza didn’t merit a mention, but he promised, “If I become prime minister, Israel has a friend who will never turn his back on Israel”. He who pays the piper calls the tune. Many believe that David Cameron’s BDS ban was pay back, or the first instalment.
The charges against the Labour party took root in February when Alex Chalmers resigned as co-chair of the Oxford Union Labour Club. He reportedly labelled the club’s support for Israel Apartheid Week, which aimed to highlight Israel’s “ongoing settler-colonial project and apartheid policies over the Palestinian people”, as anti-Semitic. It’s akin to accusing those who supported anti-apartheid in South Africa as anti-white. Conflating any criticism of Israel’s foreign policy with anti-Semitism is scurrilous, dishonest and an attack on free speech.
Then came Naz Shah’s tweets, which were sent two years ago when Ed Miliband, a Jew, was Labour leader. Why are they only emerging now? To cause as much damage as possible ahead of the local elections today. The media has made much of this being a test of Corbyn’s leadership, so right wing lobby groups, Blairites and the media, are seizing the opportunity to expedite his exit. Instead, it has galvanised his support.
The London Mayoral campaign has been plagued by dog whistling, with Tory candidate Zac Goldsmith accused of attempting to portray Labour’s candidate, Sadiq Khan, as a terrorist sympathiser. David Cameron was called racist in the House of Commons when he repeated accusations that Khan was affiliated with an imam he alleged to be an IS supporter. It transpired that Suliman Gani is a prominent anti-extremism campaigner and a Conservative supporter. He lambasted the Prime Minister’s personal attack as a betrayal. Boris Johnson was also accused of racism last week but the media is not calling for an inquiry into “rampant” racism in the Tory party.
Question Time on Thursday didn't raise any questions about the racist, scare mongering tactics employed throughout the mayoral election campaign by the Tory party. Instead it focused on Labour’s anti-Semitism allegations. The audience (and panel) was a sea of white faces. There was a pro-Israel panellist who licentiously attacked Labour’s “problem” with anti-Semitism. There was no Muslim voice to challenge the Islamaphobic rhetoric detonated by the Tories, like a hate bomb, spreading toxic contagion over London.
Earlier in the week, The BBC was forced to apologize after its presenter Andrew Neil also falsely referred to an imam as “a supporter of the Islamic State”. The man responsible for news and current affairs output (including Question Time) at the BBC is James Harding, an avowed pro-Israel proponent.
Jeremy Corbyn was right to condemn anti-Semitism and racism in any form. Whether it's Jews in the Holocaust, black Africans in Sudan or Muslims in Gaza, when it comes to human rights and racism, there can be no hierarchy of worthiness.