Straw Men and “Hard Zionists” in UK Political Race

UPDATE

The Independent has since amended Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s piece to reflect that it was Eddie Portnoy writing in the Forward and not the newspaper itself that had stated that Carlos Latuff was not anti-Semitic.

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While Americans keep a close eye on Republican and Democratic presidential primaries, the big political story in the UK is the likely election of a hard-left candidate, Jeremy Corbyn, as the leader of the opposition Labour Party, only one potential step away from prime minister of one of the USA’s most important international allies.

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Tough questions are being asked by the UK Jewish community as well as the wider media concerning Corbyn’s associations with a variety of characters who are not only hostile towards Israel but also explicitly anti-Semitic.

Jeremy Corbyn (Source: Garry Knight, Wikipedia)

Jeremy Corbyn

Columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown goes on the attack in an opinion piece in The Independent titled “Fling mud if you must, but don’t call Jeremy Corbyn an anti-Semite.” She begins by suggesting that “hard Zionists” are involved in dirty political machinations against Corbyn:

Is Jeremy Corbyn the enemy of Israel and British Jews? That is what the The Jewish Chronicle, some MPs and various sections of the media would have us believe. It is an accusation that is both absurd and menacing. The right, Blairites and hard Zionists have formed the most unholy of alliances to slay the reputation of the next likely leader of the Labour Party. They thought he was a bit-part player, but he has unexpectedly became the front-runner; now every political trick in the book is being used in an attempt bring him down. I hope honest democrats see through the contemptible tactics. If Corbyn is an anti-Semite, I am a white supremacist.

Alibhai-Brown refers to the Jewish Chronicle. So what exactly did the Jewish Chronicle write? Here is a significant part of its editorial:

Because, although there is no direct evidence that he [Corbyn] has an issue himself with Jews, there is overwhelming evidence of his association with, support for — and even in one case, alleged funding of — Holocaust deniers, terrorists and some outright antisemites.

 

If Mr Corbyn is not to be regarded from the day of his election as an enemy of Britain’s Jewish community, he has a number of questions which he must answer in full and immediately. The JC asked him earlier this week to respond. No response has been forthcoming.

 

1. Did you donate, as alleged by its founder, to Deir Yassin Remembered (DYR), a group that publishes open antisemitism, run by Holocaust denier Paul Eisen — an organisation so extreme that even the Palestine Solidarity Campaign refuses to associate with it?

 

2. Have you, as Mr Eisen claims, regularly attended DYR’s annual conference?

 

3. Why have you accepted an invitation to appear at a conference on August 22 alongside Carlos Latuff, the notorious anti-Semitic cartoonist?

 

4. Why did you write to the Church of England authorities to defend Rev Stephen Sizer, a vicar banned from social media because of his habit of posting anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, telling them that Rev Sizer was “under attack” because he had “dared to speak out over Zionism”?

 

5. Why do you associate with Hamas and Hezbollah and refer to them as your “friends”?

 

6. Why have you failed to condemn the anti-Semitic posters and banners that dominate the annual Al-Quds Day rally, sponsored by the Stop The War Coalition, which you chair?

 

7. Why did you describe Raead Salah, a man convicted of the blood libel, as an ‘honoured citizen’?

These are all legitimate questions for an increasingly concerned UK Jewish community. Despite Corbyn’s penchant for mixing with racists and extremists, the Jewish Chronicle pointedly does not accuse Corbyn of being an anti-Semite.

Yet, out of all of the legitimate questions about Corbyn posed by the newspaper, Alibhai-Brown ignores all but one that she can find any semblance of doubt, in this case concerning the anti-Semitism of Carlos Latuff, a Brazilian cartoonist who came second in an Iranian Holocaust cartoon competition in 2006:

Corbyn shared a platform with Carlos Latuff, the Brazilian-Arab cartoonist who condemned Israel’s oppressive policies in Palestine. The Simon Wiesenthal Centre has declared Latuff anti-Semitic but the Jewish daily Forward claims he is a “furious” critic of the state of Israel, not an anti-Semite. So no consensus there.

Carlos_Latuff

Carlos Latuff

In fact, the reference to the Forward relates not to the paper’s own view of Latuff but to a book review written by Eddie Portnoy for the paper in 2008 where he disagrees with the author of the book’s assertion that Latuff is anti-Semitic. No prizes for Alibhai-Brown for research – Portnoy’s statement is the one and only reference on Latuff’s Wikipedia page that opposes the consensus view of Latuff by many Jewish organizations and experts that the cartoonist is, indeed, anti-Semitic.

Nowhere does Alibhai-Brown address any of the other questions posed by the Jewish Chronicle. Instead, she has created a straw man argument to cover up the very real issues that Jeremy Corbyn’s candidacy has exposed.

Why would Alibhai-Brown claim that Jews are accusing Corbyn of being an anti-Semite himself even when this is not the case? It soon becomes clear that it is all about Alibhai-Brown’s pet hate when it comes to Israel:

But the overreactions of some extreme Zionists these days is tantamount to an attempt to censor all criticism of Israel’s political and military tactics. And the position has hardened since British public opinion has softened towards Palestinians. The last cruel demolition of Gaza played badly for Israel. So here is the new claim being put about assertively: those who want to destroy Jewry hide behind the Palestinian cause. They are right, up to a point. Veiled anti-Semitism is around us, and most of all on university campuses, where Palestine is a burning issue and convenient alibi. Attacks on Jewish Europeans are also rising.

 

Just as pernicious is the way Zionists use the charge of anti-Semitism to block probes into Israel’s oppressive practices, its weaponry, and its influence in Western parliaments. Some public intellectuals and politicians – who should have some understanding of nuance – have become propagandists for Israel, be the country’s actions right or wrong. They use images of Nazism and excruciating memories to whip up fears of a new horror, an impending extermination of the plucky nation by its cruel colonial neighbours. I myself have been subjected to such intimidation and branded an anti-Semite over the years. More such muck will be thrown at me when this column appears.

So for Alibhai-Brown, it’s not about Jeremy Corbyn, but a vicious plot by Zionists to tarnish the candidacy of someone who is critical of Israel. Based on her previous form, this isn’t surprising.

She continues:

Most depressing of all is the collusion between the powerful right and Zionists. They seem determined to crush all alternatives to neoliberal economics and Western hegemony.

What exactly does Alibhai-Brown mean by this? Having complained at being branded an anti-Semite, she then goes and indulges in conspiracy theories that appear more in tune with the Protocols of the Elders of Zion buttressed by a final claim that the “forces of darkness” have turned on Corbyn.

While the real questions revolve around Jeremy Corbyn, questions also need to be asked about Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s obsession with Zionists engaged in dirty political conspiracies to destroy well-meaning critics of Israel.

 

You can send your considered comments to The Independent – letters@independent.co.uk – remembering to include your name, postal address and daytime telephone number for a chance of publication. You can also comment under Alibhai-Brown’s article.

Featured image: CC BY Simon Veit-Wilson via Wikimedia Commons with modifications by HonestReporting

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