To diffuse a row that has pressurized Britain’s main opposition party, Labour Party adopted an internationally accepted definition of anti-Semitism. They released an accompanying statement saying that the adoption of the definition “will not undermine freedom of expression on Israel or the rights of Palestinians”. The inclusion of a caveat gave Jeremy Corbyn’s critics a chance to call the move wholly insufficient.
Although a majority of Corbyn’s critics tout the ‘international acceptance’ of the definition of anti-Semitism, they reject the international consensus on the Israel-Palestine issue. No sense of irony. Unsurprisingly, no one in the mainstream media even alluded to his point.
Back in 2016, Jonathan Freedland wrote a column for the Guardian that embodies all the ways in which the supporters of Israel try to downplay legitimate criticism of Israel with accusations of anti-Semitism. In this article, I will assess how relevant and true his claims and insinuations are two years later.
The first tactic he employs to denounce the criticism of Israeli State is by objecting to the use of term Zionists to refer to the supporters of Israel.
He labels the term Zionists as one being ‘commonly used in angry left rhetoric’. Rather than take the term Zionist in its’ original sense, he twists its’ meaning and legitimizes the hijacking of the term by far-right anti-Semites. Therefore, he nullifies any reasonable criticism of Israel from the left if they use the term Zionists.
Freedland is not the first one to interpret the term Zionists differently from its’ original meaning. In a video from 2013, Jeremy Corbyn appears to be saying that British Zionists had ‘no sense of English irony’. People like Freedland would interpret that as British Jews had ‘no sense of English irony’.
What was a jibe at supporters of Israel regardless of their race and religion was quickly turned into an anti-Semitic remark. The conservative press used the ongoing anti-Semitism row in the Labour Party to cover up the failures of May Government in negotiating a deal on Brexit and guys like Freedland helped.
But although Jonathan Freedland mentioned a term ‘commonly used in angry left rhetoric’, he did not even mention the other term that is commonly used in angry right rhetoric and Hasbara against Jewish critics of Israel. The self-hater!
Despite all the pretensions of presenting a reasonable and unbiased reflection, Freedland calls out anti-Semites in Labour Party even though anti-Semitic attacks over the last three years represent less than 0.1% of Labour’s membership while he sweeps under the rug the abuse that Jewish critics of Israel face.
Apparently, Freedland doesn’t regard anti-Semitism against Jewish critics of Israel as anti-Semitism.
But Freedland and the Guardian for that matter are hardly the only ones using such disingenuous tactics.
2 years since he wrote the column, in the United States, no one is accusing the Republican Party of being anti-Semitic. The leader of their party, Donald Trump, referred to neo-Nazis chanting ‘Jews will not replace us’ as ‘fine people’ and morally equated them to their protesters. But because Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans are ardent supporters of Israel, their anti-Semitism and a soft corner for neo-Nazis is ignored while Jeremy Corbyn is called anti-Semitic even though he has reiterated many times that ‘anti-Semitism has no place in the Labour Party’.
This exposes the fake outrage over allegations of rampant and institutional anti-Semitism in the Labour Party and in leftist circles at Oxford. The fact that organizations like Campaign Against Antisemitism are spending their time and energy on undermining Jeremy Corbyn’s standing in the public rather than directing their resources where there are actual cases of anti-Semitism proves that their main concern isn’t anti-Semites but critics of Israel.
Later in the column, Jonathan Freedland uses the same tactic which many Israel supporters also use: ‘so what if Israel kills unarmed civilians and children, they aren’t the only ones.’
Mentioning the Syrian Civil War, Freedland demands to see the angry tweets and willingness to take to the streets to protest against Bashar-al-Assad and Russia.
This is a subtle admission from Freedland that the Government of Israel is as morally and legally culpable as their Syrian neighbor.
At a conference somewhere, replying to a question, Noam Chomsky said (paraphrased):
If I see that a lot of people are already talking about an issue, I don’t necessarily have to talk about it. I am more concerned about what’s not being talked about, about what’s being censored and left out from the coverage.
The UK, US, France among other nations are bombing Syria to oust Assad. There are sanctions in place, diplomatic pressure is being exerted, the rebels are being armed, and secret orders being given to assassinate the Syrian President.
Since the British government is doing all it can to oust Assad, there is no reason for British people to protest at the Number 10. When issues are concealed in the press, when citizens see that their government is not doing what it should to bring a humanitarian crisis to end, it is then that they take to the streets and send out angry tweets.
Contrary to Freedland’s insinuation in his column, Israel is not the only nation that the leftist protested against. When the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Muhammad bin Salman visited the UK and the US, he met public protests. Therefore, his claim that leftists only protest against Israel is proven false.
The British government and the British press are as lenient toward Saudi Arabia for their crimes against Yemenis as they are toward Israel for their crimes against the Palestinians.
I have taken part in protests against the war on Yemen, writing for Media Prober during the last month, I have criticized Saudi Arabia and the Arab League for their crimes in Yemen. If I never engage in a protest against a foreign power ever again, does that mean I hate all Muslims everywhere?
Jeremy Corbyn is not perfect (even though he has Noam Chomsky’s endorsement), like any politician who has been active for as long as him, he has had his fair share of gaffes but that does not imply that he condones anti-Semitism. His denunciations of anti-Semitism and anti-Semites have been unequivocal. He has made mistakes in the past but those were due to his negligence rather than the malignancy of his views.
Just like Jonathan Freeland’s column in 2016, many articles published in major newspapers that say that left has an anti-Semitic problem rather the right might seem reasonable in the heat of the moment but they don’t usually age well as the sensationalism and public anxiety they exploit don’t last forever.
Therefore, rather than having a short-term view of the anti-Semitic row in the Labour Party, the public should look read such columns with total historical and ideological context and remember to call those writers out when their prophecies fail to come to fruition.