Friday, July 1, 2016

A Rorschach Test on Antisemitism

Give it a try.  According to today’s New York Times, here’s Jeremy Corbyn on the respect the British Labour Party owes to its Jewish members and supporters:
Mr. Corbyn said at the event that assuming that “a Jewish friend or fellow member is wealthy, part of some kind of financial or media conspiracy or takes a particular position on politics in general or on Israel and on Palestine in particular, is wrong.” 
He added, “Our Jewish friends are no more responsible for the actions of Israel or the Netanyahu government than our Muslim friends are for those of various self-styled Islamic states or organizations.”
Does this sound antisemitic to you?  According to the Times, the comments “provoked outrage”.  Angry denunciations in Britain and Israel take up several paragraphs, countered only by a cautious clarification from Corbyn’s staff.  That’s one point of view; let me offer another.

I’m Jewish by background and highly sensitive to antisemitic remarks and innuendos.  I’ve quit organizations in the past because I found their atmosphere demeaning.  If antisemitism was the “socialism of fools” a century ago, it is sometimes the anti-imperialism of fools today.  But for the life of me, if this remark is correctly quoted, I can’t see why anyone should complain about it.

The Times inserted what it saw as a correction about the “self-styled” reference to states or organizations that claim to act in the name of Islam, but I think I understand where Corbyn is coming from, and where his comment leads.

Various governments, government wannabees and armed sects tell us that they represent Islam, and that any attack on them is an attack on all believers.  Well, they can say that: this is what self-styled means.  But saying something doesn’t make it true.

And the same holds for Israel.  Its government claims to represent and speak for all Jews everywhere; it’s a self-styled Jewish state.  But Jews in Britain, the US or anywhere else are not bound by this.  They are not Israelis, and they are no more represented by Netanyahu than by  Putin, Xi Jinping, or King Salman for that matter.  Is disputing Israel’s claim to represent all of the world’s Jews antisemitism?  I think Corbyn was indirectly laying down that challenge, and he’s being punished for it.

UPDATE: I changed the title to get the right kind of test.


Sandwichman said...

Antisemites breath air. So does Jeremy Corbyn. What more evidence do the media need?

Unknown said...

The Right wants to establish this formula: Settlers = Likud = Israel = World Jewry and then claim that any critique of any of the three left terms equates to anti-Semitism. And more topically and more shrilly extend that to anyone who advocates BDS in response to now decades of the Sharon/Netanyahu approach to the Palestinians. Which beginning with Sharon's deliberately provocative armed 'visit' to the Temple Mount was designed to produce armed resistance. In the interests of Likud.

But I have now lost all hope. Whatever possibility of rational discussion of I-P issues there was (and that wasn't much) it all got washed away with the murder of a 13 year old girl with joint American-Israeli citizenship. Somewhere Sharon is smiling down (or perhaps peering up).

This won't get better. Not when we have Greater Israel contending with the House of Saud and two of the oldest empires in the world (now reborn) the Turkish under Erdogan and the Persian under a competing array of political and military forces. The only people who can look on this with any sense of satisfaction are the deranged Last Days Christians safely out of the line of fire. For them this is a literal dream coming literally true. For me I see the Syrian nightmare perpetuating and spreading.

Returning to the point. There is no way that Corbyn can negotiate this point. Nobody can. The lines are drawn in a way that prevents rational negotiation.

Anonymous said...

I'd say that the folks criticizing Mr. Corbyn are themselves exhibiting racist logic. Stating that the leaders of Israel are Jewish, therefore anyone criticizing Israel's leaders hates all Jews is merely the flip side of classic racist logic. Example of racist logic: "some undocumented workers commit murders; you are an undocumented worker, therefore you are a murderer."

I expect the real purpose is to shut Mr. Corbyn down and prevent a left-wing populist viewpoint from being expressed - allowing a right-wing populist movement free rein.