The adoption of the official IHRA definition of anti-Semitism into Labour party policy should have marked the beginning of the end of the scandal that has dogged Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. The acceptance of the wording by senior party figures who had previously decried and rejected it allowed the Labour leadership to frame this long overdue move as a major concession and a significant step forward.
It was in this light that shadow attorney general Shami Chakrabarti used the BBC’s Today programme to invite ‘dissenters’ within the party ‘back into the room for discussion’. She implied that Corbyn and Co were the injured party and that it was the critics, such as Margaret Hodge in the studio with her, who were now being unreasonable, the ones storming out of the room and refusing to discuss the issues sensibly. What Chakrabarti did, however, was to provide further evidence that validated the concerns of the ‘dissenters’. Describing Israel’s very existence as racist can be acceptable, she said, though it ‘depends how you do it’. The BBC in the form of Mishal Husain barely demurred. Sure, so long as you’re pleasant and civil with your racism, what’s the problem?
Imagine if the Conservative parallel had taken place — if a Tory MP had spoken on Today about a Muslim country in the way Chakrabarti spoke about Israel — the shouts of racism and Islamophobia, quite rightly, would have lasted for weeks. Boris Johnson had only to make a joke about an Islamic custom in the broader context of defending the freedom of Muslim women to be berated by the media, incessantly, for at least a fortnight.
Labour’s anti-Semitism is not a joke but a gravely serious issue. Corbyn’s refusal to back away from his virulently anti-Jewish world view makes the possibility of his becoming Prime Minister infinitely more petrifying.
And that world view is a highly selective one. Funny that Labour approve of strangling the free press and advocate state interference in social media’s policing of so-called hate speech, yet ardently defend the freedom to call Jews’ very existence racist.
Despite so obviously holding deeply unpleasant views towards this long-persecuted minority, it is disturbing that the Leader of the Opposition has, so far, suffered negligible consequences. Where are the mass resignations in outrage? Gordon Brown and Jonathan Sacks apart (and yesterday Tony Blair), where are the denouncements from other celebrities and public figures? How does the takeover of the NEC and the party by Corbyn’s cronies continue uninterrupted? Why does he still command authority as party leader? Most importantly, can he continue to do so?
So far Corbyn has managed to skirt criticism by his and his supporters’ impressively persistent and confident denial of the facts. Corbynites tweet with one hand about the disgraceful Trumpian age of post-truth and with the other about how the entire anti-Semitism scandal is an elaborate fabrication. Corbyn also avoids opprobrium because the BBC and the rest of the political class, rather than focusing on the punishment due to him, have fallen into the trap of arguing on his terms — about whether it is, in fact, anti-Semitism.
Yet there are dozens of examples of overtly anti-Semitic attitudes enthusiastically displayed by Corbyn over the years, whether it be the startling number of virulent racists he snuggles up to (not to mention his atrocious endorsements of multiple terrorist organisations), his fatuous conflation of Judaism and political Zionism (insulting British Jews in the process) or his baffling decision to seek political refuge with possibly the most anti-Semitic Jewish group in the world.
Perhaps the most ludicrous of the excuses trotted out by the Corbyn cult is the notion that he is nothing more than a leaf-eating, sandal-wearing peace-seeker who aims only to hug everybody and bring a little bit more love into the world. That this is complete piffle is evidenced by his apparent inability to be in the same room as anyone Israeli.
His refusal to meet Benjamin Netanyahu when the Israeli prime minister visited the UK last year, the fact that the latest Labour party outing to the Holy Land avoided meeting anyone from the Israeli government, his pre-leadership enthusiastic meetings with anti-Zionist extremists: all this and his supporters steadfastly maintain that his approach is balanced.
This counter-factual campaign on the part of the Corbynites has been and continues to be remarkably effective. By unanimously insisting that Corbyn is not anti-Semitic, the mob has managed to keep establishment Leftie liberals bickering in no-man’s-land about politics and has thereby prevented the fight from moving where it should be — how Corbyn could be properly penalised. Happy to support a baseless witch-hunt against President Trump, they’ve not caused any real headaches for Corbyn.
Unconditional Corbynite supporter loyalty, when combined with the way the modern Left sees Israel, has made his position seemingly unshakeable. Few people seem to know or care that synagogues and Jewish schools have needed police protection for some 15 years, continually having to be stepped up, as real and online attacks have increased in ferocity.
Sadly, anti-Semitism has proved the least inconvenient type of scandal Corbyn could have become involved in. What is clear is that it suits his broader political agenda. Most worrying is how a vacuous Leftist world view is protecting Corbyn from any real consequences of his actions. Judging by Shami Chakrabarti’s unflinching stance on the BBC on Wednesday and the deafening media silence that greeted her outrageous statements, it seems that that is unlikely to change any time soon.