Anti-semitism must not be conflated with criticism of Israel  

Former chief rabbi Lord Sacks is the latest to trot out the slanderous allegation that Labour under Jeremy Corbyn has failed “to adopt a zero-tolerance approach to anti-semitism.”

Asked by Jewish News what he would say to Corbyn if he sat down with him, Sacks replied: “I would want to see clearer signs of resolute action by a party and its leader before I would even sit down with them full stop.”

So, as far as this House of Lords cross-bencher is concerned, Corbyn — a consistent fighter against racism, anti-semitism and Islamophobia — is tainted with anti-semitism.

Sacks sets himself up to judge Corbyn’s credibility as an opponent of anti-semitism and to demand action acceptable to himself before he would grant the Labour leader an audience.

Corbyn would be ill-advised to enter into any scenario of seeking to ingratiate himself or have the party pronounced cleansed of anti-semitism by someone who has already declared that “anti-zionism is the new anti-semitism.”

The former chief rabbi was criticised last year in an opinion piece in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz by Jerusalem-based British lawyer Anna Roiser for his extension of a “personal invitation to Diaspora Jews to join him on a trip to Israel which includes leading the March of the Flags on Jerusalem Day and dancing with our brave IDF [Israel Defence Forces] soldiers in the radical settler enclave inside the city of Hebron.”

Roiser and other British Jews in Jerusalem expressed the hope that “together we can work towards a more honest dialogue about Israel, one in which we directly engage with the occupation rather than airbrushing it out.”

Unfortunately for Corbyn, there are elements within Labour who share Sacks’s unquestioning zionism and are unscrupulous enough to call fellow Jews anti-semites when the real fallout is between zionists and anti-zionists.

Members of the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), previously called Poale Zion, have been prominent in this provocative name calling, leading anti-zionist Jews to set up Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) as an alternative to JLM, whose director Ella Rose was previously the Israeli embassy’s public affairs officer.

Yet JVL secretary Glyn Secker was notified at the weekend that his membership is suspended indefinitely because of unspecified comments allegedly made “on social media that may be anti-semitic and therefore in breach of Labour Party rules.”

He is banned from all party meetings, including September’s annual conference, which suggests that there will be no speedy examination of his “case.”

This strengthens suspicions that the disputes committee is more concerned with imposing lengthy suspensions on anti-zionists, seen as probable Corbyn supporters, than in combating anti-semitism.

The Labour leadership must take stock of the weaponisation of fake anti-semitism by people inside and outside the party to perpetrate false images of reality.

Constant stoking of the fires of fake anti-semitism plays into the hands of Labour’s right wing, which has never reconciled itself to having a socialist as party leader, of the Tories able to parade themselves falsely as fighters against discrimination and of the Israeli embassy, emboldened to smear Jewish critics of its illegal colonisation of Palestinian land as anti-semites.

Until Labour defends itself strongly against false charges and tackles those spreading them, it will be fighting the Tories with one hand tied behind its back.

This article appeared in The Morning Star, Friday 9th March 2018