British Jews have been trapped in Labour’s anti-Semitism twilight zone for more than three years, but this week’s intervention in the New Statesman by former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, in which he compared Jeremy Corbyn’s line about British Zionists needing a lesson in English irony with Enoch Powell’s “rivers of blood” speech, drags us down a yet murkier path.
Relations between British Jews and the man most likely to be the next prime minster have gone from bad to worse to desperate. Twilight is turning to darkness.
The Labour leader’s unforgivable slur, which me and my fellow British born-and-bred Zionists felt was an accusation of not being truly English, was the most depressing and distressing episode yet in a saga noted for its chilling low points. Even level-headed Lord Sacks, a calm and considered figurehead not given to hyperbole, could bite his lip no longer.
For more than a century, Labour has proudly stood against racism like no other political mainstream movement. Yet an admired thinker like Lord Sacks has seen fit to publicly label its current leader an anti-Semite guilty of giving the most offensive political speech since Powell quoted one of his constituent saying: “In this country in 15 or 20 years’ time the black man will have the whip hand over the white man.” The enormity of that accusation cannot be overstated.
So, where do we go from here?
Next week Labour’s National Executive Committee is expected to be coerced, kicking and screaming, into approving the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s standard definition of anti-Semitism, albeit loaded with caveats giving party members wiggle room to call Israel racist without risking expulsion. It will do little or nothing to lighten the mood.
Corbyn only has one move left – to honestly address his own conduct. His years taking tea with more nutters than the Mad Hatter; pandering to the psychopaths of Hamas and Hezbollah; standing shoulder-to-shoulder with scumbag Holocaust deniers and Islamist hate preachers; pictured at an event where those mourned included the Munich Olympic murderers; being paid thousands to spread conspiracy theories about Israel on Russian and Iranian TV channels. Corbyn is a man flailing in his own filth.
Of course, the Labour leader will claim until his last breath to be pursuing a just peace for all sides, but he is no honest broker. An intermediary does not support one side while openly attacking, alienating and insulting the other.
Most tellingly, it’s not just Lord Sacks who thinks Corbyn has crossed the line from anti-Zionism into anti-Semitism. His party’s flimsy 2016 inquiry into Labour anti-Semitism, authored by the conspicuously silent Shami Chakrabarti, also finds him guilty as charged. On page 12 of 28 of his flimsy 2016 inquiry into Labour anti-Semitism, the now Baroness Shami Chakrabarti writes: “Crucially, I have heard testimony and heard for myself first-hand, the way in which the word ‘Zionist’ has been used personally, abusively or as a euphemism for ‘Jew’.”
You know you’re in trouble when the woman you gifted a peerage to in return for closing the lid on your anti-Semitism crisis inadvertently finds you guilty as charged.
Richard Ferrer is editor of the Jewish News