As compelling as I found Mr. Mishra’s essay to be, in his celebratory mood, he has missed some very important points about Mayor Khan’s victory: Khan has very pointedly, in this essay at the Guardian, pronounced himself as New Labour, and made plain that the insurgent Jeremy Corbyn is not his political ally. Political ambition rules Mayor Khan and his road to higher office is conformity to the New Labour Party Line, which is synonymous with the Financial Times’ political slogan of The Rebellion Against The Elites.
Labour has to be a big tent that appeals to everyone – not just its activists. Campaigns that deliberately turn their back on particular groups are doomed to fail. Just like in London, so-called natural Labour voters alone will never be enough to win a general election. We must be able to persuade people who previously voted Conservative that Labour can be trusted with the economy and security, as well as improving public services and creating a fairer society.
And on the manufactured ‘Antisemitism Crisis’ of Labour, here is an interview with Norman Finkelstein on that subject. Two revelatory excerpts:
Last month, Naz Shah MP became one of the most high-profile cases to date in the ‘antisemitism’ scandal still shaking the Labour leadership. Shah was suspended from the Labour party for, among other things, reposting an image on Facebook that was alleged to be antisemitic. The image depicted a map of the United States with Israel superimposed, and suggested resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict by relocating Israel into the United States. It has been reported that Shah got the image from Finkelstein’s website. I spoke with Finkelstein about why he posted the image, and what he thinks of allegations that the Labour party has a ‘Jewish problem’.
Last week, Ken Livingstone took to the airwaves to defend Naz Shah, but what he said wound up getting him suspended from the Labour party. His most incendiary remark contended that Hitler at one point supported Zionism. This was condemned as antisemitic, and Labour MP John Mann accused Livingstone of being a ‘Nazi apologist’. What do you make of these accusations?
Livingstone maybe wasn’t precise enough, and lacked nuance. But he does know something about that dark chapter in history. It has been speculated that Hitler’s thinking on how to solve the ‘Jewish Question’ (as it was called back then) evolved, as circumstances changed and new possibilities opened up. Hitler wasn’t wholly hostile to the Zionist project at the outset. That’s why so many German Jews managed to survive after Hitler came to power by emigrating to Palestine. But, then, Hitler came to fear that a Jewish state might strengthen the hand of ‘international Jewry’, so he suspended contact with the Zionists. Later, Hitler perhaps contemplated a ‘territorial solution’ for the Jews. The Nazis considered many ‘resettlement’ schemes – the Jews wouldn’t have physically survived most of them in the long run – before they embarked on an outright exterminatory process. Livingstone is more or less accurate about this – or, as accurate as might be expected from a politician speaking off the cuff.
He’s also accurate that a degree of ideological affinity existed between the Nazis and Zionists. On one critical question, which raged in the U.K. during the period when the Balfour Declaration (1917) was being cobbled together, antisemites and Zionists agreed: could a Jew be an Englishman? Ironically, in light of the current hysteria in the UK, the most vociferous and vehement opponents of the Balfour Declaration were not the Arabs, about whom almost nobody gave a darn, but the upper reaches of British Jewry.
Let’s zoom out a bit. You’ve written a great deal about how antisemitism accusations have been used to discredit and distract from criticism of Israel. Should we see the current campaign against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Left more generally as the latest episode in that history?
These campaigns occur at regular intervals, correlating with Israel’s periodic massacres and consequent political isolation. If you search your nearest library catalogue for ‘new antisemitism’, you’ll come up with titles from the 1970s proclaiming a ‘new antisemitism’, titles from the 1980s proclaiming a ‘new antisemitism’, titles from the 1990s proclaiming a ‘new antisemitism’, and then a huge uptick, including from British writers, during the so-called Second Intifada from 2001. Let’s not forget, just last year there was a hysteria in the UK over antisemitism. A couple of ridiculous polls purported to find that nearly half of Britons held an antisemitic belief and that most British Jews feared for their future in the UK. Although these polls were dismissed by specialists, they triggered the usual media feeding frenzy, as the Telegraph, the Guardian and the Independent hyperventilated about this ‘rampant’ ‘new antisemitism’. It was exposed as complete nonsense when, in April 2015, a reputable poll by Pew found that the level of antisemitism in the UK had remained stable, at an underwhelming seven percent.
One only had to read the pre-election political hysterics at The Financial Times which featured thirteen ‘new stories’ about this manufactured crisis, that remained in place for almost a week before the election.