Panic isn’t a word you often hear associated with politics. In Britain in particular, with the political scene so often dominated by careerism, media-friendly sound bites and speeches so vacuous you wonder why you got out of bed that morning, something as emotive as panic seems far from mind.
Yet panic there is. With Jeremy Corbyn now on point for winning leadership of the Labour Party, his detractors on the right and left are without doubt fearful of what the future may hold. The solution, for some, is to throw as much mud as possible in the hope that it will stick. And an accusation of anti-Semitism seems to be just the ticket.
Corbyn has thus had his alleged sympathy for organisations in opposition to the Israeli state cited as proof of such an unpardonable mindset. The logic, apparently, is that by once referring to Hamas and Hezbollah as “our friends“, Corbyn must be somehow antagonistic toward anyone and everyone of the Jewish faith.
The possibility that he might simply be concerned over the antics of a state, Israel, that only exists through the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of innocent people, in addition to persistently violating international law – not only in matters of armed conflict but also general custom – is not entertained.
How might such an argument justify itself? As is often the case, any opposition to Israeli policy is equated with a blanket prejudice against all Jews; a rhetorical and ideological leap that only makes sense once you realise that those making the accusation are fundamentally dishonest.
And dishonest they are. One dubious rationale designed to discredit Corbyn is his previous attendance at meetings held by the group, “Dier Yassin Remembered”. Issues have subsequently arisen as to the politics of the group’s founder, Paul Eisen, an apparent holocaust denier and, presumably, by coming into physical proximity to the man, Corbyn shares a similar platform.
The Daily Mail has subsequently made a typically vacuous and hysterical case that Corbyn has a “longstanding relationship” with Eisen. In material derived purely from Eisen’s own personal account, the Mail attempts to argue that Corbyn and Eisen are potentially of one mind.
“During the time when I felt so marginalised and isolated,” the Mail quotes Eisen, “when the movement with which he (Corbyn) was associated so despised me, Jeremy always said hello.”
Whilst the above is of course a startlingly decisive piece of evidence as to Corbyn’s now evident anti-Semitism, Corbyn has been particularly irked by this latest accusation, claiming that Eisen was not a holocaust denier back when the two first came into contact.
“I have no contact now whatsoever with Paul Eisen and Deir Yassin Remembered”, he recently claimed. “Fifteen years ago (Eisen) was not a Holocaust denier. Had he been a Holocaust denier, I would have had absolutely nothing to do with him.
Holocaust denial is vile and wrong. The Holocaust was the most vile part of our history. The Jewish people killed by the Nazi Holocaust were the people who suffered the most in the 20th century,” he added.
Deir Yassin itself was a Palestinian village. In 1948, paramilitary forces operating under the command of the newly emerged state of Israel entered the village as part of a wider invasion of the UN-mandated Palestinian territories. What exactly transpired has tended to vary with the affiliations of those expressing their opinion, but it does seem apparent that Israeli forces killed a sizeable number of residents, with some sources even citing the extensive abuse, rape and murder of pregnant Palestinian women.
The question thus remains as to why exactly somebody of Corbyn’s political persuasion would not take an interest in such a horrific episode. Indeed, the severity of such a crime speaks volumes as to the political agenda of the founders of the state of Israel, and has a direct bearing on the cavalier attitude of the modern Israeli Defence Force and it’s shocking disregard for civilian life.
Yet this case has helped expose a peculiarity in British society and, in particular, the priorities of the UK media. For one, the massacre and dispersal of innocent people in 1948 isn’t so much of an issue here for Daily Mail journalists – let alone the UK’s ongoing material and political support for Israel – when compared to the drama resulting from a politician attending a meeting on such a subject.
Saying “hello” to somebody who later admitted to holocaust denial, as if this could somehow constitute evidence that Corbyn has been deceiving everyone for his entire political life with his leftist and humanitarian credentials, is just absurd.
Yet the question remains as to why Corbyn’s opponents have become so desperate as to put such arguments forward. Is it really just frustration at his soaring popularity, or something deeper; some fundamental fear that the generically right-wing consensus since the ascension of “New Labour” in 1997 may be unraveling?
Both could be the answer. Indeed, the incessant diatribe from political opponents about how Cobyn will “take us back to the 1970s” points to two things. Firstly, that proponents of such generalities are not capable of formulating a specific argument and, secondly, mounting panic at the prospect of yet more trade union support for a leader determined to oppose further measures directed against the labour movement.
Either way, accusations of anti-Semitism in this case do precious little other than highlight desperation at the prospect of a fundamental political shift in British society.
Daniel Read is a UK based journalist. He has a BA in journalism and an MA in human rights, and is currently finishing an MSc in global politics at the University of Southampton. Follow him at his blog uncommonsense.me and on Twitter at @DanielTRead