Saturday, 30 April 2016
Labour, Zionism, anti-Semitism, the press and maybe a plot.
Wading into discussions of Zionism, anti-Semitism and what is and what isn't politically acceptable is an area in which even the boldest of angels should fear to tread. I therefore content myself with a few observations but without taking sides.
1. !t strikes me as curious that this row has broken out within ten days or so of key elections - for the devolved governments of Scotland and Wales, the London mayor and assembly, as well as local government. The comments of the Labour MP for Bradford West, Naz Shah, have been on her website since 2014, long before she was elected to parliament, and she has apologised for them. Why is it that the right-wing blogger calling himself Guido Fawkes has chosen this particular moment to give the comments national publicity? Is the hand of the Tories' strategic adviser Lynton Crosby* in there somewhere?
2. It is hard to believe that M/s Shah's comment, that the state of Israel and its citizens should be transferred lock stock and barrel to the US, were meant to be taken literally.. Figuratively, the state of Israel, financed, armed and given apparently unhesitating political support by successive US administrations, can already be called a client state of the the US, (just as many of us believe the UK is moving in that direction, and will become a lot closer to it if we leave the EU.) Maybe that is the point M/s Shah was making
3. It is difficult in Britain, and maybe elsewhere, to hold a balanced debate about Israel, since it is difficult to define where criticism of the actions of the Israeli government (legitimate) becomes anti-Semitism (totally unacceptable.) However, those who have criticised the Israeli government's actions, or shown sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians (I am thinking particularity of Liberal Democrats Jenny Tonge and David Ward) have been met by what David Ward called a "veritable tsunami" of angry condemnation by a well organised pro-Israeli lobby.
4. Maybe the strength of this lobby explains is why our media highlight criticism of Israel, and the accusations of anti-Semitism are given such prominence, in this current case and in earlier ones. True, Boris Johnson's inappropriate remarks about President Obama's Kenyan origins (and his earlier references to Bongo-Bongo-land and Picininis with water-melon faces) get the odd mention, but are usually dismissed as being OK becasue he is "Just Boris." And I seem to remember comedian Kenny Everett receiving loud cheers for proclaiming "Let's bomb Russia" at a Tory party rally, but no-one took that literally (I hope).
5. What we desperately need in Britain today is a serious assault by those, surely a majority, who believe in fairness, honesty, decency and compassion - the left, if you like - against the forces of dissimulation, greed and "devil take the hindmost". Instead we are distracted by a total unnecessary referendum on our membership of the EU, and now this maybe necessary but certainly ill-timed concentration on the need for a cleansing operation within the Labour party.
*Post script: Since writing the above I have read this article in Saturday's Guardian magazine by Simon Hattenstone. The article is mainly concerned with the campaign for the London mayorality, and the "dog whistle" attemts by the Goldsmith team to create suspicion of the Labour canidate Sadiq Khan amongst varius ethnic minorty groups.
However the article mentions Crosby's "singature move known as 'the daed cat.' " - used to turn conversation away from a topic dangerous to one's own campaign and on to aonther issue. In this case the "dead cat" is the two-year old internet posting by Naz Shah and, whether or not Crosby is respoinsible, it has certainly worked.
In this week of comprehensive elections debate has effectively been diverted from the merits of the various candidates and their policies to alleged anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, and the quality of Jeremy Corbyn's leadership.
Surely the Tories are shouting "result!" I hope it backfires but am not holding my breath.