WEAPONISING ANTI-SEMITISM: How The Israel Lobby Brought Down Jeremy Corbyn

Asa Winstanley

ISBN 9781682193815

OR Books www.orbooks.com


The Labour Party should be the bright and vital representative of the natural sympathy which exists widely amongst the common folk; instead, away from its grassroots, it’s a dismal asylum for inspissated careerists, irremediable narcissists, power-seekers, conformists, time-servers and is led by a man who makes bank managers look exciting, has the courage of a sheep and the imagination of a cockroach. Given Labour’s anal refusal to respond to the aspiration for equality, openness and economic democracy which brought 12.8 million votes in 2017, what’s the alternative? Some cling to the fantasy of violent revolution. The State has that nailed. Martin Luther King was right: if it wasn’t morally unacceptable, it would be tactically foolish. Yet, as Joe Orton has one of his characters remark: “A little imagination, what wonders it can achieve.” The recent riots and looting by the French young in response to the murder of seventeen-year-old by the police, have strengthened them and the State. What the youngsters might have done was to refuse to go to school until the police are disarmed. The State would use its muscle, but if they forced the kids into the buildings, they could simply refuse to work. The point is simple: our economic system, which serves the rich and powerful, can’t function without our co-operation. There are many ways to withdraw it. 

At the heart of Winstanley’s detailed history of the anti-Semitism-in-Labour scam is a straightforward fact: when people are defending a morally indefensible interest, they become corrupt. Zionism, as practised by the Israel State since 1948, is morally despicable.  It’s important to recognise the different version of Zionism which existed in the early twentieth century. Noam Chomsky was a Zionist youth leader, but he never envisaged a Jewish State; rather  an egalitarian, democratic society in which Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Christians, atheists would enjoy the same rights and responsibilities. It’s true, of course, that the founder of Zionism, Herzl, was a confused man. Prior to suggesting a Jewish State he advocated the mass conversion of Jews to Christianity and in 1897 he wrote: “The Yid is a hideous distortion of the human character, something unspeakably low and repulsive…We’ll breathe more easily, having got rid once and for all of these people who, with furtive shame, we were obliged to treat as our fellow tribesmen.” Perhaps he was a suitable case for treatment, but we can’t find the explanation of historical movements in individual psychology: Zionism is the fulfilment of a strand of Judaism identified  by Simha Flapan in his classic study, Birth of Israel: Myths and Realities: “There is no intrinsic connection between Judaism and democracy. There always was  an orthodox, fundamentalist current in Judaism, characterized by racial prejudice toward non-Jews in general and Arabs in particular.” What would John Mann make of that? Judaism can’t be exempt from criticism, any more than any religion. The problem is the appalling misuse of the Nazi genocide. As Flapan writes: “Even though Israel has the most sophisticated army in the region and possesses an advanced nuclear capacity, it continues to regard itself in terms of the Holocaust, as the victim of an unconquerable, bloodthirsty enemy. Thus whatever Israelis do..we justify as last-ditch defense. We can, therefore, do no wrong.” Those last words are crucial to what Winstanley has written about so thoroughly: Zionists can do no wrong. It is because this is their conviction they are so morally vacuous.

The sorry episode examined in this book was kicked of by, in Labour’s terms, a terrible mistake by Ed Miliband. To his credit, he wanted to bring more people into the Party. His method was to offer “supporters” the right to vote for the leader on payment of £3. For the tens of thousands disenfranchised by Blair’s Tabour Party, it was too good to miss. They flooded in and voted for Corbyn who scraped onto the list thanks to nominations by MPs who wouldn’t vote for him and who regretted their action. This was a disaster for Labour. Backbenchers in favour of an alternative to capitalism were tolerated as cranks who proved the broad-minded, democratic instincts of Labour’s leaders; but such people had to be kept on a high shelf. Under no circumstances should they be anywhere near real power. When Corbyn won, it revealed the ludicrously narrowed-minded and anti-democratic instincts of Labour Leninists (all major UK political parties are essentially Leninist ie they believe a small cadre of the superior must make decisions and hand them down to the incompetent). As soon as he looked like winning, his enemies, virtually the entire PLP and the Labour bureaucracy, were plotting his downfall.  

Winstanley tells this story by casting it, in a minor way, as a thriller. He’s no novelist but he’s an excellent investigative journalist. He has worked on Israel/Palestine for many years, writes for the Electronic Intifada, has broken many important stories, knows his brief extremely well and makes his arguments convincingly. His luck, in a perverse way, was that his expertise in Israel/Palestine came together with the Establishment’s panic to destroy Corbyn by any means (he did suffer an indirect attempt on his life). Owen Smith’s challenge was feeble. He was a man in a suit while Corbyn connected to the hundreds of thousands of members who wanted real change. The goons knew they had to something spectacular (in the Debordian sense). Yet it wasn’t only the democratic centralists in Labour who were flapping: the Israel lobby was terrified by the idea of a UK Prime Minister who was committed to ending the arms trade with Israel and who for decades had supported the case of the Palestinians. The Israel lobby and Labour’s top-downers got into bed together, there was much sweating and grunting and a pregnancy leading to the birth of a vicious mongrel: institutional anti-Semitism.  

As Winstanley makes plain, there is not a shred of evidence that Labour was ever institutionally Jew-hating (we ought to refuse to us the term anti-Semitism as it is devoid of meaning thanks to its abuse by the Israel lobby). The EHRC report of 2020 found no evidence. Indeed, the report specifically says it found no evidence of discrimination. In the war against Corbyn, which was a war against democracy, truth was the first casualty. All the same, a concatenation of villains thrust themselves forward to claim Labour was riddled with Jew-haters including Corbyn: Louise Ellman, John Mann, Joan Ryan, Luciana Berger, Ruth Smeeth, Rabbi Mirvis, virtually everyone on the Labour benches and in the Labour bureaucracy. The matter took off at Oxford University in 2016, where it was claimed by Alex Chalmers, co-chair of the student Labour Club, that the organisation was anti-Semitic. This was the stone in the pond. The ripples reached Ken Livingstone, Chris Williamson, Marc Wadworth and more importantly thousands of activists. Livingstone was set up before the cameras by the thuggish John Mann ( a man who found the short trip from Tabour to Lory easy to make) because of remarks about collusion between Zionists and the Nazis. He was historically accurate, if loose in his language. He was a scalp. Close to Corbyn and still popular, forcing him to pull away was a means to isolate the leader. Williamson was not so well known, but he was acting as a foil, taking the flack for Corbyn. Getting him out of the way was another means of exposure. The aim was to destroy Corbyn psychologically. Interestingly, one of the chapters is called The Crucible and Winstanley mentions Miller’s play. What he doesn’t mention is Kafka, far more relevant to what happened to Corbyn. 

“Somebody must have been telling lies about Jeremy C because he was expelled from Labour one fine morning though he had done nothing wrong.” The campaign to wreck Corbyn, to drive him to examine himself minutely, to make him question whether he might have assisted Jew-hating is straight out of Kafka ( a Jew). Milan Kundera makes a nice comment about Kafka, that he reverses an ancient relationship, which is that the fault seeks the punishment: Lady Macbeth drives her husband to murder and is tortured by conscience, Raskolnikov murders the pawn-broker and is haunted; but in the modern world, the fault seeks the punishment. People are accused, like Josef K, and henceforth seek to discover why, until the search destroys them. This is what was done to Corbyn, systematically, cruelly, maliciously and it worked. Corbyn, the life-long upholder of universal values, the man who had consistently opposed all forms of prejudice was deeply wounded by the attribution of Jew-hating. His response was to repeat over and over his long-held position, but in the light of the furore and the swirling, false assertions, he sounded apologetic. It appeared he was accepting the accusations. Winstanley is hard on him over this, seeing him as morally weak. He has a point, but Corbyn was wrong-footed not so much because he lacked moral courage, he’d displayed it often enough, but because he was out of his depth among the machinations of people who made Lady Macbeth look like a Sunday school teacher.  

In Lancashire County Hall, Preston, over the entrance to a committee room, is a framed picture of Louise Ellman who was once a county council luminary. She is an outstanding example of the rank dishonesty and moral emptiness of those who tried to destroy Corbyn. Armed with an anonymous dossier full of unfounded allegations, Ellman stomped around the studios claiming she had proof of Jew-hating in her Riverside CLP. Chief among the Jew-haters, she claimed, was Audrey White, a long-time activist. White was libelled by the Jewish Chronicle on the basis of Ellman’s claims, won her case in IPSO and was awarded compensation and a retraction. Yet try to find reports of this in the mainstream media. This was 2019, had the media given it the coverage it deserved, it would have alerted the public to false attributions of Jew-hating. Hence their silence.  

Geoffrey Bindman QC, a friend of Corbyn described him as “too honest and too decent to be an ideal leader.” A telling remark: our politics is so essentially corrupt it destroys the honest and decent. Corbyn expected others to be essentially like him, at least to be sincere. Tories might be mistaken, but at least they said what they believed. In the Jew-Hating furore Corbyn’s enemies said what they didn’t believe. Ellman, Mann, Ryan, Berger, Smeeth, the Jewish Chronicle, the Board of Deputies, the CST, the Guardian, the BBC, they all knew the claims of institutional Jew-hating were fluff, but they peddled them because they didn’t want the British people to have the choice of radical change in a General Election. What scuppered Corbyn was his naivety rather than his lack of courage. He didn’t know how to handle himself amongst people who were utterly insincere, who would say anything to get what they wanted. He expected his political enemies to behave like well-balanced people. In fact, they behaved like psychopaths.  

Interestingly, Blair, interviewed on BBC 4’s Today and asked if he considered Corbyn an anti-Semite, said no. If even Blair knew the accusation was false, there can hardly be any credibility in the claims of those who lined up to smear the leader. Perhaps Blair was simply evading the possibility of an action for slander. He was quite clear though about his rejection of left-wing politics: “I wouldn’t want to win on an old-fashioned leftist platform. Even if I thought it was the route to victory, I wouldn’t take it.” The conflation of “leftist” and “old-fashioned” reveals how the “New Labour” tag and the foregrounding of “modernisation” were used to befuddle. What could be more old-fashioned than the wizened old man of free market doctrine draped in the trendy clobber of the early twenty-first century? The accusation levelled at Corbyn time and again,and recycled to this day is that his policies were unpopular; Blair gives the game away, even if the whole country wanted them, he’d say no.  

The Panorama programme of July 2019 was hardly the BBC at the pinnacle of its journalism. Can it have been coincidence that broadcast came a few months before the General Election? It featured testimony from ostensibly ordinary Labour members or staffers together with comments from “experts”. One of them, Dave Rich, presented as an “author” was an employee of the Community Security Trust, a charitable body with known links to the Israeli State. To present Rich as simply an “author” created the impression of impartiality. In the same way, Ella Rose, who had been employed by the Israeli Embassy and was active in the Jewish Labour Movement, a pro-Israeli rather than pro-Jewish organisation, appeared without attribution, not even being named. Alex Richardson also appeared without being named, nor was his link to Joan Ryan, a fiercely pro-Israel MP made clear. Ryan was exposed by Al Jazeera’s The Lobby making the false accusation of use of an anti-Semitic trope by Labour member Jean Fitzpatrick. The BBC received some 1,600 complaints about the programme. None was upheld.  

Corbyn behaved as if constant apology and acceptance of a problem would placate the Zionists. This is rather like the Vietnamese having believed if they said nice things about America the napalm bombings and spraying of Agent Orange would stop or if a woman compliments a rapist, he’ll go home. There was no means of making the vilification stop by apologies and accepting a degree of guilt. Corbyn could have prevailed only by coming out fighting, by refusing to take lectures on prejudice from apologists for the ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Palestinians, from those who excuse Israel’s illegal occupation and settlements, from those who justify the siege of Gaza, from those who ignore Israel’s ingrained recidivism relating to international law. The more Corbyn apologised the more his enemies piled in. Their motto was: always kick a man when he’s down. Corbyn also needed to defend his close allies to the hilt, but he seems to have calculated that a few sacrifices would satisfy the hyenas. He was unprepared because he didn’t know enough about the history of Zionism. These are people like the US Rabbi Baruch Korff who spread the vicious lie that Britain was running concentration camps for Jews worse than those in Nazi Germany; who assassinated Folke Bernadotte and tried to kill Churchill and Bevin; who bombed the King David Hotel in 1946, killing Jews and blaming the British; who sank the Patria causing the death of 200 Jews; people like Ben Gurion who said if he could save all the Jewish children in Nazi Germany by sending them to Britain or half by sending them to Palestine, he would do the latter. People for whom the Jewish State is more important than Jewish lives. Were they going to cease their lies and psychological terror because Corbyn was being nice?  

One of the worst tormentors was Margaret Hodge, part of whose significant inherited wealth was generated in apartheid South Africa. In the House of Commons she launched into what is reputed to have been a foul-mouthed insult on Corbyn. She was never disciplined. John McDonnell, supposedly a supporter of Corbyn, appeared on the radio saying, “She’s a friend.” It was McDonnell too who suggested to Chris Williamson he should go to his local synagogue and build bridges. Why? What had he done wrong? McDonnell was hopelessly awry in his response to the campaign to destroy Corbyn. He said of Hodge, “She has a good heart.” Maybe some people said the same about Myra Hindley. Not to take action against Hodge was to suggest she was right. The Labour leader had been accused of fundamental prejudice in the House of Commons, it was all over the media, and nothing was done. Is it any wonder the public concluded the accusation must be true? 

At the core of this despicable business which has seriously damaged the already limping dog of UK democracy, is the conflation of criticism of Israel with Jew-hating. The essence of this was succinctly pinpointed by Uriel Tal, a professor of Modern Jewish History at Tel Aviv University: “The bitter cries about anti-Semitism which allegedly raises its head again all over the world serve to cover up the fact that what is disintegrating in the world is Israel’s position, not Jewry’s. The charges of anti-Semitism aim only to inflame the Israeli public, to inculcate hatred and fanaticism, to cultivate paranoid obsession as if the whole world is persecuting us and that all other people in the world are contaminated while only we are pure and untarnished.” Israel’s position is disintegrating because, across the globe, people are eager for democracy and the rule of law. In the so-called Global South, the commonplace hypocrisy which rules in the advanced capitalist countries isn’t taken seriously. Liberal opinion in Europe is disgusted by Israel’s illegal occupation and its refusal to obey the law. Polling in the UK consistently shows a significant majority believe Israelis and Palestinians should be equal before the law. Israel is in the last-chance-saloon, guns in both hands, firing wildly. This is why its apologists can’t rely on rational argument. They have to use psychological warfare.  

Winstanley’s sub-title blames the Israel lobby for Corbyn’s downfall. Without doubt it played a major role, but it would have been more or less impotent without the UK media. A good investigative journalist like Winstanley, given the chance to put his evidence before the public in the mainstream media, would have destroyed the lobby’s case in short order. That’s why his credentials for Labour conference were withdrawn. The enormity of what has taken place hasn’t registered with the UK public (because the media ensure they don’t know about it). A foreign power, through its UK proxies, with the connivance of virtually the entire UK media, abetted by the PLP and Labour’s bureaucracy, the British Board of Deputies and countless democratically unaccountable public figures, effectively told the British people they were not allowed to elect a Labour government led by Corbyn. Anyone who believes we live in a democracy is deluded and all the people who contributed are guilty. People like Hilary Benn with his apparently anodyne view of Corbyn: “He’s a good and decent man, but not a leader.” Isn’t it for the people to decide?  

The UK media are a disgrace. Their consistent identification with wealth and power is an insult to democracy. Their cavalier attitude to objectivity makes a mockery of our education system. Why do we try to teach children the importance of objectivity and honesty only to bombard them daily with lies, distortions and inaccuracies? The examples of the media’s utterly morally miserable involvement in this affair are legion, but there is one worth highlighting. During the campaign to succeed Corbyn as leader, Robert Peston hosted a television debate in a north London synagogue in February 2020. This was dubbed a Jewish Hustings, a somewhat peculiar notion. Why wasn’t there an Islamic Hustings, a Christian Hustings, a Buddhist Hustings, a Hindu Hustings, a Rastafarian Hustings, an Atheist Hustings? Why did the Jews deserve a hustings of their own? The Israel lobby  and the propaganda system had been so successful in promulgating the lie that the Jews were a persecuted minority within Labour, a redress of this kind seemed natural. It was anything but: it was a radical intrusion and distortion. It was Zionists doing what Simha Flapan accuses Israel of: defining itself in terms of the Holocaust. It was Zionists too doing what Uriel Tal complains of: defining themselves as angelic victims. Subsequently, Dave Rich of the CST tweeted: “If there’s one good thing to come out of tonight’s Labour Jewish Hustings it’s that the brave Panorama whistleblowers now have a promise the party will settle their cases. They can be immensely proud of what they did.” Rich has a curious idea of bravery. The people who appeared in the broadcast were dog-whistle blowers, appealing to low instincts, deceiving the public by failing to reveal themselves as fervent supporters of Israel. They should be utterly ashamed of their gutter behaviour. 

Peston entrapped the inadequately prepared Rebecca Long-Bailey by asking her if the following remark was anti-Semitic: that is should not be “regarded as anti-Semitic to describe Israel, its policies or the circumstances around its foundation as racist because of their discriminatory impact.” Long-Bailey, vacuously, agreed the remark was anti-Semitic, at which Peston revealed it was made by Corbyn. Long-Bailey should have seen it coming and she should have robustly rebutted the contention it was anti-Semitic. She could simply have quoted Ernest Bevin: “The fundamental difficulty over Palestine was that the Jews refused to admit the Arabs were their equals.” She could have quoted Ben Gurion who at the famous meeting in London on September 9th 1941 said the Jewish State was not based on Judaism but on being a Jew ie a racial definition. She could have quoted Ben Gurion also when he said the Palestinians were “Arabs who happen to be in Palestine.” A clearly supremacist remark. She could have quoted the Israeli Foreign Ministry which responded to the ethnic cleansing of 1948 by saying, with breathtaking stupidity as well as cruelty that “natural selection” would reduce the refugees to “a human heap, the scum of the earth.” She could have quoted Meir Kahane: “There is no question of setting up  democracy in Israel, because democracy means equal rights for all, irrespective of racial or religious origins.” None  of this or much more was available to her because she didn’t know the history, had no evidence at her fingertips. Thus, she was reduced to pathetic back-pedalling by a cheap trick from a prejudiced, time-serving journalist.  

This hustings exposed the intellectual feebleness of the candidates. The question of Israel/Palestine is convoluted. There is a long and despicable history of Zionist anti-Semitism. The thoroughgoing insincerity of the Zionists, their inculcated willingness to lie at every turn to get their own way, throws opponents who expect at least minimal sincerity. It’s necessary to be well-prepared. Long-Bailey was knocked down by a feather. Her knockout is a potent indication of the inadequacy of the philosophical underpinnings of the Labour Party. It’s mild ameliorism rests upon the acceptance of injustice and supremacism. Keir Hardie, deplored the ill-treatment of black people, but asserted they were not the equals of whites. The Fabians were enthusiastic eugenicists. Labour has never embraced the notion of the equal worth of every human life. It’s commitment to “progress” has permitted it to deem some peoples dispensable. A fine recent example being Blair who, when the Abraham Accords were under way and he was asked what this would mean for a Palestinian State, said the idea was dead. And the Palestinians with it, presumably. Labour was traduced by the Israel lobby because it had never recognised that social justice can’t be a halfway house: it depends on equal rights and responsibilities for all and that in turn derives from the recognition of our common human nature; a fact not altered by money, power, status, talent or any other peripheral phenomenon.  

This will be the standard reference book for many years . Long after Ellman, Ryan, Hodge, Mann, Berger, Smeeth, all the miserable tribe of lying accusers have been forgotten, scholars of the future will study this book and draw the inevitable conclusion: the claims of institutional Jew-hating were a fraud and Corbyn and the thousands of activist expelled from Labour,  much-wronged. The Zionists should reflect. As the man said, “One more victory like that and we’re done for.” They have prevailed for the moment by vicious dishonesty. In the long run Winstanley’s honesty and principle will win the day. Of course, this book will be ignored by the mainstream, excoriated by the Zionists, but the Israel lobby has no more chance of winning in the long-run than flat-earthers. The evidence against them is overwhelming. It’s characteristic of the dishonest, the manipulative, the unjust, to see no further than the end of their noses. If they had a more expansive view, they would recognise they are bound to be exposed. Diderot remarked that to know you will be well-judged by posterity is a present pleasure. The converse is true: to know you will be condemned by posterity is a present torment. The Zionists should writhe. 

The psychological murder of Corbyn and his supporters has left Labour in the hands of people for whom the injustice of capitalism is a natural fact. They will be in charge for a while but recall Zola’s ending of Germinal: an avenging army was germinating in the furrows, growing for future harvests whose flourishing would soon burst forth onto the earth. Victories are never total. The values and the programme Corbyn stood for will not go away. Palestine will be free and the equality which is a fact of our nature will prevail.