New McCarthyism: Is London's 'anti-Semitic' scandal a move against Jeremy Corbyn?

John Wight
John Wight has written for newspapers and websites across the world, including the Independent, Morning Star, Huffington Post, Counterpunch, London Progressive Journal, and Foreign Policy Journal. He is also a regular commentator on RT and BBC Radio. John is currently working on a book exploring the role of the West in the Arab Spring. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnWight1
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn © Stefan Wermuth
An extraordinary political crisis has erupted in the UK over the alleged prevalence of anti-Semitism within the Labour Party. Most recently, it has resulted in the suspension of a Labour MP along with the party’s former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone.

Anti-Semitism by its very nature is a sensitive issue. You only have to spend five minutes trawling the internet to understand why. All manner of outlandish and racist conspiracy theories exist concerning the Jewish people – i.e. Holocaust denial; Jewish bankers control the global economy; the existence of a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world; Jewish control the Western media. Some are even more outlandish than those, dredged up from a swamp of anti-Jewish bigotry that clearly retains a following among an alarmingly sizeable constituency of knuckle-dragging racists who inhabit our world.

However, in factoring this in it is also undeniable that a concerted attempt is being made throughout the West to delegitimize any criticism of Israel and its treatment of the Palestinian people. Those supporters of Israel, it should be stressed, are both Jewish and non-Jewish alike. They share in common a commitment to supporting Israel and, in so doing, granting it an exceptionalism that no other state is granted when it comes to upholding international law and the universality of human rights, as enshrined in the UN Charter of 1945.

This is why, despite the very real existence of anti-Semitism and the obligation to confront it whenever it arises, the heart of the matter driving this issue in this context is not anti-Semitism but apartheid – namely, the system of apartheid that underpins Israel and its subjugation of the Palestinian people and their human rights and right to self-determination. By way of a reminder we are talking about the illegal military occupation of the West Bank, the existence and expansion of illegal Jewish settlements across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and the ongoing siege of Gaza; the latter involving the collective punishment of its 1.6 million inhabitants, along with periodic military assaults and the slaughter of men, women, and children.

Any one of the aforementioned crimes, committed by any other state, would result in an uproar of condemnation from the so-called international community, with calls for sanctions and political isolation to be applied. The fact that there are multiple grounds for Israel to be so condemned and yet it is not and, moreover, receives unparalleled political, geopolitical, and economic support from Western governments, constitutes a lamentable case of hypocrisy and double standards.

What the proponents of the new McCarthyism we are witnessing emerge when it comes to criticizing Israel over its treatment of the Palestinians are responding to are twofold: 1. The popularity of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and campaign to return the Labour Party to its founding values of social and economic justice for the many, rather than ever-increasing wealth and power for the few. 2. Growing support for the international campaign of BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) against Israel in solidarity with the Palestinian people.

On the first of those points, since being elected leader of the Labour Party last year, Jeremy Corbyn has been placed under siege by the country’s political and media establishment. This has seen him subjected to an unparalleled media smear campaign in which he has been depicted as a ‘terrorist sympathizer, ‘unpatriotic,’ someone who 'hates Western values’, and so on. His opponents include many within the very Labour Party he currently leads, people who remain attached to the Labour Party once led by Tony Blair, who turned it from a party representing the needs and interests of millions of ordinary working people into a party rerpesenting the interests of millionaires and big business. These people are determined to see the end of Corbyn’s leadership and the Labour Party returned to its ‘rightful owners’.

When it comes to BDS, meanwhile, this is a campaign that draws inspiration from the international boycott campaign that played a key role both in highlighting and ending apartheid in South Africa. In fact, none other than South Africa’s Desmond Tutu, internationally renowned champion of that struggle, has stated that the treatment the Palestinians are suffering at the hands of Israel is worse than what black South Africans suffered during the apartheid years in South Africa.

In trying to resist the growing impact of BDS on Israel’s ability to continue to deny the Palestinians justice, it is in the interests of its supporters in the UK and elsewhere to conflate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. It is also in their interests to conflate Zionism with Judaism. This is being done in a transparent attempt to muddy the waters and deter people from raising their voice or raising their voice too loudly at least, when it comes to standing in solidarity with a people whose only crime is that they dare to exist on land coveted by this settler colonial state.

This is particularly egregious when you consider that the vast majority of pro-Palestinian activists and campaigners are anti-racists to the core of their being, acting in the best and most noble traditions of human solidarity across religious, national, and ethnic lines. It is precisely this international solidarity that Israel and its supporters fear most, for it confronts the assertion that Israel stands as a beacon of civilization and progress whose existence is under threat. This is false. The only people whose existence is under threat when it comes to this question is the Palestinians. In this regard, Israel’s Jewish character is not the issue, its apartheid character is. And a world in which apartheid is allowed to exist is not a world worth living in.

Finally, on Ken Livingstone specifically, we are talking about a politician who has spent his entire life raising his voice against and fighting racism. In fact, it would be impossible to identify a politician in the UK who has done more to stand up for the rights of minorities. It is a record that has earned him the enmity of a significant section of the political class and right wing media establishment. To see him labeled anti-Semitic is an absolute travesty of justice, as is his resulting suspension from the Labour Party he has served so loyally and with great distinction over four decades.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.