The New McCarthyism
I write these words in the knowledge that they may to lead to my suspension from the Labour Party. Such is the logic of the witch-hunt launched by the enemies of Jeremy Corbyn to undermine his leadership that anyone who breaks cover and speaks out against this monstrous assault on the Party’s members runs the risk of being suspended by the Constitutional Unit and smeared as “anti-Semitic” in the press.
If that sounds like hyperbole, consider this chain of events. At the end of April, Naz Shah MP was suspended for posts on Facebook in the summer of 2014 during the 50 day bombardment of Gaza which killed 2,200 Palestinians, including some 500 children. Shah shared a meme which flippantly suggested that the Arab-Israeli conflict might be solved by Israel being relocated to the USA. In a co-ordinated attack timed to damage Labour’s first major electoral performance under Corbyn’s leadership, the meme was presented by right wing blogger Paul Staines (‘Guido Fawkes’) as evidence that Shah supported a “chilling transportation policy” for Israel’s Jews. John Mann MP was quoted by Staines and the Telegraph comparing Shah with Adolf Eichmann. Asked to comment on such a comparison, the US Jewish scholar Norman Finkelstein, who also posted the meme, said:
“Frankly, I find that obscene... I remember my late mother describing her deportation. She was in the Warsaw Ghetto. The survivors of the Ghetto Uprising, about 30,000 Jews, were deported to Majdanek concentration camp... To compare that to someone posting a light-hearted, innocuous cartoon making a little joke about how Israel is in thrall to the US or vice versa... it’s sick.”
Ken Livingstone then took to the studios to denounce the witch-hunt of Shah and others. Ken’s remark that Hitler “was supporting Zionism before going mad and killing six million Jews” was certainly clumsy. The holocaust was the culmination of the Nazis' murderous fascism and virulent anti-Semitism rather than mental illness. Ken’s suspension, however, was for highlighting the relationship between Nazis and Zionism in the early 1930s. For doing so, he has been called everything from a “Nazi apologist” by John Mann MP to a “little unhinged” by Phillip Collins in The Times. The Guardian added that Livingstone relied for his facts on Lenni Brenner, a “Marxist” whose work is “well outside the academic mainstream”.
In fact, co-operation between the Nazis and Zionist movement, which represented a tiny minority of Germany’s Jews in 1930s, has been widely discussed by mainstream historians, from Hannah Arrendt onwards. Saul Friedlander’s 2009 history, Nazi Germany and the Jews 1933 -1946, described as “the standard work” by The Times and “a masterpiece” by The New York Times, points out that while “favouring Zionism as a means of enticing the Jews to leave Europe”, the Nazis also considered the Zionist Organisation as part of the ‘Jewish World Conspiracy’.
Enter David White, Secretary of Croydon Central Labour Party and a member of Labour for 46 years. He tweeted on 28 April that “the odd thing is that Ken’s references to Hitler were largely accurate (google Haavara Agreement) but the way it was put was unfortunate”. For this his membership was suspended on 10 May by Labour General Secretary Iain McNicol. White told the Croydon Advertiser that anti-Semitism was “a terrible thing” that should be “forcefully opposed” but decried the “febrile atmosphere in which almost any comment criticising the actions of the Israeli government, or any comment about the history of Zionism, is liable to lead to accusations of anti-Semitism”.
As with the original McCarthyism, which targeted left wing Jews in the US between 1949 and 1954, so the anti-Semitic nature of Labour’s version is the targeting of anti- Zionist Jews in the UK. A case in point is the suspension of lifelong anti-racist campaigner, Tony Greenstein, apparently for pointing out, as Hannah Arendt had done, that rabbinical laws which existed in Israel at the time of the Eichmann trial banned mixed marriages between Jews and Gentiles in much the same way as the 1935 Nuremberg laws in Germany – hardly anti- Semitic. Labour’s shocking suspension of Jackie Walker, for writing about the role of her Jewish ancestors in the slave trade, is another obvious example of the new McCarthyism’s attempt to silence Jews from writing critically about their own history. Millions of Jews, including many thousands in Israel itself, reject the claims of Israel’s government to speak and act in their name. They repudiate the Israel lobby’s campaign to equate Zionism with Judaism.