Kara Bryan asks how the press ignore these latest attacks while the Bitterites use charges of anti-Semitism to damage Jeremy Corbyn
Gaza came under heavy artillery fire and bombardment from Israeli F16 air strikes for three nights in a row, but you’ll have seen few reports in the British press. In some of the worst violence since the 2014 Truce Agreement, 53-year-old wife and mother, Zeina Al Omor was killed in her home by shrapnel from an Israeli tank shell in Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip while several others were injured.
The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) claimed the attacks were in response to mortar fire but reported no injuries or damage. As tensions escalate amid fears of a renewed surge in violence, Israeli Army Major General Mordechai denied that a new truce agreement had been agreed and said the Army intends to ‘maintain its activities against Hamas’. Three children aged 1, 2, and 4 were also killed in a fire at a refugee camp in besieged Gaza. The fire was reported to have been caused by candles due to electricity cuts forming part of the Israeli blockade.
While the right wing in Labour seek to redefine anti-Semitism to mean ‘any criticism of the Israeli government and its policies’, this is a timely reminder of life under military occupation and why it is fundamental not to conflate anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism. We must always differentiate between the two, lest we risk silencing the voices of the oppressed and the human rights campaigners who speak up for the victims.
Meanwhile, Israel’s treatment of the beleaguered Palestinians, who are frequently shot dead in the streets by IDF soldiers indifferent to age or gender, is being downplayed. It is sufficient for the IDF to claim the ‘assailant’ concealed a weapon, without facing legitimate investigation or sanction. They are routinely humiliated at Israeli checkpoints whilst living in the largest open-air prison in the world under a blockade with no civil rights or means of redress. Gaza is a civilian population. It has no army, no F16s, no tanks, no arsenal and no American subsidies. It has rocks. The IDF frequently attacks unarmed civilians yet the International Community remains silent.
Eighty prominent Jews, including actress Miriam Margolyes, dismissed by the pro-Israel lobby as ‘self-hating’, have signed an open letter to The Guardian saying they do not accept that anti-Semitism is rife in the Labour Party and that the accusations are part of a wider campaign against the Labour leadership, timed to damage the Labour Party’s prospects in the upcoming elections.
‘As Jews, we are appalled that a serious issue is being used in this cynical and manipulative way, diverting attention from much more widespread examples of Islamophobia and xenophobia in the Conservative and other parties. We disassociate ourselves from the misleading attacks on Labour from some members of the Jewish community.’
They contended that Labour is, under the present progressive leadership, a place where Jews are welcomed in the spirit of equality and solidarity.
It is true Ken Livingstone’s comments were undoubtedly clumsy for a veteran MP but hardly racist. And we don’t have to look far to see where opponents of Jeremy Corbyn want to take all this. On Sunday, Labour MP John Mann, after ambushing Ken Livingstone with a film crew, calling him a ‘Hitler apologist’, tweeted: ‘Apparently some people have seen no Labour Party anti-Semitism ever. I will publish crap I have, with names, no holds barred.’
Mann’s comments form part of a malicious and thinly-veiled attempted coup d'état by the Labour Right, who have been on the back foot since Jeremy Corbyn’s election in September. Blairite MPs, notably Jess Phillips among others (who evidently regards herself as a future contender for the leadership) were quick to jump on the bandwagon calling for Livingstone’s suspension from the Labour Party. Jeremy himself has since been criticised by pro-Palestinian supporters who perceive the expulsions to be appeasing the pro-Israel sentiment. To be fair, Corbyn was faced with an impossible conundrum in which he would be admonished whatever action he took or didn’t take.
But the witch hunt needs to stop. Labour MPs must respect Corbyn’s mandate and the will of the membership itself and accept his leadership. As John McDonnell recently put it they should, ‘put up or shut up’ Much to the disappointment of the Labour right polls show Corbyn’s popularity to be at an all-time high. The head of political and research at YouGov, Joe Twyman said that Corbyn remained ‘a country mile’ ahead of other potential candidates.
Conversely, despite their determination to conduct an internal Labour Party witch hunt the Labour right are remarkably quiet on the apparent racism of senior Tories. Only last week Boris Johnson’s derogatory remarks about Barack Obama’s ‘part-Kenyan heritage’ and his previous ‘flag-waving picanninnies’ comment went almost completely unnoticed by the mainstream media and what little coverage it did receive was quickly forgotten.
Furthermore, Boris wasn’t the only senior Tory accused of racism. Zac Goldsmith’s Islamophobic campaign used the 7/7 London bombings as political leverage against the Labour candidate Sadiq Khan, from which he quickly backtracked laying the blame on the Mail on Sunday’s editorial team. In addition, Goldsmith embarrassingly tried to link Sadiq Khan with Muslim cleric Suliman Gani, who it transpires had attended a Conservative fundraiser with Zac Goldsmith endorsing the local Tory candidate Dan Watkins. Gani admits he was used by the Conservatives to ‘scapegoat Sadiq Khan’ and vehemently denied the damaging allegations, stating his opposition to Islamic State. He later released a photograph of himself with a smiling Zac Goldsmith after Goldsmith had labelled him ‘one of the most repellent figures in this country.’ Suliman Gani has since demanded an immediate apology from the Prime Minister.
While some MPs find “anti-Semitism” in any deviation from accepted Israeli rhetoric, even the war criminal Tony Blair himself has waded in, calling anti-Semitism a ‘poison’ and for once, he is actually right. Anti-Semitism is a poison. Racism is a toxic legacy that should be denounced wherever it rears its ugly head, whether it be against Jews, Blacks or Muslims or any other race. As Nelson Mandela once said, ‘We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.’
Kara Bryan is a writer and activist and regular contributor to the Counterfire website. She is a member of Counterfire and Stop the War
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