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2. Jeremy Corbyn and the charge of antisemitism

Painful as it is for those of us who like and support Jeremy we have to admit that he was 'toxic' on the doorstep, raising the question, why was he toxic in 2019 but not in 2017? It seems to me that just as Labour was in an impossible position with regard to Brexit, Jeremy was in an impossible position with regard to the Labour Party. His great strength - the reason for his popularity among new members, myself included - had been his consistent opposition to Labour Party policy at least since the 1990s - privatisation of public utilities, development of the 'internal market' in the NHS, maintenance of Tory anti-union legislation, 'light touch' regulation of the financial services industry, slavish foreign policy playing out the role of Tonto to the US's Lone Ranger. But in the domain of the hostile media all that could be represented as unpatriotic loony leftism.

Corbyn's chief priority as leader of the Labour Party was, rightly or wrongly, to maintain party unity, especially in Parliament. But he could not defend his past record without antagonising a large section of the PLP which had supported the earlier policies - as recently as 2015, 184 of them had failed to vote against the Tories' murderous Welfare Reform Bill. They included four of the current leadership contenders (Keir Starmer, Emily Thornberry, Jess Phillips and Lisa Nandy - though Lisa Nandy was on maternity leave at the time). Things might have been arranged with a modicum of good will on the part of the PLP (Corbyn for his part showed an abundance of good will in particular when choosing his first cabinet from all sections of the party only to have them knifing him in the back at the first opportunity). Sadly that goodwill was lacking.

Nowhere was this more obvious than with regard to the question of Israel. Traditionally the Labour Party had been highly supportive of Israel especially in the early days when it had a convincingly left wing image. Israel however is essentially a colony and colonies cannot survive and thrive, becoming nation states in their own right, without a rigorous suppression of the indigenous population. North America, Canada, New Zealand and Australia are examples of places where this was done. Algeria and South Africa (and, in a longer time frame, Ireland) are examples of places where it was not done. To function as a Jewish national state - as opposed to a 'state for all its citizens' - Israel has to suppress, ultimately to eradicate or ethnically cleanse, the Palestinian population.

Given this logic, the possible arrival in power of a British Prime Minister who has supported the Palestine Solidarity Movement with its policy of 'Boycott, Divest, Sanctions' against Israel was deeply alarming. The 'Campaign against Antisemitism' had been established in 2014 in the context of the Israeli 'Protective Edge' mass bombing of Gaza in which, according to UN figures, 1,462 Palestinian civilians (plus some 700 judged not to be civilians), together with 6 Israeli civilians and 67 Israeli soldiers, were killed. The Campaign pursued a policy of representing opposition to Israeli policy as antisemitism. It is no coincidence that the accusations of antisemitism directed against Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters took off during the Summer of 2018 when the Israeli army was using live ammunition (killing hundreds, wounding thousands) to suppress unarmed demonstrations on the Gaza border.

Actual expressions of hatred towards Jews, as towards Muslims or other people defined by religion, skin colour, sexual preferences etc, are, under British law, a crime. They should be treated as essentially a matter for the police. It is perfectly proper that members who are accused in this manner would have their membership suspended while their case is under consideration by the courts. There can however be little doubt that the issue within the Labour Party turned not on hatred of Jews as such but on the ways in which hostility was being expressed towards Israeli policy, a matter that aroused strong feelings on either side of the debate. As such it could be compared to feelings aroused by hostility to US policy, or Russian policy or, to take a matter close to my heart (I am, in terms of my national identity, an Ulster Protestant), to Northern Ireland policy, especially in the 1970s.

The charge of antisemitism - always managing to evade the core of the question, policy with regard to Israel - became the most fruitful argument for those still opposed to Jeremy's leadership. It was the gift that kept giving. And again Jeremy seems to have believed, rightly or wrongly, that he could not defend himself without exacerbating the situation. The result of his inability to respond properly to the charges brought against him and some of his close associates was that he looked weak and shifty, and the party presented an image of self lacerating incompetence. It is almost impossible to overestimate the damage that this did.