AN ACCIDENTAL ANTI-SEMITE
1st November, 2020
Few would doubt that if Jeremy Corbyn encountered a pleasant Jewish family tending to their vegetables on an allotment adjacent to the one he keeps in the notably Jewish area of Barnet, he would be the first to pass the time of day with them. He would surely share a mug of tea while discussing the merits of different brands of slug pellets while comparing marrows. In melting-pot London he would scarcely notice their denomination and, if he did, pay little heed to it. How, then, is it that he has contrived to be branded as an anti-Semite or as one giving succour to such people?
Let us not pretend, before answering this question, that such people do not exist. They come in various shapes and sizes and, to qualify as anti-Semites they have simply to exhibit the quality of feeling an animus towards Jews for the simple reason of their being Jews and no other reason.
Let’s list a few types of anti-Semite.
Firstly there are those from amongst those who practice the Muslim religion. It is well known that the Prophet himself fought wars against the Jewish nation and personally slaughtered, and boasted of slaughtering, many of the adherents of Judaism. In many places, not least Jerusalem and Palestine, the two creeds are still in direct competition with each other and, in a displacing battle, simply cannot tolerate each other. This explains why five Arab nations attacked the newly founded nation of Israel only a few minutes after its inception in 1948 and again in 1967.
Then there are people who feel animosity towards religion itself and, especially towards the most successful of the world’s religions. They lay the evils of the world at the door of those who practise, and in their view, force others to practise religion.
Thirdly, there are those who, while tolerating religion in general, find it impossible to stomach the particular brand practised by Jews. This is because of what they see as the exclusivity of the claims that the Jewish religion encourages it’s faithful to make about themselves and their place in the world. At such claims they find their gorge rises. The very existence of these claims is an offence to them.
Fourthly, of course, there are those who see the Jews as scapegoats for the world’s ills and the perceived ills brought about by capitalism. The role played by the Jews in the Gospel story and roles which medieval exclusions from common trades obliged them to take up often with great success.
Some of the people listed above are genuinely hostile towards Jews, whether in the state of Israel or not, to the point where they will happily see their blood shed for no other reason than for their being Jews. They mean business.
To understand Jeremy Corbyn’s plight one must understand how those of his political persuasion view the world. Essentially they come to it, with all its strifes and calamities, bearing a template which they apply to those strifes and calamities. The template was dreamed up before they arrived and bears no relation to any situation that obtained at the time of its conception. It contains a notional narrative in which powerless underdog is cast in a dynamic with those who are not considered to be underdogs by virtue of their wealth, their power, their authority or their place in a hierarchy. In the template the underdog is always in the right and those who are not underdogs are always in the wrong. There is no room for benign authority, a benign hierarchy or a benign use of money or power. Once identified as being in the wrong license is given to revile, in the most dehumanizing ways, the oppressors of the underdogs. The template also provides a role for the political ‘activist’ of Jeremy Corbyn’s persuasion. He or she is always cast as the champion of the underdog, standing bravely alongside him or her with shirtsleeves rolled up and fist raised in anger.
When Jeremy and his kind approach a real world situation such as that currently obtaining in Israel/Palestine they immediately apply their all-purpose template. They swiftly identify the Palestinians as underdogs and the State of Israel as the heartless oppressor ripe for revilement and blame. It is at this point that they come unstuck. This is because the minimum amount of research and awareness will tell them that their nominated oppressors, in relatively recent history, were the most viciously and unjustifiably oppressed underdogs the world has ever seen. They were subjected to an industrialised form of ruthless, deliberate and systematic genocide and ethnic cleansing of their kind in a way never before seen. Anything that the Palestinians suffered was visited upon them to the tenth degree. Their Nation State, while it has created undoubted inter-racial problems and has been guilty of its own crimes, is simply and fundamentally, an expression of the desire to survive in this world.
Because of this lapse of attention to the full historical facts Jeremy Corbyn and his kind find themselves in the strange position of reviling the Jews purely because of a kind of mathematical inevitability compelled by the arithmetic attached to their over-simple template. If the Palestinians are X (the underdogs) then the Israelis can only be Y (their unadulteratedly evil oppressors). QED. Reviling them thus, they also find themselves in strange company of those who are genuinely and sometimes murderously anti-Semitic. They find themselves saying things that the Nazis said, and standing alongside those sworn to destroy the nation of Israel even though this was never their intention. In such close proximity they find other parties being unable to conclude anything other than that they too are anti-Semites. They have become accidental anti-Semites because to ask people to make distinctions so fine regarding what they are and what the anti-Semites are is really asking too much of people. It’s truly a case of if you lie down with dogs do not be surprised if you get up with fleas. It's disingenuous to pretend not to understand this.
What responsibility do chaps like Jeremy Corbyn, who seems so nice and benignly grand-fatherly, bear for this? Surely it was never their intention for things to end in this way and it is unfair to blacken their names with all that goes with an accusation of real anti-Semitism?
Their sin is the sin of simplification, which sounds fairly harmless. All they have done is to apply an over-simplistic template to an aspect of the world. The problem is that, at the same time as they apply this template to the world, the world has never ceased to be as morally complex as it has always been. This means that it resists simple characterisations or even caricatures in the moral field.
As politicians in the major opposition party they are putting themselves forward to address that complex world in governing a country which has a place amidst all of its complexities. They, thus, make a claim and avow to being fit morally and intellectually to be competent to tackle such a task. Precisely by applying such a crudely simplistic and childish template they demonstrate that they are unsuitable and disqualify themselves. To be childish in an adult world is a very serious failing and must have moral connotations and resonances.
Finding themselves inadvertently in the unsavoury company that they do, no matter how much they might protest the case, proves that they are not fit to rule. A grown-up would never have let this happen.
The other problem with the simplistic template is that it encourages its users to forget the old enjoinder to “judge not lest ye be judged” in its readiness to demonise perceived oppressors. Perhaps what we are now seeing as Jeremy Corbyn sinks amidst the toils of the accusations being leveled at him is him simply being judged as he has judged. It is hard to resist seeing a kind of poetic justice.