On 10th December 2016 a Jeremy Corbyn speech to a Labour Party rally was interrupted by protesters led by Peter Tatchell, demanding that Corbyn ends his silence on the Russian bombing of Aleppo.
You can see Tatchell’s protest here.
Afterwards a pro-Corbyn activist going by the Twitter handle @lawrence0521 called Lawrence Audini confronted Tatchell, alleging a “Murdoch and Rothschild” conspiracy aimed at “continuing the civil war from the Golan Heights”, going back to the idea of Jewish money linked to Israel being involved in all the wars of the world. Thanks to the BBC News reporter and producer John Ironmonger you can hear @lawrence0521 rant in this video.
And the aftermath, as Jeremy Corbyn supporters accost Peter Tatchell outside the Methodist Hall. pic.twitter.com/IUR5FcN1Tt
— Jon Ironmonger (@JonIronmonger) December 10, 2016
Such reflexive antisemitism highlighted in Guido Fawkes article on the matter (what on earth have the Rothschilds got to do with Syria?) has been a fixture among many activists for some time now. When it comes to this tweeter judging by his tweets and it is not something new either.
It seems that not only are all allegations of antisemitism regarded as a dishonest manoeuvre to deflect ‘criticism of Israel’ (we’re not antisemitic, the Jews are liars), but even concern for another (and by any objective standards far greater) tragedy in the region is a Jewish plot. Because clearly, in the antisemite’s view of the world, Israel’s wrong-doing (real or imagined) is the only one that matters.
It is therefore heartening that Theresa May, (in a speech to Conservative Friends of Israel on Monday 12 December 2016 which you can read in full here) has pledged the Government to introducing a common, legally binding definition of antisemitism which will guide the actions of public agencies. The definition used will be that adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) in May 2016. The headline definition runs as follows:
“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
In itself, this definition might seem unremarkable, and many of the worst offenders could probably sign up to it. And no doubt condemn (if reluctantly) the campaigner quoted above.
The key however is in the detail, as the headline definition doesn’t come on its own. It is accompanied by an important set of guidelines and examples. For example:
- Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g. by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour.
- Applying double standards by requiring… behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
- Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism… to characterize Israel or Israelis.
- Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
You can read the guidelines in full here.
A measure of the power of these guidelines is the rage they have provoked from the anti-Israel lobby. However, it is difficult to understand what they are complaining about. Are they demanding the right to apply double standards to Israel? Can they seriously justify supporting self-determination for everyone except Jews? Are they saying it’s OK to fling accusations such as ‘Nazi’ and ‘Holocaust’ at Jews of all people?
We should celebrate this announcement. Not just because these guidelines will provide official, legal protection against modern forms of antisemitism; but also because they reveal the darkness at the heart of so much of present-day anti-Israel agitation, and the ideologies which too often underpin it.
Crucially now we must demand that the government follows through.