OpinionAntisemitism

The antisemitism crisis is out of control

In both Britain and America, politics is becoming increasingly distorted.

Anti-Israel protesters in London on Oct. 14, 2023. Credit: Koca Vehbi/Shutterstock.
Anti-Israel protesters in London on Oct. 14, 2023. Credit: Koca Vehbi/Shutterstock.
Melanie Phillips
Melanie Phillips
Melanie Phillips, a British journalist, broadcaster and author, writes a weekly column for JNS. Currently a columnist for The Times of London, her personal and political memoir, Guardian Angel, has been published by Bombardier, which also published her first novel, The Legacy, in 2018. To access her work, go to: melaniephillips.substack.com.

The war in Gaza is prying open a potentially game-changing fissure in British politics that has wider implications for the Western world.

Last weekend, a recording surfaced of a meeting of the Lancashire Labour Party in late October. It revealed that Azhar Ali, who was subsequently selected as the Labour Party candidate for a parliamentary byelection that will be held in Rochdale later this month, said Israel deliberately allowed the Oct. 7 pogrom to occur in order to give itself “the green light” to invade Gaza.

Despite this blood libel, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who has pledged to rid the party of antisemitism, said he was satisfied that Ali had made a genuine apology for the statement.

Nearly two days later, after it emerged that Ali had also blamed people in the media “from certain Jewish quarters” for Labour’s suspension of one of its MPs for using the phrase “between the river and the sea,” Starmer stripped Ali of Labour support.

This was too late to stop Ali from standing in the by-election. Since Labour has withdrawn its endorsement, the party now has no candidate.

This chaos is potentially disastrous. Rochdale is 30% Muslim. Also standing for election, as the candidate for the Respect party, is the demagogic, virulently anti-Israel George Galloway—who was himself expelled from the Labour Party in 2003 for opposing the “war on terror.” He is now well-placed to capitalize on the explosive Muslim hostility to Israel and win the seat.

Shortly after Ali was finally disowned, it was revealed that, at the same Lancashire meeting, Graham Jones—a former MP who is now a parliamentary candidate seeking to regain his former seat—repeatedly referred to “f***ing Israel.”

He also ranted that Britons who volunteer to fight for the Israel Defense Forces “should be locked up,” claiming falsely that such volunteering was illegal. Jones was suspended by the party, this time immediately.

Labour’s antisemitism crisis reveals various things about Britain, none of them good.

After the hard-left, pro-Hamas, former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was pushed out, Starmer got rid of the most egregious antisemites in the party.

Nevertheless, Labour is still deep in this particular mire. The Times of London has identified nine Labour MPs who have demonized Israel with wild and defamatory allegations.

This is likely a gross underestimate of party attitudes. Apparently, not one person at the now-infamous Lancashire party meeting pushed back against Ali or Jones. Labour remains overwhelmed by antisemitism, having handled more than 700 complaints about it since Corbyn was ousted.

Yet Starmer, promising zero tolerance of antisemitism in the party, has imposed brutal discipline against certain offenders. So why has his pledge failed?

The answer lies in the tsunami of antisemitism now coursing through Britain, and in the United States as well.

Britain’s Jewish defense group, the Community Security Trust, reported this week that the Oct. 7 pogrom has driven antisemitism to its highest levels in more than 40 years.

On police advice, the Jewish chaplain at Leeds University went into hiding with his wife and family after threats to murder him and rape his wife. Pro-Palestinian demonstrators at Birmingham University were heard to call for Zionists to “burn.” A Jewish student at Brunel University said a Palestinian woman told her: “I’m an extremist, I’m proud of it, I don’t think your people should be alive.”

Britain’s Higher Education Minister Robert Halfon, who told The Jewish Chronicle that recordings of the threats made to the Leeds rabbi made him “weep,” said the government plans to give a “seal of quality” award only to universities adhering to “the highest standards” in dealing with antisemitism.

The government’s concern is genuine.  But while it wrings its hands, it is staring in horror at a crisis of anti-Jewish hatred that’s now out of control.

This is because, as in the United States, the government has refused to acknowledge the cause of the crisis. In both Britain and America, there are two elephants in this particular room.

The first is support for the Palestinian cause, which is now the default position for Western “progressives.” Pro-Palestinianism is by definition anti-Israel and anti-Jew. This is because it’s based on the denial and cultural appropriation of Jewish history in the Land of Israel in order to construct an entirely fictitious historical and legal “Palestinian” claim to the land.

The Palestinian Authority, the mouthpiece of the supposedly moderate and respectable side of the Palestinian cause, pumps out theologically-based Islamic incitement through Nazi-style demonization of the Jewish people and genocidal threats to destroy Israel and kill the Jews.

Since this is the cause supported by pro-Palestinians in Britain and America, why is anyone surprised that so many of them come out with deranged antisemitic conspiracy theories and blood libels? 

The second rampaging pachyderm is Muslim antisemitism. Evidence overwhelmingly suggests that Jew-hatred is a default in the Islamic world. Not all Muslims are antisemites and not all antisemites are Muslims, but Muslims are disproportionately involved in antisemitic attacks.

Yet most politicians and Jewish community leaders in Britain and America won’t breathe a word about this. People who do so are denounced as “Islamophobic.” The Labour Party has many Muslim candidates, selected under the rules of “intersectional” identity politics and thus considered untouchable as presumed “victims” of prejudice.

Starmer is therefore impaled on the elephant’s tusks. British Muslims have turned against him for his refusal to call on Israel to stop its war in Gaza. 

With an estimated four million Muslims in a population of some 66 million, Starmer is faced with an acute dilemma that will come to a head next week when the House of Commons votes on a call for an immediate ceasefire.

The Labour leader either loses the support of the Muslims or the Jews. But he can’t afford to lose either, the first on grounds of electoral math and the second on grounds of the party’s foundational claim to moral decency.

The Conservative government is also in a mess over this problem. It has expressed horror at the rise in British antisemitism and called it “utterly deplorable.” Ministers cannot begin to address it, however, unless they call out not just support for Hamas but support for the Palestinian cause itself.

They have not done so. Instead, the accepted line is that Hamas is bad but the Palestinian cause is fine.

Worse still, Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron, like his counterpart in the United States, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, has repeatedly demanded the establishment of a Palestinian state after the end of the war in Gaza. 

Not only would this pose an insupportable danger to Israel from Palestinian Arabs no less committed than Hamas to the genocide of the Jews, but through such rhetoric, Cameron and Blinken are tacitly endorsing the antisemitism being inescapably promoted through the Palestinian cause.

In America, under the pressure of the presidential election later this year, the Biden administration is desperately trying to pacify the Democrats’ interrelated pro-Palestinian and Muslim constituencies.

It is doing so through an increasingly harsh attitude towards embattled Israel, with Blinken ramping up demands amounting to surrender to Hamas and the State Department sanctioning four Jewish “settlers” while defaming all Jewish residents of the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria.

Last week, a delegation of senior officials was dispatched to the key Democratic stronghold of Dearborn, Mich., to grovel to the Muslim community there. The principal deputy national security director, Jon Finer, actually apologized for the White House statement marking 100 days after Oct. 7, which focused on the tragic plight of the hostages and the brutality of Hamas, and expressed contrition for “missteps” in America’s support for Israel.

In both Britain and America, the Muslim vote is increasingly distorting politics. The consequences are potentially devastating.

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