The event is the outbreak of violence in Chemnitz between right and left wing groups, following an alleged stabbing of a German youth by two immigrants. The violence took the local police force by surprise - 6000 right-wingers arrived in Chemnitz in a very short time. This reminded me of an old concern of mine, and I will discuss it later.
Returning to the Labour anti-Semitism issue, it seems to revolve chiefly around Jeremy Corbyn. There is, of course, the argument about Labour's refusal to adopt the definition of anti-Semitism set out by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's guidelines, which can be read online here. Jeremy Corbyn has been criticised for sharing a platform with Hamas and Hezbollah supporters and for (allegedly) laying a wreath on the grave of some Arab terrorists in Tunisia. Jonathan Sacks, the former Chief Rabbi, has entered the fray by saying:
“Now, within living memory of the Holocaust, and while Jews are being murdered elsewhere in Europe for being Jews, we have an antisemite as the leader of the Labour party and Her Majesty’s opposition. That is why Jews feel so threatened by Mr Corbyn and those who support him.”
With due respect to Jonathan Sacks, I think that is more than a little exaggerated. I have not conducted my own opinion poll, but not all Jewish people feel threatened by Corbyn. In fact, some are fervent Corbynistas. Anyone who doubts this can visit the "Jews for Jeremy" website.
I believe many criticisms of Corbyn on this issue to be valid, but he is no anti-Semite, at least according to his definition of the word. As he sees himself, he is an anti-racist, and has a long history of acting according to his principles, opposing far right groups, apartheid in South Africa and Enoch Powell. The sticking point is what he perceives as Zionism and his opposition to Israeli treatment of the Palestinians. Now, as the dreary old cliché that anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism appears to serve us well as an explanation of his actions, that appears to wrap things up.
But it does not. The problem is that the extreme right have hi-jacked the word "Zionist", using it as a synonym for "Jew". The National Front (NF) used this trick in the 70s, once describing the opposition to their activities in Ilford as due to a heavy Zionist presence. They did not explain how they knew so many supporters of Israel lived in Ilford - and, of course, they meant Jews. If you announce to a modern-day fascist that you are an anti-Zionist, he will think you mean something else. Genuine anti-Zionists should take this on board.
Besides this, there are real manifestations of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party which cannot be ignored. Two examples will suffice:
1.A Jewish Labour MP, Ruth Smeeth, was sent a 1,000 word death threat from a Corbyn-supporter calling her a ‘yid c–t’. The threat followed Smeeth’s decision to walk out of a meeting outlining Labour’s response to anti-Semitism because she was accused of working ‘hand in hand with the right-wing media to attack Jeremy’. Smeeth then received 20,000 abusive messages and has since questioned whether Labour is still ‘a safe space for British Jews’
2. A former Labour parliamentary candidate in Witham, John Clarke, shared a Neo-Nazi meme saying the Rothschild family has used money lending and Israel to ‘take over the world’. He said the meme ‘contained a great deal of truth’ and was later suspended.
There are more to be found HERE. To be fair, most of these incidents have led to (not always enforced) disciplinary action, but they stain the name of the Labour Party.
Ending on a personal note, I am a lifelong Labour supporter and will continue to vote Labour in coming elections - but I know some lifelong Labour supporters who will not. I hope that Labour will stop tearing itself apart, and I will only stop supporting Labour if things do become overtly anti-Semitic, although I might consider it if George Galloway is allowed back into the party.
Returning to events in Germany, I think we see a manifestation of the real face of anti-Semitism and eliminationist racism. The neo-Nazis who riot in Chemnitz are only one face of the monster rising from the deep. The far Right is on the rise all over Europe, and internecine quarrels between the rest of us can only work to their advantage. Given their chance, they will put all ethnic minorities, Zionist and anti-Zionist Jews and political opponents into the same boat, concentration camp or gas chamber. Bertolt Brecht has fallen out of fashion since the demise of Communism, but his words on Hitler ring true to this day:
"Do not rejoice in his defeat, you men. For, though the world stood up and stopped the bastard, the bitch that bore him is in heat again."