Laws of the Jungle
Someone who uses the word ‘Zionist’ or ‘Zionists’ on social media to criticize others will also have posted antisemitic material.
The novelist and journalist Jeremy Duns made the observation that when somebody has enough tweets to be investigated (about 2000 should do the trick), their use of ‘Zionist’ as a pejorative (as opposed to ‘Zionism’), means a subsequent search of their posting history will reveal an antisemitic attitude. Usually manifested through the propagation of antisemitic tropes, be it ‘Zionist masters’, ‘Rothschild banksters’, ‘child murder’ or holocaust marginalisation or denial. Duns has shown with countless examples how this is the case and I invite you to try it yourself. This observation has been, somewhat playfully perhaps, formalised as ‘Duns’ Law’.
But what has this to do with Corbyn?
Some time back I made the following observation on Twitter which, not wishing to be outdone and not short of pomposity, I have now named after myself:
Not all Corbyn supporters are antisemitic kooks but all British antisemitic kooks are Corbyn supporters
Working on the assumption that time spent exposing and arguing with antisemites is never wasted, I have a couple of search columns on my Tweetdeck which highlight the words ‘Arabs are Semites’ and ‘Palestinians are Semites’ in tweets. To those writing them, I have been replying with a link to my piece debunking the stupidity. I have observed that of late, those popping up in the columns and those that Duns has highlighted, when from the UK, are invariably Corbyn supporters. Louise Mensch has been busy finding them by the dozen.
I might need to stipulate something like “all those antisemitic loons not explicitly a supporter of a right-wing organisation…” and no doubt if I were to keep searching exceptions will be found, but as yet this hasn’t been the case. The law is holding firm. Literally every time, spot the suspicious trope, find evidence of antisemitism, find Corbyn support. As eggs is eggs.
Perhaps this sense of the antisemitic swamp-life coming up to feed is inevitable. An explicitly pro-Palestinian politician en-route to becoming a party leader will excite those that support Palestine and their corner of the field happens to be the likely home of antisemites. Nevertheless, the trend that a British antisemite is a Corbyn supporter is so strong, that when combined with the revelations of his various public dealings with assorted bigots and kooks, it is hard not to be concerned. The sense of them coming out of the woodwork and of feeling emboldened is palpable to me. Social media might not be the most solid indicator but is there a better one? Imagine what it will be like if he wins.
Diane Abbott claims the establishment is ‘frozen with fear’ about Corbyn’s rise. Perhaps so but it is not just the establishment, a recent survey published by the Jewish Chronicle suggests many British Jews are concerned too. These concerns can’t just be written off as the results of smears.
Guilt by Association
The constant retort of Corbyn’s defenders has been to suggest that those highlighting his personal trend of being friends with Jew haters are using ‘guilt by association’ (examples 1,2,3). Guilty of what exactly?
Pretty much every article I have seen about this prefaces the discussion with an admission that they believe Corbyn is not an antisemite himself and is probably a decent person. Though this doesn’t prevent the likes of Yasmin Alibhai Brown claiming that ‘the forces of darkness’ are calling him an antisemite, even though he is friends with ‘good Jews’ of whom Alibhai Brown approves. This is a strawman. Where is the article saying Corbyn is an antisemite by virtue of his association with his ‘friends’ who are? One can believe Corbyn isn’t an antisemite while also wishing he could meet a Jew hater he didn’t like.
It’s also worth noting that in his claims of exculpation he is happy to bring up the fact that his mother was on Cable Street. He wasn’t, but claims benefit from association with those that were. Surely this is merely innocence by association?
I suggest that promoting, supporting, inviting and platforming Holocaust-deniers and assorted antisemitic wackos is not guilt by association: it is simply guilt, an offence all by itself. He is guilty of associating with them, and by doing so, of lending his voice and stature to their causes. Even though he is not one.
I have not seen Corbyn’s supporters claiming that guilt by association shouldn’t be applied elsewhere. When UKIP-supporting racists kept getting unearthered during the recent general election I did not hear Yasmin Alibhai Brown, Diane Abbott and Owen Jones attacking Dan Hodges for his condemnation of UKIP for this reason.
Owen Jones recently tweeted the following:
But his piece merely talks about personal smears of Farage. It is not the same thing.
It may appear that I am verging on whataboutery here but the accusation of using ‘guilt by association’ could have been made very easily in previous cases and wasn’t. It doesn’t just suggest hypocrisy it suggests they actually believe that condemning people for the company they choose to keep, and in fact laud, has validity. I do too. And Farage’s offenses were somewhat less blatant and consistent than Corbyn’s.
If Corbyn becomes leader and we then find out David Cameron has invited David Duke to Parliament and claimed to be honoured by his presence (don’t hold your breath for this occurring), that would be a rough equivalent. However, if it did occur, do you care to bet that Abbott, Alibhai Brown and Jones will be crying ‘guilt by association’? Me neither.
Calling Jew-haters ‘friends’ and a ‘force for social justice’ makes you guilty without making you a Jew hater.
We all have a duty to oppose any kind of racism in whatever form it raises its head wherever it raises its head
Owen Jones wrote:
He also said:
The vast majority of people in the Palestine solidarity movement are motivated by justice. But a minority are anti-Semites, and they need to be tackled and driven out of the movement. The failure to do so will mean that people like me – who support the Palestinian cause out of a sense of justice – will risk meeting or sharing platforms with people who indulge or possess anti-Semitic views.
This is laudable but isn’t a particularly bold idea. This process of weeding out the kooks from the movement should have been obvious from the start. So the question that is positively begging to be asked is this: How much gardening has Corbyn done?
He is a patron of the Palestinian Solidarity Movement and a founding member of the Stop the War Coalition. He speaks at endless rallies and meetings. Now if a man is as dynamic and relentless as Abbott and Jones suggests and also believes he has a duty to oppose racism of any sort at any place, it should be easy to dig up countless examples of this process of ‘rooting out’. Where are they? What internal reports have these organisations put together, at his request, on antisemitism within their movements? Who has he named and shamed and dissociated himself from? Which group he is part of has fewer antisemites because of his actions and his backbone and his principles?
I can’t prove a negative but surely if he had been actively doing this the examples would form a key part of his defence. They don’t, I think we can conclude he hasn’t done much at all, if anything. It appears, for now, he is the inconstant gardener.
Does this make him an antisemite? No. But he should have done more. The absence of this work against antisemites beyond the post hoc platitudes and tales of his mother, is not good enough. Saying you abhor and despise antisemitism is fine. But it’s boiler plate. Anyone can say it. Without actions what does it mean? A lifetime of extolling a healthy diet and then running off to eat creme cakes and fizzy drinks doesn’t mean you are slim. It just means you are aware that vegetables are good for you.
Not the Devil but No Saviour
Perhaps when your political rise is unmistakably accompanied by ranks of antisemitic loons thinking its springtime for Jew hatred, you might want to pause and assess your career so far. And saying ‘well he never said anything antisemitic to me’ or ‘I can’t vet everyone I meet’ simply doesn’t cover it.
Antisemitism is no longer the preserve of skinheads and haughty cigar chomping Conservatives. A picture or two of you campaigning for Nelson Mandela is not enough to convince antisemites in your organisations that they are not welcome and you do not stand with them.
No, he isn’t an antisemite. No, he isn’t an idiot. No, he isn’t greedy or corrupt or anything else. But he does deserve criticism for what he has sat back and allowed to happen and he should be criticised for the things Louise Mensch and others have listed. These things don’t make him evil they just mean he is utterly unsuitable for serious office. His judgement stinks.
Perhaps he will lose and we can all rejoice in his return to mainstream irrelevance. But at the time of writing the odds say otherwise and for many, this is cause for legitimate fear and concern.
5 thoughts on “The Inconstant Gardener”
Owen Jones has zero credibility on anti-Semitism. Funnily enough, not many Jews would trust the judgement of a foaming-mouthed anti-Zionist when it comes to correctly identifying what is or isn’t bigotry against Jews.
Indeed, a piece he did in the Guardian on anti-Semitism was laughable in the way he tried to defend the left’s singular obsession with the Jewish state (it’s apparently because Israel has an embassy and Islamists don’t).
But of course the point of Owen’s arguments isn’t to convince Jews that the left doesn’t have an anti-Semitism problem; it’s to convince the left. To folks like Owen, Jews of course can’t be trusted on the matter – anti-Semitism is merely a device to shut down debate on Israel, apparently.
The usual defence is that criticism of Israeli government policy isn’t anti-Semitism. However the point which Owen, Corbyn and the rest of their acolytes seem to miss is that wishing for the destruction of Israel isn’t “legitimate criticism”, and neither is supporting those who want that, who preach that, and who fund-raise for that.
Another point which fly over the heads of Corbynites is that anti-Semitism is endemic in Arab and Muslim circles. And pertinently, it’s not really hidden. Take Hamas’s charter for instance, which calls for the death of Jews. Oh, it’s just a function of socio-economic this and anti-imperialism that, your Guardianistas claim. Erm, no it’s not, say the Arabs, we really mean it. That’s what all the holocaust denial stuff is about. See the cartoons in the Arab press. Listen to what our leaders say in Arabic. We really mean it. Oh, I’m sure you don’t really mean that, say the Owenistas. You mean inequality and imperialism are the enemies. We’ll translate ‘the Jews’ as ‘the Israelis’ say the BBC..’for clarity’.
You ask, Mr Paxton, in your article if Jeremy Corbyn is anti-Semitic and you answer no. My response to the question is this: does it, in the end, matter if we call Corbyn anti-Semitic, when in his wake comes all manner of bigots, obsessives and Islamists?
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Thanks for your comment.
And my answer is: not much.
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