When Britain’s Equality and Human Rights Commission announced it was investigating Labour’s treatment of its Jewish members, many of Jeremy Corbyn’s opponents claimed this as proof of his supposed antisemitism. But the inquiry is itself a political weapon — and as the Commission publishes its much-hyped, long-delayed report today, the attacks against the Left are only intensifying.
by Daniel Finn
Part 8 - Wrestling With Shadows
Labour’s disciplinary process could not possibly address an “antisemitism crisis” that existed primarily at the level of media discourse, any more than a man can wrestle his own shadow to the ground. There are sure to have been structural flaws in that process, compounded by individual failings, as one would expect in any large bureaucratic organization.
The challenge of addressing those flaws and failings on the hoof were compounded by bad-faith actors spamming the complaints system with spurious allegations of antisemitism, and by hostile party officials throwing multiple spanners into the works — the leaked report contains ample evidence of both.
Yet even the most perfect disciplinary process could not have defused the “Labour antisemitism” meta-controversy. The British media collectively decided that it was a matter of urgent national importance — sufficient to dominate the news cycle for weeks at a time — if a small handful of Labour members with no public profile, holding no positions of authority in the party, had expressed antisemitic views (or views that could be tendentiously presented as such).
The same media outlets enabled a concerted effort to redefine “antisemitism” so that it no longer had much to do with prejudice against Jewish people and chiefly concerned attitudes toward Israel. In a final twist, they denounced anyone who questioned this rickety construct as an “antisemitism denier.”
With these empirical and conceptual protocols in place, the “Labour antisemitism” narrative was a perpetual-motion device, capable of generating its own fuel for as long as Corbyn’s opponents deemed it necessary. The principal shortcoming of the Corbyn leadership in this respect was its failure to defend itself robustly, instead of offering unwarranted concessions that bought days or weeks of peace at the expense of months or years of pain. But we will search in vain for any acknowledgment of that in the EHRC report.