by Douglas Murray
Wrong-Headed Cures for the Prejudice Problem
- As with the Labour party students at Oxford, it is hard to argue that party members should have zero-tolerance towards anti-Semites when the party's current leader has spent his whole career happily tolerating them.
- As many on the so-called left have earlier shown, their sinister idea of "re-education" for their opponents supposes that their own ideas on "education" are correct.
- "Anti-Semitism isn't just tolerated in some sections of the British Muslim community; it's routine and commonplace. Any Muslims reading this article -- if they are honest with themselves -- will know instantly what I am referring to. It's our dirty little secret." — Mehdi Hassan, The New Statesman.
- Is it not possible that anti-Muslim feeling, if it exists, might be in part propelled by the discovery that anti-Semitism and other forms of prejudice (against women and gay people to name just two other "minorities") are also "routine and commonplace" among British Muslims?
Not a month goes by in Britain without some left-wing proponent of anti-Jewish racism exposing themselves. Last month it was the Oxford University Labour Club (OULC) that was found to be harbouring anti-Semites among its members. In recent weeks there have been a number of adult members of the Labour party who have been readmitted to the party or promoted within it while holding extreme anti-Jewish views.
The most recent case revolves around one Vicki Kirby, a Labour parliamentary candidate before the last general election, when she was suspended from the party for tweeting about Jews having "big noses," Adolf Hitler being the "Zionist god" and other ramblings. Naturally, Ms. Kirby's suspension has since been lifted. As with the Labour party students at Oxford, it is very hard to argue that party members should have zero-tolerance towards anti-Semites when the party's current leader has spent his whole career happily tolerating them. Last week it came to public attention that Ms. Kirby had now become the vice-chair of her local party chapter.
The story was broken on right-of-centre websites, which ordinarily means that left-of-centre activists dismiss them as "smears." But these stories are now coming in so thick and fast that an increasing number of people on the left are starting to admit they might have a problem. At least they are choosing to throw the more minor anti-Semites under the bus while preserving those at the top of their ranks. Had the charges aimed at Ms. Kirby been aimed at Mr Corbyn, we would still be being told that these were "rumours," "innuendo" and the like.
Nevertheless, some Corbyn loyalists have decided that Ms. Kirby may indeed be a bit much, and realized that it is probably time to address the problem. Unfortunately, having failed to recognize the virus earlier, the remedies these people are now suggesting for cure are predictably wrong-headed.
Take for example the Guardian-published Corbyn activist, Owen Jones. Last week, ignoring his own history of stirring up lies against the Jewish state, he responded to his party's latest embarrassment by arguing that Labour's rules should be changed so that "anyone found guilty of anti-Semitism -- or any other form of racism -- is expelled from the party." He went on to say that, "Their readmission should only happen when they have demonstrably been shown to have been re-educated." There is the start of the problem. As so often with those on the Corbyn-ite wing of politics, the answer to problems of the heart or mind is "re-education." The only problem -- as the left many have earlier shown in a range of twentieth-century initiatives ranging from Stalin to Mao -- is that their sinister idea of "re-education" for their opponents supposes that their own ideas on "education" are correct. As Jones goes on to show, this is rarely the case.
For his second prevarication for dealing with Labour's anti-Semitism problem, Jones wrote that the party should:
"... set up two commissions: one on antisemitism, the other on anti-Muslim prejudice, respectively headed by a leading Jewish and a Muslim figure. Both forms of bigotry are on the rise in Britain, and both exist within progressive circles and the Labour party. The commissions could issue a series of recommendations, both for dealing with it when it arises within Labour, and also in wider society."As everyone involved in politics knows, there are two ways truly to ignore a problem: the first is just to ignore it; the second is to "set up a commission."
But there are several perhaps unwittingly interesting things about this flaccid suggestion. The first is the reflexive and unthinking demonstration among many these days that they cannot possibly deal with anti-Semitism unless they also throw Muslims into the mix. To deal with anti-Semitism on its own might throw up too many problems and raise too many communal problems.
But let us say that two such commissions were set up. And let us pretend for a moment that they were indeed headed by people who were not merely "leading" but also honest figures.
The head of the commission to look into anti-Semitic prejudice, might find a number of startling things. He or she might find, for instance, that the dominant strand of anti-Semitism in British life in 2016 comes not from Ms. Kirby's ilk, but from the British Muslim community. The commission head would not have to go far to learn this. One only has to pick up a copy of the British left's in-house magazine, The New Statesman, and read an article from just three years ago by the British-born Al-Jazeera broadcaster, Mehdi Hassan. In an unusually honest piece entitled, "The sorry truth is that the virus of anti-Semitism has infected the British Muslim community," the author explains that:
"Anti-Semitism isn't just tolerated in some sections of the British Muslim community; it's routine and commonplace. Any Muslims reading this article -- if they are honest with themselves -- will know instantly what I am referring to. It's our dirty little secret."So as Hassan has reminded us, the sorry truth is that if a commission into anti-Semitism were set up, it would have to finger the majority of British Muslims as at least a very large part of the problem.
Meanwhile, let us say that the second commission were set up -- the one that gives cover to the anti-Semitism commission which is looking at "anti-Muslim" feeling. This commission might come to an equally problematic conclusion. This commission might conclude, for instance, that to the extent that any "anti-Muslim" feeling might be said to exist in the UK, it comes from a number of factors quite separate from innate and unalterable prejudice in the hearts of the British people. It might come, for instance, from a dislike of suicide-bombings, assassinations, beheadings and other varieties of terrorism carried out while discussing the greatness of Allah. Although most British people will remain perfectly capable of understanding the difference between the actions of the extremists and the behaviour of the vast majority of British Muslims, they may be concerned about the amount of deflection and denial that they see even from leaders of very mainstream Muslim organizations. Indeed, is it not possible that anti-Muslim feeling, if it exists, might not also be in part propelled by the discovery that anti-Semitism and other forms of prejudice (against women and gay people to name just two "minorities") are also "routine and commonplace" among British Muslims?
Perhaps after all it would be best if the Corbyn-ite element of the Labour party does not attempt this process of "re-education"? The path to wisdom must include some self-understanding. Yet the Labour party's anti-Semitism problem comes from people who propel the very hatred they profess to despise. As such, they remain in no position to "re-educate" anyone, as they so stubbornly refuse to educate themselves.
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Douglas Murray, a British political analyst and commentator, is based in London.
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