A few days ago, I wrote about antisemitism in the Labour party following the rough ride given to shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry when she spoke at Limmud.
I suggested that those who, like Thornberry, were concerned about the egregious examples of antisemitism in their party were nevertheless unable to face an inconvenient truth. This was that the bigotry against Jews which so horrified them was symbiotically connected to the commitment throughout progressive circles to the Palestinian cause, whose foundation, activities and goals are defined by virulent, murderous Jew-hatred.
In response, Thornberry suggested I should read the speech she delivered to last year’s Labour Party conference in which, she said, she dealt with many of the issues I raised.
So I did. This is how she dealt with them. Having declared that the Labour party must “lead the fight against the forces of fascism, of racism, and prejudice, and anti-semitism. Because that is what we have always done both at home and abroad, and that is what we must always do”, she went on:
“But Conference, let me speak to you from the depths of my heart and my soul and say something I never thought I’d have to say in my lifetime as a Labour member and activist, and it is simply this: that if we want to root out fascism and racism and hatred from our world, and from our country, then we must start, we must start, with rooting it out of our own party.
We all support the Palestinian cause, we are all committed to recognise the Palestinian State, and I stand here with no hesitation when I condemn the Netanyahu government for its racist policies and its criminal actions against the Palestinian people.
But I know as well, and we must all acknowledge, that there are sickening individuals on the fringes of our movement, who use our legitimate support for Palestine as a cloak and a cover for their despicable hatred of Jewish people, and their desire to see Israel destroyed. Those people stand for everything that we have always stood against and they must be kicked out of our party the same way Oswald Mosley was kicked out of Liverpool”.
Far from dealing with the issues I raised, this seemed rather to have made my original point for me: that so firmly do Labour and other progressives believe they are defined by their noble fight against racism, prejudice and antisemitism, they cannot ever acknowledge to themselves that they are in fact supporting and promoting racism, prejudice and antisemitism.
For that is precisely what they’re doing by simultaneously falsely defaming Israel’s behaviour as racist and criminal while sanitising the true racism and criminality by the Palestinians they support.
Of course they don’t accept that calling Israel’s policies racist and criminal is an example of antisemitism. But it is. That’s because it singles out Israel for an obsessional campaign of double standards, demonisation and delegitimisation based solely on malevolent falsehoods, distortion and selective reporting – treatment afforded to no other country, people or cause.
At the same time, such people ignore the true racism, prejudice and antisemitism displayed by Palestinians. They ignore the constant incitement to murder Jews, the relentless terror attacks against Israelis, the Nazi style deranged discourse demonising not just the State of Israel but also the Jewish people as a source of cosmic conspiracies and evil intent.
There was recently a graphic example of this egregious double standard. Jamil Tamimi was jailed for 18 years at Jerusalem district court for the murder of 21 year old British student Hannah Bladon whom he stabbed repeatedly with a seven-inch knife.
Her parents were outraged by what they as an unjustifiably lenient sentence. But the court had found that Tamimi was mentally ill, possibly trying to provoke the police into shooting him dead by stabbing someone. “This was not a terrorist incident,” the prosecutor told the court. “This was a terrible murder carried out by a mentally ill person.”
A few days later a Palestinian Arab, Issam Akel, did get a life sentence. He was convicted at Ramallah high court, in the Palestinian-run territories, of acting to broker the sale of a house in the Muslim quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem to a Jewish organisation.
Palestinian law deems it treasonous to sell land to Jews, a crime for which the maximum penalty is execution. It was commuted here to a life sentence with hard labour, possibly because Akel also held American citizenship.
So Israel showed leniency to a Palestinian Arab convicted of murder – while the Palestinians imposed a far harsher sentence on a Palestinian convicted of selling land to a Jew.
The Israelis saw the killer as a person just like any other human being whose mental illness had diminished his moral agency; they treated him accordingly with a total absence of racism. The Palestinians jailed for life a Palestinian who had dared reject the racist law requiring him to discriminate against Jews. The Palestinians thus made not just the Jewish people a victim of their antisemitism but one of their own, too.
Presumably Emily Thornberry, like the rest of Britain, would have been unaware of this since the land-sale sentence was not generally reported. The telling double standard – the very reverse of the western lie that the Palestinian Arabs are the victims of Israeli racism – was not acknowledged by the mainstream media. As Stephen Daisley noted in a fine piece on the Spectator blog:
“If you get your news from the BBC, you might have missed this story, what with it not appearing to merit a single word on the corporation’s website. Happily, there was space on the Middle East page for a puff piece on Kholoud Nassar, ‘a Palestinian Instagrammer in the Gaza Strip [who] wants to show us a different side of life there’.”
It wasn’t reported because to the progressive mind this cannot be happening.
To this mindset, it cannot be the case that the Palestinians are profound antisemites who won’t even sell a Jew a house and will jail for life any of their own who dares do so; because the Palestinians are the victims of colonialist oppression and so are morally pure.
To this mindset, it cannot be the case that the Israelis have law, history and morality on their side on the grounds that they alone are the extant indigenous people of the land, that they are the only people for whom Israel was ever their national home and that they are the historic and present victims of Arab and Muslim colonialist and illegal aggression.
No, to this mindset it must be the case that the Israelis are racist and criminal because the Palestinians say this is so and the Palestinians never lie because they are the victims of colonialist and illegal oppression and therefore as victims they are morally pure.
And it must also be the case because progressives in the west who support them have always been noble, decent people who have always fought racism and antisemitism and stood up against evils such as colonialist aggression and abuses of power and racist ethnic cleansing.
And if the Palestinian Arabs were not morally pure, the western progressives who support them wouldn’t be morally pure either. And that’s simply impossible, isn’t it. Because Emily Thornberry has told us so.