Since Jeremy Corbyn—who praises Hamas and Hizballah, who laid a wreath at the grave a notorious terrorist, and who makes frequent appearances on Iranian state television—became leader of the British Labor party, anti-Semitism has moved from the party’s leftist fringes to the mainstream. Corbyn has responded to concerns about hatred of Jews and Israel within Labor’s ranks with dismissiveness and one well-organized whitewash. David Hirsh explains what the tolerance for Corbyn and his ilk says about the British public. (Interview by Liam Hoare.)
I think most people [who voted for him] don’t know about Corbyn’s connections with anti-Semitic politics, and if they did, they probably wouldn’t understand or might deny those connections quite vociferously. Those people [in a sense] don’t want to know.
But if you assume lots of people who voted Labor didn’t understand the significance of anti-Semitism, then the question becomes, how should people know? The way people know things is through journalists, intellectuals, activists, and other kinds of cultural producers. So, why didn’t those people tell them?
[The reason is that, within their] milieu, . . . Israel has become the symbol of oppression, of everything that’s wrong with the world, in the struggle between imperialism and anti-imperialism. It is the keystone in the brick arch. [Anti-Israel politics] has become a badge of belonging to that community. You have to sign up to certain common notions about Israel, Zionism, and people who raise the issue of anti-Semitism. . . .
[Y]ou can be sure that Labor would not have allowed somebody to become its leader with a history of anti-black or misogynist politics, for example. . . . The Labor party is not yet institutionally anti-Semitic, but people [in the party] don’t want to hear about [anti-Semitism]. What Corbyn has done is he has allowed the whole thing to be treated as if it’s just a few bad apples in the barrel, and if you find the bad apple, just kick it out, when you should ask what it is about the barrel that makes the apples go bad.