Last week, Richard Evans, the eminent historian of Nazi Germany whose testimony was a deciding factor in the trial of the Holocaust denier David Irving, announced on Twitter that he would be voting for Labor in the UK’s upcoming election. Evans offered the caveat that “the failure to deal with anti-Semitism in the party makes me very angry”—but wasn’t enough to change his vote. Since then, spurred in part by an open letter from the historian Anthony Julius, Evans has evidently changed his mind. But, writes Stephen Daisley, his original position is all too typical of many of Labor’s moderate supporters:
[T]he Corbyn moment, counterintuitively, is not the story of far-left anti-Semitism but of liberal collaboration, of those who know in their gut this is wrong but deploy a series of strategies to avoid, minimize, invert, excuse, and deny what is happening. Extremists have always believed these things, but liberals have made it acceptable to air them within the mainstream.
There is a nexus of complicity among anti-Semites, their defenders and amplifiers, and those who fail to resist [what Ruth Wisse has termed] “the organization of politics against the Jews.” It includes those who, though awake to the evils of anti-Semitism, will still vote, campaign, and stand for an institutionally anti-Semitic party. Some rationalize this as acting for the greater good—securing more money for the vulnerable or an end to cruel cuts in benefits. In doing so, they define the good as something greater than mere comfort and security for Jews and juxtapose, in telling ways, Jews’ welfare and that of the poor.
This nexus rests on two instincts: one fundamental to Labor politics and the other an import from progressive identity theory. The Labor impulse is home to a burning certainty that politics is a struggle between good and evil in which one side is the Elect and the other demonic. This is why Labor supporters have vilified Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis’s [wholly unprecedented decision to write an article condemning Labor]. Can’t he see Labor is on the side of the angels and the Tories are foot soldiers of wickedness? If not, it must be because he, too, is from the ranks of the reprobates.
The other conviction, born of the Jew-exclusionary theories of racism that took hold in the universities in the 1980s and on the broader left more recently, is that anti-Semitism is a lesser form of racism because Jews are beneficiaries of “white privilege.” . . . [I]ntersectionality only intersects with Jews on its own terms.