Published in December last year, Anti-Semitism and the Labor Party is a collection of essays meant to serve as “a sober examination of the strange events that have warped British politics since 2015,” combined with the personal testimonies of 21 party members. The “strange events” in question are not the public and private statements of influential Labor figures—starting with the party leader Jeremy Corbyn—about sinister Jewish influence and other fabricated outrages but the reactions to these statements on the part of the media, Jewish leaders, and some moderate Laborites. Reviewing the volume, Sarah Brown notes that some of the authors slip easily from defending against accusations of anti-Semitism to defending hatred of Jews on the merits:
[Take for example] the collection’s final chapter, “Stereotypes Should Be Discussed Not Sanctioned,” by Jamie Stern-Weiner (the volume’s editor) and Alan Maddison. The authors’ reasoning is convoluted, but they are anxious to demonstrate that harboring anti-Semitic views doesn’t necessarily constitute hatred of Jews. Here is a sample of their logic: “If I believe that Chinese people are good at math, or that Jews are smart, it does not mean I love the Chinese or the Jews. By the same token, if I believe that Jews are cheap, it does not mean I necessarily harbor hatred toward them.”
It doesn’t indicate hatred, precisely, to believe that blacks are inherently intellectually inferior to whites, or that women are only fitted to be mothers and homemakers. But most would have no difficulty acknowledging such views as racist and sexist—and that includes, I would guess, Stern-Weiner and Maddison. [But] when it comes to anti-Semitism, only the most active hatred is allowed to be worrisome.
However, the most disturbing piece in the whole collection is Norman Finkelstein’s “The Chimera of British Anti-Semitism (And How Not to Fight It If It Were Real).” He takes as his starting point some research carried out by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR), which made use of a series of anti-Semitic statements in a survey used to gauge the extent of racist views in the UK. . . . Finkelstein goes on to argue that nearly all of the stereotypical statements about Jews used in the JPR survey are not simply something we should be allowed to debate—but that they are in fact an accurate summary of Jews’ character and position in the world.
Rather than arguing that Jeremy Corbyn was falsely accused of anti-Semitism, Finkelstein and Stern-Weiner end up arguing that his anti-Semitism is wholly justifiable.