Last week, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, an organ of the British government, issued its damning report on anti-Semitism in the Labor party. The report, based on a months-long investigation, accused the party of illegal discrimination and harassment and blamed the leadership’s “lack of willingness” to deal with the problem. To Alan Johnson, however, the report fails to reckon with the underlying cause: not the leadership of the fanatical Israel-hater Jeremy Corbyn—who has now not only lost his post as Labor leader, but has been suspended by his successor—but the anti-Semitism that has been part of socialist thinking since its 19th-century beginnings:
To the smelly old idea about capitalism being “Jewish,” a smelly new idea has been bolted on since the creation of the Jewish state in 1948: imperialism is now “Zionist,” wars are “Zionist,” politicians are “Zionist tools,” the media are “Zionist,” 9/11 was “Zionist,” “global finance” is “Zionist,” and the anti-Semitism “smear” against the Labor party was, yes, “Zionist.”
Anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism have roots in the UK far left going back decades. It is largely (but not solely) the new anti-Semitism, this anti-Semitism dressed up as anti-Zionism, with its roots in . . . two vicious reactionary [ideologies]—Islamism and Stalinism—that has destroyed Labor.
The left needs to learn that anti-Semitism is the most protean and changeable of hatreds and it has shape-shifted yet again. Yes, Labor was poisoned in part by the flourishing of “classic” anti-Jewish stereotypes and slurs in the party. . . . (There were even a few “Hitler was right” types, believe it or not.) But the heart of the problem was “anti-Zionism” of such an obsessive, conspiracist, and demonizing kind that it long ago left the terrain of “legitimate criticism of Israeli policy” and merged itself with an older set of classical anti-Semitic tropes, images, and assumptions to create anti-Semitic anti-Zionism.
It is right that Corbyn has been suspended. But it will be even more important to wage a battle of ideas against anti-Semitic anti-Zionism.