Owen Jones breaks the liberal-left’s taboo on anti-Semitism

August 27, 2015 at 9:59 pm (anti-semitism, apologists and collaborators, conspiracy theories, Guardian, Jim D, labour party, left, palestine, Racism, reactionay "anti-imperialism", reformism, stalinism, trotskyism, zionism)

Illustration by Sébastien Thibault Illustration by Sébastien Thibault

Owen Jones’s piece in yesterday’s Guardian – ‘Antisemitism has no place on the left. It is time to confront it‘ – acknowledges the fact that this foul poison exists not just on the traditional extreme right, but also within the pro-Palestine movement and sections of the left. To some of us, this is merely a statement of the obvious, and something that we have been banging on about for years. But the importance of Jones’s piece cannot be overestimated: much of the left (and that includes the Guardianista liberal-left) refuses to acknowledge that the problem even exists. It is to Owen Jones’s credit that he has broken this taboo.

Jones’s article has its shortcomings: he repeats, for instance, the old canard that “Some ardent supporters of the Israeli government oppose all critics of Israeli policy and accuse them of anti-Semitism (or, if those critics are Jewish, of being “self-hating Jews”)”: I, for one, have never heard such arguments being used by defenders of Israel, although the claim that they are is treated as an established fact by ‘anti-Zionists’.

And Jones does not deal with the crucial issue of ‘absolute anti-Zionism’ – a more widespread and pernicious problem on the left than crude, racist antisemitism. ‘Absolute anti-Zionism’  is opposition to the very existence of the Jewish state. From that all the overt anti-Semitism and covert softness on anti-Semitism to be found on the left and within the PSC and BDS movements, follows. It is the so-called ‘One-State solution’ and is the thinly disguised sub-text of slogans like “Palestine must be free – from the River to the Sea.” It is the policy of the SWP and much of the rest of the British kitsch-Trot left. Stalinists of the Morning Star variety in theory back the Two States position, but you’d be forgiven not realising this from what they say within the labour movement and write in the Morning Star. Until he very recently clarified his position, and came out clearly for two states, it seemed quite possible that Jeremy Corbyn was a one stater.

And on the subject of Corbyn, Jones’s piece is also weak: it’s simply not good enough to argue (as does Jones) that “He [ie Corbyn] could not possibly have known the personal backgrounds of every individual who has joined him at the many rallies he has attended over the years.” Whether Corbyn knew the politics of each and every one of the many anti-Semites he’s been filmed and photographed alongside, and in some cases is on record defending, is not the issue: the issue is that now that he does know who these people are, he should clearly denounce them and disown them by name – instead of blustering about how he deplores all forms of racism and is in favour of peace. And, surely, Corbyn knew exactly what the politics of Hezbollah and Hamas were when he welcomed them as “friends.” For the record, I make these comments as someone who has just voted for Corbyn.

For sure, Jones’s piece does not go far enough, or make its case as plainly as it should: but it’s an important breakthrough for the ‘anti-Zionist’ liberal-left, and all the more welcome because its published in the absolute anti-Zionists’ respectable, mainstream mouthpiece: the Guardian.

Alan Johnson's photo.

Above: Jones (left) with arch-critic Alan Johnson after the publication of Jones’s Guardian piece



  1. Ellen Leinwald said,

    John Rees: ‘I back the resistance in every form it takes against the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.’ With friends like this, JC won’t be needing enemies.

  2. Political tourist said,

    The AWL ain’t half got a bee in their bonnet over anybody criticising their dreadful record on Israel.
    Funny it wasn’t the old two nations theory when it came to Scotland.
    A socialist fig leaf hiding their pro British tendencies.

    • Jim Denham said,

      The idea that the trivial grievances (real and imagined) and studied victimhood of petty bourgeois (and big bourgeois) Scot Nats is comparable to the events that led to the creation of the state of Israel is, at best laughable, and worst sick. Yet a lot of Scot Nats deny Israel’s right to exist.

      • Mike Killingworth said,

        Tallk’s cheap. Care to name names (ideally with links)?

  3. Glasgow Working Class said,

    You only need to have a close look at certain Scottish individuals that are pro Palestine and anti Israeli. You will probably find they are sympathetic to
    fascist PIRA. Some of them claim they are not anti Jewish but then do not have the bottle to tell the real truth.
    So why are they so obcessed with Palestine? Why not the Kurds, why not the Red Indian? why not the Maori and Aborigines, the South American indigenous people, could it be because there are no Jews involved? And It did not evade me that many Palestinian supporters wear the Yes badge.

    • Political tourist said,

      Shouldn’t you change your name to Ulster William.

      • Glasgow Working Class said,

        Pt. Same person that cannot explain Tartan Tory policies. Ulster William sounds like a good proddie name although Billy is preferable.

  4. Glasgow Working Class said,

    Strange that when the Isrealis respond to attacks the Palestinian supporters can be on the streets the next day with their prepared banners. Seems to me they are puppets for the Islamic fascist Hamas and Hezbollah.

  5. Steven Johnston said,

    I’m still trying to find the nation that belongs to the workers, when I come across that on the atlas it will get my full support. Unitl then, every country, is a capitalist country ergo it does not belong to the workers ergo it does not deserve my support. What do other socialists think? To renounce this idea pretty much mean you’d have to renounce socialism.

  6. Thomas Grubb said,

    Interesting to compare this with Owen’s piece on antisemitism in the Guardian a year ago, which largely failed to acknowledge antisemitism on the left: http://www.theguardian.com/…/anti-jewish-hatred-rising-anti…
    But it’s encouraging to see such a prominent left-wing journalist now tackling this issue.

  7. Mark said,

    I think the issue is that he continues to limit anti-semitism to explicit mentions of Jews, when the real problem is the mass ‘anti-Zionist’ campaign that usually operates on an anti-semitic logic in an entirely unconscious way. If you tell these social justice champions that they might be being a little bit racist they’ll be genuinely perplexed that you could even have implied such a thing. I’ve tried to detail it here – http://www.whiskyandtea.net/2015/08/28/antisemitism-poisons-left/

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