Corbyn & ‘Palestine Live’: The Ultimate Mainstreaming of Antisemitism?

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DAN HODGES: Last week Corbyn and his anti-Semitic pals smashed the moral compass to pieces but the most terrifying thing of all? Nobody even cares

Mail on Sunday, 11 March 2018

Imagine the following scenario. In the next few months an extreme party surges to the brink of power on mainland Europe. Its leader is an eccentric maverick with a penchant for spending his time buried deep in the darker recesses of the internet, where he engages with sites populated by posts about and links to conspiracy theorists, Holocaust deniers and the peddlers of neo-Nazi propaganda.

He openly embraces religious fanatics, personally donates money to virulently racist organisations, and entertains proscribed terrorist groups, describing them as ‘friends’. At his side is a loyal lieutenant, in whose office is proudly displayed a plaque praising the sacrifice of terrorists who murdered police officers and civilians. He frames violent attacks on the headquarters of his political opponents as representing ‘the best of our movement’. He echoes calls for female political opponents to be ‘lynched’. He tells his supporters that media organisations who fail to report in the way they deem appropriate should be forced to do so by direct action.

The rise of this party, understandably, causes consternation. Jewish leaders publicly state they would not even enter the room with its leaders unless the overt racism is addressed. A cross-party parliamentary investigation finds the party has become a ‘safe-space’ for racists. Moderate politicians speak out, but are confronted by an unprecedented campaign of abuse and intimidation. Homophobic and misogynistic slurs become commonplace. Bricks are thrown through windows. The party’s cultish followers, drunk on their own political momentum, chant their leaders’ names at massed rallies.

Actually, don’t bother to imagine. Simply open your eyes. That party is Labour. That leader is Jeremy Corbyn. And that mainland European country is our own. We live in an era of unprecedented and dramatic political turmoil. But the most significant changes can still occur incrementally and unobtrusively. And that is what has just happened.

Last week British politics – indeed Britain itself – crossed a line. Amid the drama of the Skripal poisoning, the Trump/North Korea detente and the latest Brexit machinations, it was a transition that passed virtually unnoticed. The moment Labour – and the army of racists that now call Labour their home – successfully achieved the normalisation of anti-Semitism within the UK. The catalyst was a report by investigative journalist David Collier.

Over 150 pages, it painstakingly detailed how Corbyn had spent two years as a member of a closed Facebook group called Palestine Live. The group was a veritable cesspit of anti-Semitism, containing vast numbers of racist posts and links ranging from Holocaust denial, through Zionist conspiracy theories and 9/11 conspiracy theories, to descriptions of Jews as ‘Zios’, ‘ZioNazi’ and ‘JewNazi’.

Collier’s research revealed Corbyn had engaged with the group, had been lauded by its members, and had organised meetings at the Commons for members via the site. In response, Corbyn’s office claimed he had been added to the group without his knowledge or consent.

The Labour leader said he didn't see any offensive posts while in the group, and claims he left in 2015

When it was pointed out he had posted on the site, they backtracked and claimed he had only responded to individual posts in which he’d been mentioned. Then it was pointed out he had in fact ‘favoured’ various pieces of general content. At which point Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell appeared on television to claim Corbyn had left the group as soon as its vile nature had been brought to his attention.

Unfortunately, Corbyn himself had already undermined that defence, admitting he had only left the site when he was elected Labour leader. So his office finally fell back on the line that he had not personally seen or engaged with any anti-Semitic content directly.

At this point the reaction was instantaneous and savage. An instantaneous and savage silence.

From Labour’s Shadow Cabinet there was silence. From Labour MPs there was silence. From the Tory Party there was silence. On the main broadcast bulletins there was silence. On the front pages of the national newspapers there was silence. Across the nation. Silence. It’s important to repeat again what had occurred. The leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition admitted to being a member of what by any objective definition is a Facebook group of unremitting anti-Semitic hatred. He admitted to engaging with that group, of organising meetings on behalf of that group, and of remaining a member of that group for two full years.

And yet there is nothing. No internal challenge or repudiation. No external challenge or repudiation. Just a collective shrug.

What the hell is happening to us? How have we managed to fall this far? The ethical framework that surrounds our politics has morphed into a grotesque, sickening parody. Place a hand on a knee – you’re gone. Fiddle expenses – you’re gone. Tweet an inanity about someone’s breasts – you’re gone. Watch pornography – actually deny watching pornography – you’re still gone. But engage with an overtly racist Facebook group – something that would get you sacked from any other workplace in the country – and you can carry on, no questions asked. Potentially all the way to No 10.

How much longer is this conspiracy of silence going to continue? The act of unprecedented denial on behalf of our political and media class that maintains the ‘safe-space’ for anti-Semitism at the heart of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party does not actually exist. Or has emerged by accident, without any assistance from Corbyn himself.

For how much longer are we meant to suspend disbelief? Corbyn’s ten-year association with Holocaust denier Paul Eisen? ‘I didn’t know,’ he claimed, his office saying he opposed Eisen’s views. His association with anti-Semite Sheikh Raed Salah? ‘I didn’t know.’ His association with anti-Semite Reverend Stephen Sizer? ‘I didn’t know.’ His association with anti-Semites within Palestine Live? ‘I didn’t know.’

I’ll tell you how long – for ever. Because there is no going back from here. The line that has been crossed cannot now be redrawn. The anti-Semites – with the help of Corbyn and the other useful idiots within Labour’s ranks – have won. They have reset the moral compass of a nation. In fact, they have snapped it in two.

The articles written in protest over their malign coup have been successfully dismissed as smears. The voices raised against them discounted as political agitation. The facts detailing their racist insurrection recast as ‘fake news’. So mark the moment. Bad things are about to happen in this country. And when they do, we had better not say we didn’t know. Or that we had no chance to stop them. And above all, we had better not mouth the platitude ‘never again’.