It seems no time at all since Jeremy Corbyn’s opponents were saying that obviously HE wasn’t anti-semitic, but there was some anti-semitism in his Labour Party.
That’s because it IS no time at all – yet now those same people feel able to call him a “vile anti-semite and racist”, as if this is a matter of accepted and undeniable fact.
In just a few weeks Corbyn has gone from “not anti-semitic” to a man who is apparently determined to bring about a new Holocaust – “an existential threat” – if you believe some of his enemies.
It’s been an odd summer.
Some commentators have referred to the “silly season” – that no-news period in the summer months when the media have to focus on something daft to fill their pages and their broadcasts – but this goes way beyond silly.
So what has emboldened these people to throw their libellous smears at someone who has spent his whole life fighting racism and bigotry?
Of course, as ever, we don’t have to look too far. When Margaret Hodge – the Labour MP, don’t forget, who led the ill-fated 2016 coup against Corbyn – yelled at him that he was “a fucking racist and anti-semite”, it was no accident. All her allies rushed to her aid, saying she was simply “passionate” about anti-semitism, but it wasn’t as simple as that.
She knew she would be subject to a disciplinary proceeding (who wouldn’t be if they yelled a disgusting slander like that at a colleague in the workplace?), but she wasn’t going to back down.
It wasn’t passionate – it was cold and calculated. If it had been said in the heat of the moment, she could just have apologised and everyone would have moved on. Instead, she brought in expensive lawyers Mishcon de Reya to quibble about procedures.
Hodge knew that if SHE got away with such name-calling, then that would change the narrative. And it worked. From that point on, it became “acceptable” to call Corbyn a racist and anti-semite – and his opponents have taken full advantage.
Hodge’s own words became the splash headline in the Jewish Chronicle, a paper whose editor Stephen Pollard has said in the past that “the Left, in any recognisable form, is now the enemy”.
And it wasn’t just Corbyn. Now it is pretty much impossible to comment on this issue on social media without quickly being labelled anti-semitic or “part of the problem”. Pollard himself, knowing nothing of me, accused me on Twitter of not giving a damn about the Jews.
It’s open season.
And why? Simple. Theresa May’s government is in serious trouble, so obviously a smokescreen is needed to hide her difficulties. But it goes way beyond that.
It’s not impossible that we could be fighting another general election campaign before too long, and that could very easily lead to a Corbyn-led Labour government. That is a major fear for Israel, given Corbyn’s well-known support for the Palestinians. But it goes a lot further even than that.
There are many vested interests that are desperate to avoid a Corbyn-led government. The privately-owned media in this country, obviously – and they are doing their very best to prevent it. Any business that fears that it might be subjected to fairer employment or taxation legislation. The money men who are terrified that the era of uncontrolled exploitation of capital is in danger of coming to an end.
So many people hold profitable stakes in the status quo that the odds are clearly stacked against Labour. And we’ve seen that in recent weeks with smear after smear.
Jeremy Hunt, plagiarising a Daily Mail re-run non-story, told the BBC that Corbyn was present at the funeral of terrorists in Tunisia. Never mind that it wasn’t a funeral, or that the terrorists aren’t even buried in Tunisia, or that it was actually a peace conference also attended by a Tory peer, or that the wreath-laying was to commemorate an Israeli massacre of civilians that was even condemned by Margaret Thatcher at the time. Don’t let the facts spoil a good story, eh?
Any reader of the Mail, the Sun, the Telegraph, or any other Tory-supporting newspaper could be forgiven for thinking that anti-semitism is rife in the Labour Party and that it began only when Corbyn became leader.
Except it isn’t and it didn’t.
The annual survey of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, a Jewish organisation, reveals that there is more anti-semitism among Tories than among Labour supporters – and that levels of anti-semitism have FALLEN in Labour since Corbyn became leader. Facts… who needs ‘em?
Of course, what is really worrying about all of this for those of us who believe anti-semitism is an issue to be taken seriously and not just used as a playground taunt is the “boy who cried wolf” effect.
Last year the Institute for Jewish Policy Research conducted a major survey of attitudes towards Jews and found that levels of anti-semitism in the UK were among the lowest in the world. The fear is that the gratuitous throwing around of anti-semitism accusations will devalue their impact, so that genuine accusations will be taken less seriously in the future.
There are already signs that Corbyn’s opponents have pushed this too far. In my training to become a therapist, I was taught that therapeutic suggestions don’t have to be true – they only need to be credible. And this is where the Corbyn-haters have gone wrong.
You only have to look at Corbyn’s record to know that he has never been “a vile racist”, so it doesn’t matter how many times that is repeated on social media, it won’t make it any more credible.
Look at the speech Corbyn made at the 80th anniversary of the Cable Street anti-fascist demonstration, and how emotional he became when talking of how his mother lined up to protect the Jews of the East End against Oswald Mosley’s blackshirts.
The allegations against him are simply not credible.
And this hasn’t gone unnoticed.
At the beginning of this week, Corbyn’s enemies were probably congratulating themselves on another great job of undermining him. I doubt they are laughing so much now.
First, one opinion poll showed that Labour had taken a two percentage-point lead over the Tories, reversing a similar deficit. Then another had Labour coming from five points behind to lead the Tories by two.
It seems the British public is not as easy to fool as some of Corbyn’s enemies believed. Perhaps, in their own excitement over the anti-semitism row they manufactured, they have pushed credibility that little bit too far.
Or maybe quite a big bit too far.