A central feature of Labour's anti-Semitism is a staggering failure to understand the difference between traditional hatred of Jews from some religious and far-right sources, and modern expressions of that hatred through the medium of Zionism. The Labour enquiry into anti-Semitism entirely ignored several important definitions of anti-Semitism that included the singling out of Israel for condemnation, the use of double standards for Israel, and delegitimisation of Israel by negation of Zionism as the movement for self-determination of the Jewish people. The U.S. Department of State issued just such a new definition in 2010. Several of its clauses mention anti-Israel charges, including this: "Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, and denying Israel the right to exist".
The Palestinian "resistance" is not a struggle to create a Palestinian state next to the state of Israel. From the PLO to Hamas to the PFLP to Hezbollah, no group or leader within the "resistance" movement has ever considered that their goal. Their position is summed up in the slogan chanted by leftist students and pro-Palestinian groups across the world, "Palestine will be free, From the river to the sea". The "river" is the Jordan and the "sea" is the Mediterranean, meaning that there is no room whatever for a Jewish state in the region. Self-determination, an ideal loudly proclaimed for practically every ethnic and cultural group in the world by people on the left, is denied for one community only: the Jews.
Failure to see this is the chief blind-spot that traps Britain's Labour Party inside its bubble of anti-Semitism and, what is worse, the refusal of its leader even to admit that it is a major problem. That this is so is encapsulated in a recent revelation about Seamus Milne, a revelation that inspired this article.
Britain's best-known contender in the "I am not an anti-Semite" stakes has shot himself in the foot yet again by burying his anti-Semitism and the anti-Semitism of so many in his party by making bland statements of presumed innocence.
Back in April, Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn planned to send greetings to Britain's Jewish community for the celebration of Passover (Pesach). Sincere or not, this was a decent gesture appropriate to a party leader in a democracy. But in September, apparently, Joshua Simons, a Jewish activist who had worked in Corbyn's office as a policy adviser, was instructed by a senior official, identified as Milne, to remove the standard Hebrew greeting that is used by Jews and their friends on cards, e-mails, and elsewhere for any Jewish festival: "chag kasher vesameach" (have a happy and kosher holiday). This is a religious greeting, wholly non-geographic, but, according to the Times, Milne wanted the phrase deleted because it might look "Zionist" -- thus confirming the suspicions of those who claim that anti-Zionism is actually just a transparent cover for the same old garden variety Jew-hatred, anti-Semitism.
Labour have denied the truth of this claim, saying that "any suggestion that Mr Milne had asked for the Hebrew to be removed was "categorically untrue". But a different source gives further credence. Dave Rich, a senior official of Britain's Community Security Trust, a Jewish charity for the defence of Jews in the country, wrote in The New York Times that "after some debate, Mr Milne was overruled".
If, indeed, Milne asked for the phrase to be removed for that reason, it shows abysmally poor lack of judgement. To think for a moment that a Jewish religious greeting constitutes support for Zionism indicates an inability to distinguish between religious Jews and frequently secular Zionists, thereby conflating Jews as a whole with a movement which Milne has always condemned and regarded as something evil. Is it hard, then, to see how a British political movement led by anti-Zionists has acquired a reputation for indulging and protecting anti-Semites?
Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of Britain's Labour Party (and, by default, Leader of the Opposition and a potential Prime Minister in the unlikely event that Labour were to win enough votes in a General Election), has been involved in a murky controversy about anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism within the party since the spring of this year. The story is well known and need not be rehearsed in detail here. Suffice it to say that Corbyn was elected leader of Labour on September 12, 2015 and two days later, appointed to serve on Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council (a body of advisors to the Queen). This latter appointment is automatic for opposition leaders, but in Corbyn's case it is ironic, given that he is a lifelong republican who wishes to see the monarchy abolished.
Corbyn is an experienced politician who has served as a member of parliament since 1983. But his political views have always been so far to the left that he remained on the back benches and was never given a cabinet or shadow cabinet post. This is not surprising. According to Philip Cowley:
"In the first parliament that [Corbyn] he entered, in 1983, he was the sixth most rebellious Labour MP. From then on, he was always in the top ten, and between 1997 and 2010 he was the most rebellious. Over those 13 years in government, he defied the whip 428 times. In the last five years, he dropped into second place but only just, one vote behind John McDonnell."
Not a comfortable presence, even in his own party.
This rebellious streak has informed Corbyn's policies and campaigning throughout his life. He claims never to have been a Trotskyite, but his views as a committed socialist have brought him into close contact with Trotskyites and other Communists. This August, a dispute broke out between Corbyn and the Deputy Leader of the party, Tom Watson, when the latter declared that Trotskyites and others were engaged in entryism through the Corbyn-supporting Momentum movement. This led to Corbyn's strenuous denial that this was the case.
It is, of course, arguable that Jeremy Corbyn would not recognize a hard-left revolutionary entryist if he saw one. Steven Fielding, Professor of Political History at Nottingham University, has defined Corbyn, not as a Trotskyite himself but as a gateway for their influence in the democratic Labour Party:
"Jeremy Corbyn sees actual Trotskyists as socialists. He does not really see them as being an issue for the Labour Party. In the 1980s, he didn't think Militant should be expelled even though they were trying to take over the party and turn it into a particular sort of organisation. Jeremy Corbyn isn't a Trotskyist, but he's an enabler for Trots and Trotskyists to enter the party."
Corbyn surrounds himself with colleagues who admire Trotsky and his anti-democratic stance. His right-hand man, the current Shadow Chancellor of the UK, John McDonnell, openly stated in 2006 where he stood:
Asked to name the "most significant" influences on his thought, McDonnell (who was then standing for the Labour leadership) replied: "The fundamental Marxist writers of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky, basically."
About a month after his election to the leadership, Corbyn appointed a long-standing Guardian journalist, Seamus Milne, to be the party's Executive Director of Strategy and Communications. Widely considered a very clever man, Milne is a hugely influential radical whose editorial and journalistic work for over 30 years with The Guardian informed a range of major political debates. Peter Wilby's long and informative account of Milne, published earlier this year, reveals a complex individual dedicated to far-left activism and an abiding support for the Palestinian cause mixed with loathing for Israel. Milne is politically complicated. According to Charlotte Edwardes:
"He'd be offended if you called him a Trotskyist, and would take umbrage if you called him a Stalinist," says a former colleague. "He's an old-fashioned Morning Star Communist and very focused on achieving his goals. He will make whatever alliances and use whatever tactics to achieve those."
Islamic radicalism holds a considerable attraction for Milne. During the six years when he edited The Guardian's "Comment is Free" columns, the number of Muslim radicals appearing on those pages greatly increased, culminating in an article by Osama Bin Laden, which Milne himself edited from taped statements by the al-Qa'ida leader and published in 2004. Milne has a reputation as a dyed-in-the world opponent of the West, from the United States to Israel, something that has led him to make outrageous comments for which he has never been properly censured. Writing critically about Milne in the left-wing magazine The New Statesman, Oliver Bullough cites some of these:
Whatever crisis strikes the world, the West is supposedly to blame. Why did a group of psychopaths attack a magazine and a supermarket in Paris? "Without the war waged by western powers, including France, to bring to heel and reoccupy the Arab and Muslim world, last week's attacks clearly couldn't have taken place".
Why did Anders Breivik slaughter 77 people? "What is most striking is how closely he mirrors the ideas and fixations of transatlantic conservatives."
Why did two maniacs in London decapitate an off-duty soldier? "They are the predicted consequence of an avalanche of violence unleashed by the US, Britain and others."
Milne's geopolitics spared us having to read how the children of Beslan or the theatregoers of Moscow only had themselves to blame, but office workers in New York had no such luck. "Recognition of why people might have been driven to carry out such atrocities, sacrificing their own lives in the process - or why the United States is hated with such bitterness, not only in Arab and Muslim countries, but across the developing world - seems almost entirely absent."
As with so many leftists on either side of the Atlantic, Milne can never summon up the courage to place blame on Muslim extremists, whom he sees as victims of Western oppression. He evokes the vogue for what French philosopher Pascal Bruckner has termed "the tyranny of guilt", whereby Westerners take upon themselves \ a desperate feeling of guilt for the crimes of their ancestors, whether it be for slavery, colonialism, or imperialism. To criticize Muslim radicals for their inhumane actions would be unthinkable. Writing in The Guardian on July 1 2004, Milne praised the Iraqi resistance, while condemning US and UK forces, hailing the resistance campaign as "in fact Iraq's real war of liberation". This, even though that campaign had led to the deaths of British soldiers. In the same newspaper, on 13 September 2001, he claimed:
Nearly two days after the horrific suicide attacks on civilian workers in New York and Washington, it has become painfully clear that most Americans simply don't get it... .Shock, rage and grief there has been aplenty. But any glimmer of recognition of why people might have been driven to carry out such atrocities, sacrificing their own lives in the process - or why the United States is hated with such bitterness, not only in Arab and Muslim countries, but across the developing world - seems almost entirely absent. Perhaps it is too much to hope that, as rescue workers struggle to pull firefighters from the rubble, any but a small minority might make the connection between what has been visited upon them and what their government has visited upon large parts of the world.
Remember that this is a man who has spent much of his life writing, not for an obscure far-left free-sheet but for one of Britain's mass-circulation papers, who is now one of the most powerful men within our country's "loyal" opposition. It is his influence, in part, that has led Labour into its current crisis, including the still live controversy over anti-Semitism within the party.
Milne has -- not at all surprisingly -- a particular fondness for the terrorist entity Hamas and the Palestinian "resistance" in general, coupled with a strong dislike for Israel and the Zionist enterprise. In a video recording from an anti-Israel rally in 2014 he claimed: "Israel has no right to defend itself from territory it illegally occupies", without even questioning if the so-called Israeli "occupation" is in fact, "illegal," as there are many who are firmly of the opinion, based on treaties, documents and international law, that it is not, in fact illegal in the slightest for the Jews to be in a country in which they have continuously lived for three thousand years. The only title to the land the Palestinians seem to have is that under the Ottoman empire, the land had been subject to Muslim governance; and if one applies Islamic law, rather than common law, any land that has once been under Muslim control must stay that way forever - - including of course "el-Andalus," all of southern Spain and Portugal. So far as the West is concerned, Islamic sharia is not - yet at least - the dispositive law.
Milne added that Palestinians in Gaza have the right to "defend themselves" and claimed: "It isn't terrorism to fight back. The terrorism is the killing of citizens by Israel on an industrial scale". No, the terrorism is the tens of thousands of rockets and missiles fired from Gaza into Israel, roughly the size of Victoria Island, for more than a decade.
Here is a man who went to one of England's most prestigious schools, Winchester College, and took a degree from Oxford University. Given that Gaza had long been unoccupied by anyone at that date, that Israel's former occupation of the Strip and its continuing occupation of the West Bank had never been illegal under any form of international law, and that Israel had never killed "citizens" on an industrial scale, we can see something at play totally at odds with reason, fact, and political knowledge. That something is creeping out from beneath an unpleasant rock, and that it has a deep connection with anti-Semitism if it is not – as I would argue – anti-Semitism in its purest modern form.
Milne was not just sympathetic to the Palestinians, he was obsessed with their cause. One commentator, writing of Milne's early years at the Guardian, states:
Colleagues tell how he would pace the newsroom, talking loudly on his mobile phone about his favourite subject: "It turned out to be Palestine every time." Guardian sources say Milne's preoccupation with the Israel-Palestine conflict was a factor in him leaving the opinion pages and being "promoted" to the less influential role of associate editor. "The feeling among many at the paper was that he was eventually moved by [then editor-in-chief, Alan] Rusbridger because of his obsession with Palestine. He just would not leave it out of the comment section," a colleague explains.
At this point, let us remember that Jeremy Corbyn himself has called both Hamas and Hezbollah "his friends". Challenged about this in May this year, he refused to disown them:
"The Labour leader refused to denounce the groups in the wake of calls from Jewish leaders, the Israeli Ambassador and members of his own party to distance himself from those with anti-Semitic views."
Yet by May 2, it was revealed that some fifty members of the Labour Party, including several MPs, had secretly been suspended for making anti-Semitic statements in public or on social media. This later led to the setting up of an inquiry into anti-Semitism in the party, an inquiry widely condemned as a whitewash. The details of the inquiry and how the author, Shami Chakrabarti (now awarded a peerage for her efforts), manipulated the facts available to her by proclaiming an absence of anti-Semitism in the party may be found in an earlier article.
On 16 October 2016, the British parliament's Home Affairs Select Committee, which had earlier interrogated Corbyn with regard to the Chakrabarti report, issued a 68-page review of its own, in which Corbyn and Chakrabarti were severely criticized and their report dismissed.
Given their mutual antagonism to Israel, it is hard not to see how Corbyn and Milne have been in part responsible for the failure of the Labour party to come to grips with its abysmal record on anti-Semitism and its ongoing inability to resolve its problem with Jews. Milne is not just Corbyn's mouthpiece. Alex Whickham, writing in the popular glossy men's magazine, GQ, comments that "it has been remarked that they share the same worldview 'almost to the letter'. They are both veterans of the anti-war left, and for decades shared platforms at rallies, eulogising Latin American socialism, fighting the 'neoliberal consensus' arm in arm." Whickham goes on to say that Milne is a powerful figure on the Left:
In just a few short months, he [Milne] has forged a reputation as one of the most powerful men in Westminster. He is as loathed by some of his own MPs as he is revered by the hard left. He is feared as a brutally uncompromising, if inexperienced and error-prone, political operator. He is the intellectually brilliant right-hand man of a Labour leader who is completely in thrall to him. It has been a remarkable journey for a dissident writer on the fringes of British political life to rise to a position of almost unrivalled authority in Her Majesty's Opposition.
Dr. Denis MacEoin is an Irish and British citizen, an Islamic studies academic, and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute.
 For a broader discussion of Israel-linked anti-Semitism see Kenneth Marcus, The Definition of Anti-Semitism, Oxford University Press, 2015, chapter 6, 'Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism, pp. 146-190.