• Jon Matthews

Another Week, Another Smear Campaign

Luciana Berger, a noted anti-Corbyn Labour MP, chose to highlight a Facebook comment Jeremy Corbyn had made in 2012 as evidence of his supposed anti-Semitism. The comment was on a mural by street artist Mear One and features 6 men playing monopoly on a board resting on the backs of other people. The mural caused some upset in the Jewish community, according to the artist, because of the fact that two of these men were Rothschild and Warburg, both of whom are Jewish.

Berger's exposure of this five and a half year old Facebook comment has seen the Conservative mass media go into overdrive to explain exactly why this mural is anti-Semitic, why Corbyn is anti-Semitic and why the Labour party is anti-Semitic. Quite frankly, however, I do not believe any of these to be true and I will explain why.

The six individuals in the mural are, according to the artist, (from left to right) Rothschild, Rockefeller, Morgan, Crowley, Carnegie and Warburg, wealthy international bankers who are often seen as being responsible for many of the ills of capitalism. Only two of them are Jewish and all have been caricatured in an extremely unflattering manner. On close inspection I am not at all convinced that these caricatures include the usual features used to racially identify Jews and simply remain caricatures of real people. It is not anti-Semitic to include these two prominent bankers, who happen to be Jewish, in a line up of six powerful men seeking to increase their personal wealth whilst others suffer in service to them. These six are all evil, greedy men who have caused untold suffering in their pursuit of greater wealth, to lampoon them in the form of an aggressive painting is hardly an act of gross immorality.

Some are drawn to the Eye of Providence (a Christian symbol, not a Jewish one), which sits over the six players. This symbol, which appears on the American dollar bill, has a long history of association with Freemasons and with Illuminati conspiracies. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a fabricated text published in 1903 claiming to be the minutes of a meeting in which prominent Jewish leaders plotted to take over the world, occasionally feature in these conspiracies and was a cause of much of the anti-Semitism in the first half of the 20th Century. That said, belief in the Illuminati conspiracy does not necessarily equate to anti-Semitism (though it can) and a neither does a distrust of Freemasonry (though it can). The belief that a handful of wealthy, white men control the world's economy, media and politics does have an element of truth in it. Personally, I do not believe in the existence of a literal Illuminati, but instead consider it a potent metaphor for the truth that certain individuals, such as Rupert Murdoch, wield far too much power and that the world of business, politics and media are tightly bound together by a network of favours, debts and allegiances that undermine democracy and the rights of the people.

Is the mural inherently anti-Semitic? No.

Do troubling connections sometimes exist between Freemasonry and Illuminati conspiracies and anti-Semitism? Certainly. The belief that 'the Jews' secretly rule the world or are trying to take it over is deeply problematic. However, not everyone who believes in these conspiracy theories adheres to the view that this is the work of 'the Jews'. The artists intentions may never be fully known, though he has spoken about this mural. Perhaps he does hold some anti-Semitic sentiment, perhaps not. As far as I can see and I believe the same is true of Corbyn when he saw the mural and commented, the piece of art is an attack on capitalism, on how the '1%' get wealthier by abusing both the planet and the rights of their fellow humans. Race does not come into it. The truth is that the racial struggle is not real – the class struggle, however, is real and as Marx (a Jew) said, it is the history of mankind.

Is Corbyn anti-Semitic? Certainly not.

Few people in the world of UK politics have done more to fight against bigotry, in all its forms, over the last 30 years. Corbyn has met with pro-Palestine individuals (some of whom have colourful histories) in an effort to create a dialogue and promote peace. He has expressed a desire to see the formation of a Palestinian state as part of a long term solution to the ongoing situation in the region and he has criticised war crimes that have been committed by Israel. Does this make him anti-Semitic? No, it makes him pro-humanity. It is categorically not anti-Semitic to criticise Israel's. Genocide, whoever it is perpetrated by, is wrong and must be spoken out against.

I wonder, in my more cynical moments, if this is the real issue here. Are the Jewish organisations making these accusations against Corbyn because they fear a Prime Minister who is pro-Palestine? Not all Jews and Jewish organisations are pro-Israel and anti-Corbyn, many have come out in support of the besieged leader of the opposition and many have criticised the situation in Israel, but you won't read that in your Daily Mail.

Is Labour inherently anti-Semitic? No.

Does it have a problem with anti-Semitic elements? Probably, but the situation is rapidly improving. Articles and lists of examples of anti-Semitism in the Labour party have been doing the rounds on social media. The vast majority of the incidents in these lists are stories of individuals within Labour who have been suspended, barred or investigated for anti-Semitism. Rather than prove that Labour is not doing anything about anti-Semitism, it seems to be that this proves that they are doing a lot about it – they are suspending, barring and investigating people. Ken Livingstone, an extremely high profile party member, was kicked out. Do you see the Conservative party deal with bigotry in their own ranks in a similar manner? Of course not. It is clear that the Labour party is already making a concerted effort to irradiate anti-Semitism in its ranks. It is always true that more can be done to fight bigotry and I hope that as a result of these baseless accusations Labour does choose to fight even harder against whatever bigotry does exist not just in their own party but in the political establishment as a whole. The other examples of anti-Semitism in the lists mostly allude to Corbyn's meetings with pro-Palestinian individuals; which, as I've already mentioned, are not anti-Semitic acts at all.

Jeremy Corbyn, Momentum and the Labour party are very much a force for good in British politics and any accusation that Corbyn is anti-Semitic are preposterous at best and libelous at worst. The movement he represents is at the forefront of the campaign to make this country a more equal and just society. I don't think anyone can look at Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Anne Marie Morris at al. and honestly and thoughtfully believe that they better represent that fight.

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