This is a cross-post by Adloyada
It’s a long time since we’ve had an article from any columnist providing quite such a superb, albeit unintentional, exemplification as did Yasmin Alibihai- Brown in her Independent column of 17th August of the futility of engaging in arguments about whether a given politician/columnist/commentator “is antisemitic” or not.
Alibhai-Brown sets out to demonstrate why it’s utterly wrong to call British Labour Party lead candidate Jeremy Corbyn “an anti-Semite”.
Hilariously, the subhead, which she may not have written or approved, states
“Some of the people the left-wing hopeful has been closest to are conscientious and ethical British Jews”.
It may have escaped the Indie’s sub-editors that that’s a po-faced politically correct reformulation of “some of his best friends are Jews”.
The right sort of Jews, not those sloppy and unethical British Jews who are not his best friends. And of course as utterly irrelevant to the issue of whether an individual embraces and promotes antisemitic ideas as it was when Sir Oswald Mosley, Leader of the British Union of Fascists used it to deny that he “was antisemitic”, whilst having his Blackshirts march through the streets chanting, “The Yids, the Yids, the Yids! We’ve got to get rid of the Yids!”
And Corbyn himself resorts to another variant of “innocent by association” in the interview with Cathy Newman in the clip above. In response to her challenges about his associations with major promoters of antisemitic ideas, Corbyn indignantly tells us that his mother took part in the Communist Party organised Cable Street demonstration against Moseley’s fascists in 1936, as if what his mother did almost eighty years ago had any bearing on what he does now.
It’s interesting that a very familiar group of “AsAJews” have just produced a round robin letter slamming those who raise the question of Corbyn’s associations with promoters of antisemitic ideas as “guilt by association”.
Yet their hero’s first resort to such questions is a defence of “innocent by association.”
Yasmin Alibhai Brown has a very great deal of form on this front.
She’s particularly skilled at condemning the antisemitism she’s happy to acknowledge as antisemitism ( basically, that of the far right and any that can be found amongst the Tories), whilst writing paragraph after paragraph playing the “zionists call legitimate criticism of the state of Israel and its robotic hard line defenders antisemitism”.
She also plays a very nice skilled variant on the “not an antisemitic bone in his body” line (always good, since who has ever found antisemitism embedded in the human skeleton?). Alibhai-Brown’s version is “if he’s antisemitic, I’m a white supremacist”— with total subtlety reminding you that she’s NOT WHITE.
That’s her shtick…
The real trap here is to attempt to rebut her by agreeing to play this debate as a question of whether Corbyn IS or ISN’T antisemitic.
This is a completely wrong headed approach, as it’s basically an issue about what’s inside Corbyn’s head. As it is about the head of anyone spouting or circulating antisemitic ideas, which is being presented or felt to be best addressed through an IS/ISN’T antisemitic debate.
The Torah teaches us that we judge people not by attempting to second guess what’s in their heads, but by their acts– what they do and what they say. And Torah assumes people have free will and the obligation to take responsibility for their actions.
In fact, we’ve just entered a month where we’re expected to review our actions and speech over the last year and put right any wrongs we’ve done.
Queen Elizabeth I, like so many Elizabethans, knew and understood Torah a lot better than many of today’s Jews and Christians. Not surprising, because the astonishingly beautiful translations into English by Coverdale and Tyndale of the Hebrew Bible were still new and exciting. Torah language and wise counsel, was adopted into every day language, and would be even more embedded in the language and speech habits of the ordinary English people with the publication of the King James bible after her death.
The words of the Torah in English electrified both the common people and the great poets and playwrights of her day. Shakespeare is saturated with phrases and sentiments directly taken from the English translations of the Hebrew Bible of his day.
Like Shakespeare, she used the language and the thought patterns of the Hebrew bible much more than she did the Greek-originated Christian New Testament.
She is reputed to have said– in perfect Latin– on unexpectedly succeeding to the throne of England
This is the Lord’s doing and it is marvellous in our eyes.
She also said, in one of her greatest speeches:
Though God hath raised me high, yet this I account the glory of my reign, that I have reigned with your loves.
I have ever used to set the last Judgement Day before mine eyes, and so to rule as I shall be judged to answer before a higher judge.
Queen Elizabeth I was faced every day with a great issue of her times in England– were there covert Roman Catholics working, like today’s Islamist entryists, to subvert English religious freedom and the Protestant direct relationship with HKBH and return it to the dire rule of the Roman Catholics?
For if those people succeeded, that would mean handing over control of the minds of the people of England to the scrutiny of the Jesuit jihadis, ever ready to seek out new heretics to burn. It would return England to being a state under the ultimate rule of the Pope, as her sister Queen Mary had done.
And one of the most heinous sets of acts of murder in the name of religious purity Queen Mary supported was the burning to death at the stake of the translators, printers and publishers of the first English translators of the Bible, William Tyndale, John Rogers and Archbishop Cranmer amongst them. Needless to say, the English Bibles were also burnt.
Queen Elizabeth I’s wise words– which she insisted should guide policy were:
I have no desire to make windows into mens souls
I think we would do well to follow her example and resolutely refuse to enter into discussion into whether Person X or Person Y “is anti-semitic”.
We could only know that via a window into their soul.
We should say, as I now always do– I am not interested in the issue of whether someone “is antisemitic” or not. We can’t know what sits in a person’s head. The only thing that matters is– do they say, endorse, circulate or excuse antisemitic ideas, explanations and images?
People who do that should be called out by having the antisemitic elements they’re using or recycling pointed up and condemned for what they are.
We should point out also where such ideas, explanations and images incite and stoke up hateful and irrational behaviour, regardless of what the person responsible for invoking them claims about their own motives and inner moral purity ((or the person who uses the antisemitic content).
I’ve found that when I do this, the astonished and righteously indignant circulator of antisemitic ideas always tries to drag the discussion back to “I am not antisemitic/Are you saying I’m antisemitic/Honest Jeremy Corbyn, The People’s Money Printer does not have an antisemitic bone in his body.
I always refuse and insist on pursuing the issue of pointing out the antisemitic content and its contribution to validating and stoking antisemitism.
This is an effective way to combat the most common straw man argument being used to defend the circulation of antisemitic ideas, posing as acceptable antizionism, in the UK today.