Michael Danby being interviewed

Anti-Jewish bigotry set to bring down Jeremy Corbyn and British Labour

Australian Labor is neck and neck with the Coalition for the forthcoming election. At the same time, British Labour is five to 10 points behind the Conservatives, even as the governing Tories are fighting each other over exiting the EU.

British Labour should be well ahead. Instead, the party is tearing itself apart in a terrible row, spiral­ling into an ever-darker debate about anti-Jewish bigotry.

Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour has been forced to suspend secretly 50 of its members over anti-Semitic comments. Corbyn has been forced to order an official inquiry into this anti-Jewish bigotry.

In polite British society, a minority complains that accusations of anti-Semitism are made in bad faith to delegitimise criticism of Israel­. Yet this is not what is happening in Britain. This debate on Labour’s attitudes towards Jews is so ugly that it may ruin the party’s prospects, or at least consume Corbyn’s leadership.

Things are so bad that my friend MP John Mann, the mild-mannered chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group against Anti-Semitism, screamed on camera “you’re a f..king disgrace” at former London mayor Ken Livingstone.

Livingstone had claimed Adolf Hitler “was supporting Zionism”. Even for modern British Labour, this went well and truly too far.

The Guardian columnist Nick Cohen reflected widespread disgust that the debate had descended to a point “where historians had to explain last week that if Montgomery had not defeated Rommel at El Alamein in Egypt, then the German armies would have killed every Jew that they could find in Pales­tine”.

Actually, SS Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler had organised an Einsatzkommando (the shooting squads that operated on the Eastern Front and that murdered 1.5 million Jews) to follow the Afrika­ Korps into Palestine.

Livingstone had been defending MP Naz Shah, who he was adamant should not have been suspended “just because” she used social media to suggest that Israeli Jews should be “transported” to America, compared Israelis to Hitler­, spread public warnings that the “Jews are rallying”, compared Zionism to al-Qa’ida and expressed­ concern that the Zionists were “grooming” Jews to “exert political influence at the highest levels of public office”.

Leading British intellectual Alan Johnson has distilled the essence of some in British Labour thus: “Anti-Semitic anti-Zionism is not ‘criticism’ of the occupa­tion and the settlements. It is so much more. It cruelly distorts the very meaning of Israel and Zionism until both can be forced into the categories, tropes, images and ideas of classical anti-Semit­ism. In short, that which ‘the Jew’ once was, a collective malevolence, the Jewish state now is.”

Last Wednesday, as Johnson laments, Shah was Labour’s anti-Semitism crisis of the day. Next day, it was Livingstone. Before Shah, Johnson explained, the anti-Jewish row had focused on the new National Union of Students president, Malia Bouattia. She had complained that the University of Birmingham was a “a Zionist outpost” because it had the “largest Jewish society in the country”.

Before that there was a front-page row over the Oxford University Labour Club, when its former chairman, who is Jewish, resigned live on the BBC, citing harassment by Corbynistas singing “Rockets over Tel Aviv” and calling and disparaging their fellow Jewish under­graduates as “Zios”.

Johnson says: “The old racist ideas about ‘the Jew’ as an evil force, full of blood lust, all-controlling but hidden, and the only obstacle­ to a better, purer and more spiritual world, can be thrown at the Jewish state.”

He continues: “Anti-Semitic anti-Zionism has a political pro­gram: to abolish one state in the world, the little Jewish one formed after the Holocaust.”

British Labou­r was captured by the far Left when Corbyn was elected in a new system where anyone paying £3 could join the party and have an equal vote for the leader as a Labour member of parliament.

Labour abandoned the previous tripartite arrangeme­nt that elected its leaders: one-third parliamentarians’ vote, one-third affiliated unions and one-third party membership. Corbyn’s capture of Labour will be severely tested by imminent council elections and the more momentous issue of whether Britain stays in Europe.

Meanwhile, British Labour appears­ paralysed by this internecine, ideological infighting.

As for the prospect of purging Labour of this bigotry, Cohen laments: “The tasks facing Labour moderates seem impossible. They have to be attempted, however, for moral as much as electoral reasons.”

The Guardian’s Cohen spoke for all civilised people when he said: “Allow me to state the moral argument as baldly as I can.

“Not just in Paris but in Marseilles, Copenhagen and Brussels, fascistic reactionaries are murdering Jews — once again.

“Go to any British synagogue or Jewish school and you will see police officers and volunteers guarding them.

“I do not want to tempt fate, but if British Jews were murdered, the leader of the Labour Party would not be welcome at their memorial. The mourners would point to the exit and ask him to leave.”

What a weird world, where the alternative government of the mother of democracies in Westminster, the party of Harold Wilson, Hugh Gaitskell, Tony Blair and even Neil Kinnock, has descended into such doctrinal depravi­ty.

By contrast, Australia is such a fortunate country. Whatever our domestic political differences, as we approach our national test of wills in a federal election we will never sink as low as this sordid debate­ in British Labour.

Gaitskell, Britain’s great post-World War II Labour leader, demanded that “we fight, fight and fight again to save the party we love”. He was right, and thank heavens Australian Labor is nothing like its present British counterpart.

Bob Carr and his ilk are certainly not as bad or as much a diversion­ as Livingstone and co, and Labor in Australia is fighting to remain focused on mainstream issues that affect all Australians, rather than immobilising itself with ideological splits.

Labor in Australia is not reduce­d to fighting against the tide like many in Britain.

Under the capable leadership team of Bill Shorten, Tanya Plibersek, Penny Wong, Mark Dreyfus and Stephen Conroy, the ALP’s steadfast opposition to all forms of bigotry, including anti-Semitism, is not in question.

We are contesting the Turnbull government on all the mainstream issues. Labor approaches an election against a first-term government with a fighting chance for exactly that reason.

There is no Corbyn-Livingstone road for Australian Labor. Our great country deserves better — indeed it needs, and is getting, a strong Labor Party that will fight for the betterment of all Aust­ralians.

This article is by Michael Danby from The Australian

Full coverage of this saga.