Middle East Monitor / February 1, 2020
As far as Zionist lobby groups are concerned, the verdict has finally sunk in: they defeated Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. According to one of them at least; the hard-right, anti-Palestinian group misnamed the “Campaign Against Antisemitism” [sic].
Last month one of the group’s leaders posted an utterly bizarre video online in which he claimed responsibility for the electoral defeat of Corbyn at December’s General Election in Britain. “The beast is slain,” he ranted gleefully. He and his team had “slaughtered” Corbyn. “We defeated him… They tried to kill us [but]… we won.”
More than four years’ worth of smears, lies, sabotage and defamation worked. The “Labour anti-Semitism crisis” finally cut through to mainstream voters in a way that other defamatory media campaigns did not. The fabrication that Labour had “a problem with anti-Semitism” contributed hugely to the perception that Corbyn was an “extremist”. This, in turn, led to the de-legitimisation of the veteran anti-racism campaigner in the eyes of many of older, working-class Labour voters. Second, only to the Brexit issue, this is the reason why so many of them voted Tory in the election or stayed away from the polling booths altogether.
More importantly, the interminable campaign against Corbyn divided and weakened the grassroots left-wing movement, demoralising some of Corbyn’s biggest supporters. Indeed, many were suspended, expelled or pushed out of the party altogether.
Having successfully sabotaged the largest radical grassroots movement this country has seen within living memory, the pro-Israel lobby groups are on a high. What’s more, they are now in the early stages of a major new offensive linked to the US presidential elections, against Democrat Bernie Sanders, another popular socialist candidate.
We’ve seen this before. Last year Republicans united with the Democratic Party establishment to jointly smear left-wing, pro-Palestinian lawmaker Ilhan Omar. Omar is a Muslim woman, and much of the abuse was openly racist and Islamophobic. The Democrats joined in with the lie that Omar was “anti-Semitic”.
So far, Sanders has stood with Omar. It is to be hoped that he stands his ground on this, because it is vital to his own political survival, mainly because of the fact that Bernie Sanders is himself Jewish. There are too many on the American left who are, I believe, complaisant about the potential for such smears to do serious and quite possibly fatal damage to the movement.
The number one reason for the successes of both Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders has been the popular movements behind each one. Corbyn’s best slogan was “For the many, not the few”. Sanders’ current tag line is “Not me. Us”. It is about people power.
Solidarity is the simple secret ingredient that got Corbyn so close to No. 10 in 2017. It is that same principle that means Sanders now leads many polls in the Democratic primary and is way ahead of the pack in polls for the first selection caucus in Iowa on Monday. It is a movement.
If you want to undermine a popular movement, how do you go about it? Divide and rule. Spread false rumours, internal dissent, mutual recriminations and denunciations. Result? Demoralisation.
It is not a strategy that can work overnight, but it can work when sustained over a lengthy period. As Corbyn’s case shows, it does work.
Do not underestimate the dedication and extreme commitment of the Zionist movement, and the pro-Israel lobby in general. They are in it for the long haul and will carry on to the bitter end.
Listen to the words of Alan Dershowitz, “Israel’s lawyer”, torture fan and (latterly) a major fan of Trump’s racism. In a recent interview with Larry King, Dershowitz equivocated about whether or not he would vote for Trump. Who he would definitely not vote for, he said, and would actively campaign against, was one person: Bernie Sanders. His reason? “He tolerates anti-Semitism among the hard left in the Democratic Party,” he claimed falsely. “The man went to England and endorsed Jeremy Corbyn.”
The clever lie that he is not personally anti-Semitic, but “tolerates” anti-Semitism was exactly how the “crisis” against Corbyn began. Over the course of four years, this morphed and evolved into open lies that he is personally anti-Semitic.
Do not imagine for a moment that just because Sanders is Jewish the pro-Israel lobbyists will not try the same lies against him. They will, and they cannot be ignored. They must be fought.
The real reason for Dershowitz’s opposition, of course, is that Sanders has made some very mild (and in my view overly timid) statements about US military aid to Israel possibly being up for revision in the future. This is why a relatively new pro-Israel lobby astroturfing group called “Democratic Majority for Israel” just spent almost $700,000 on a campaign ad against Sanders in Iowa, ahead of the crucial vote there on Monday. The ad despicably questions his health, and claims falsely that he is not “electable”.
Thankfully, for now, the Sanders campaign is fighting back. They condemned it, and it even seems to have backfired, resulting in a major boost to donations to him from his supporters.
The ad did not mention “anti-Semitism” or that Sanders supposedly “tolerates” anti-Semitism. But as sure as night follows day, you can be certain that that particular attack line is coming, especially if Sanders secures the Democratic nomination, or it begins to look inevitable, as I expect and hope him to do after Monday. When the attacks do come, it is vital that Sanders and his campaign refuse to make even the slightest concession to any of these false, malicious and disgusting attacks.
The left still does not understand: the pro-Israel lobby will stop at nothing. Do not underestimate the ability of the lobby groups to sustain a long campaign over the next few years. They did it in Britain and they can certainly do it in the US. They can be beaten, but only with the political will to fight back aggressively.
Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist living in London who writes about Palestine and the Middle East