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Labour’s Racism Trap

There is ample reason to be critical of Israeli policies, as well as of US governments that blindly support them. But criticism is one thing; the view that the US and Israel amount to the most malevolent threats to mankind is another – and is leading the UK Labour Party down a blind alley.

NEW YORK – When the right accuses the left of anti-Semitism, there must be something curious going on. After all, Jew-hatred historically has been a right-wing pathology. But in Britain, Conservative politicians and right-wing papers like the Daily Telegraph are now in high dudgeon about the alleged anti-Semitism of some Labour MPs. Conservatives themselves are not immune to xenophobia, especially when it comes to Muslims or even fellow Europeans. But there is a reason for this hypocrisy, which has everything to do with perceptions of Israel.

Anti-Semitism on the left is often a form of excessive zeal in opposing Israeli policies toward the Palestinians. When critics of the Israeli government speak of “the Zionists” instead of Israelis, you can be reasonably sure that they are zealots. The former mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, is a case in point. His assertion that Hitler was a kind of proto-Zionist is less a failed attempt to make a provocative historical point than a deliberate slur to discredit the very existence of Israel.

When the Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, himself a fierce anti-Zionist, fails to see much wrong with a mural in London depicting evil, hook-nosed plutocrats playing Monopoly over the naked backs of suffering workers, one might be forgiven for seeing a link between Corbyn’s praise of Hamas and a more old-fashioned type of anti-Semitism.

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