Book review by Michael Steven Smith
How the Israel Lobby Brought Down Jeremy Corbyn
by Asa Winstanley
310 pp. OR Books, NY/London $18 Asa Winstanley is a British investigative journalist and author who lives in London. He writes primarily about Palestine and the Israel lobby for The Electronic Intifada. Winstanley has written a political thriller and real page-turner titled Weaponizing Antisemitism: How the Israel Lobby Brought Down Jeremy Corbyn. It is an important book. It has a lesson for those of us in the Palestinian solidarity movement working for social justice in the U.S. The Israel lobby lied, cynically manufacturing a fake crisis of antisemitism in the Labour Party where it didn’t exist, using fear to succeed. The lobby cannot be placated. They need to be called out and confronted. That is the main lesson of the book. Corbyn got his start in the trade union movement. He spoke out against racism and fascism and for immigrant rights. He opposed privatization cuts and austerity. Asa Winstanley writes that “probably more than anything else, Corbyn was known among activists for his work in the Palestine Solidarity movement.” Over the years, socialist Corbyn became popular, especially among hundreds of thousands of young people who had recently joined the Labour Party. The possibility of Corbyn being elected terrified the British right and the British elite, who deeply distrust democracy. There is a parallel here with the fate of Bernie Sanders, who was opposed by the entire Democratic party establishment. The lobby’s campaign against Corbyn got help from the Israeli government, British intelligence, and the entire British media, including the liberal Guardian newspaper, the BBC, the right wing of the Labour Party, and even the CIA. Corbyn and the socialists in the Labour Party in England were crushed by the massive campaign. Labeling Corbyn as an antisemite was a preposterous charge, but it has stuck. The Labour Party now has reverted to the way it was when Tony Blair, a supporter of austerity and America’s war in Iraq, was the head of what was called “New Labour.” Instead of denouncing the campaign for what it was, Winstanley criticizes Corbyn, whom he likes, for making the mistake of placating the lobby. As his colleague, Ali Abunimah, at the Electronic Intifada remarked: “they won’t take yes for an answer.” The history of Zionism, since it began over 100 years ago, has been to seek out and ally with a powerful imperial power in order to get help in colonizing Palestine. In 1932, with Hitler’s Nazi party on the rise in Germany, (they would get elected the next year) the Zionists worked with Hitler’s Nazis to facilitate the removal of Jews from Germany to Palestine. When Ken Livingstone, the mayor of London, pointed this out, stating this historical fact to a reporter, he was ridiculed, and no one in the media made any effort to check on the accuracy of his claim. The lobby picked off prominent figures in the Labour Party, including Livingstone, and Ken Loach, the great British filmmaker. Finally, they got Corbyn, kicking him out of Labour’s parliamentary party. He is still a member of parliament. When Richard Nixon was interviewed late in life, a reporter asked him what was his secret for political success. He replied immediately: “it was fear. Fear. And they don’t teach you that in the Boy Scouts.” Fear played a major role in bringing down Corbyn and his left supporters, who were building a genuine socialist Labour Party. The entire corporate media in England lined up against Corbyn and what he represented in the Labour Party. It was only the independent media that played an important role in exposing the campaign. Winstanley could not find a publisher in England for his book. He has said that it speaks volumes about the success of the weaponization of antisemitism that he couldn’t find a British publisher even after two years of looking. OR Books, based mostly in the United States and run by Colin Robinson, a transplanted British socialist, published it and gave it its appropriate title. The book can be ordered from them at orbooks.com. Finally, in Weaponizing Antisemitism, Winstanley also writes about McCarthyism here in the United States. He discusses Arthur Miller’s great play, The Crucible, about the witchhunt in colonial America that was really about Joe McCarthy, who went after socialists and communists in America in the 50s. We see this anti-communism is still alive and well and already is a central focus of Trump’s campaign, with Trump last week proposing that socialists and communists in America be deported. The most powerful, well-heeled part of the American pro-Israel lobby is AIPAC, the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee. They helped Donald Trump, got support from 106 insurrection Republicans, and spent millions to defeat progressives, targeting and trying to intimidate Black and brown women candidates across the country, threatening to spend against them if they even slightly criticized Israel’s far-right apartheid policies. Their MO? Conflating criticism of the Israeli apartheid state with antisemitism. As commentator Felix Biederman pointed out when endorsing Winstantely’s invaluable book, “Everyone should read ‘Weaponizing Antisemitism’. The same cynical methods Winstanley lays out here will be used against any groundswell that questions the politics of empire.” And thus, the same blueprint that Winstanley maps out in Weaponizing Antisemitism is now being used here in the United States. [Michael Steven Smith is the co-host of “Law and Disorder Radio”
(lawanddisorder.org) and the author of the recent book “Lawyers for the Left”].