During Passover, we tell the story of the Ten Plagues which God brought upon Egypt. Blood, frogs, lice, wild animals… culminating with the death of the firstborn.
Now, however, a new plague appears to be spreading across the land – a plague of selective blindness. But unlike the final plague in the Bible, this time, rather than being spared, those with red signs on their doorposts are being struck down.
Take Christine Shawcroft. Ms Shawcroft resigned from her position as chair of Labour’s disputes panel last night, after it emerged that she had defended a suspended member who had shared a link on his Facebook wall with the following title: “International Red Cross report confirms the Holocaust of 6m Jews is a hoax”. It showed a picture of the gates of Auschwitz, with the words “Arbeit Macht Frei” replaced by “Muh Holocaust”, a taunt used by the far right to mock Jews.
According to Ms Shawcroft, the post had been “taken completely out of context and alleged to show antisemitism.” She said as much in an e-mail to other members of Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC), which she also sits on.
But after the e-mail leaked, she released a statement saying “I had not been shown the image of his abhorrent Facebook post.
“Had I seen this image, I would not have requested that the decision to suspend him be re-considered. I am deeply sorry for having done so.”
It is, on the face of it, quite remarkable. The chair of the party’s disputes panel vehemently defends a Facebook post, apparently without having actually seen it. You could be forgiven for thinking that the Labour party has been co-opted into a Specsavers advert.
But of course, that is not all. Athough Ms Shawcroft has stepped down as head of the disputes panel, it seems unlikely she will be suspended from the party, or lose her position on the NEC. How could she, when Labour’s leader has been struck down by the same malady?
Two and a half years ago, the JC reported that Mr Corbyn had protested against the removal of a mural with unbelievably obvious antisemitic overtones. Below a picture of it on Facebook, he posted that the artist, who was protesting its removal, was “in good company. Rockerfeller [sic] destroyed Diego Viera’s [sic] mural because it includes a picture of Lenin.”
And last weekend, two and a half years after we asked Mr Corbyn’s office for comment – behold, a statement! Actually, several statements. But this one in particular:
“I sincerely regret that I did not look more closely at the image I was commenting on, the contents of which are deeply disturbing and antisemitic.”
The excuses offered by Ms Shawcroft and Mr Corbyn are, in effect, an admission that they are idiots. But it seems this policy of “speak first, ask questions later” has been eagerly embraced at all levels of the party. For every Labour member who makes an antisemitic comment, there seem to be twenty others to defend that comment and accuse those people – Jewish or not - pointing it out of engaging in “smears.” To which there can only be one response – it’s pronounced “schmears” and it’s what we do to bagels, not with accusations of antisemitism.
John Heywood said: “There are none so blind as those who will not see.” If that is the case, the Labour party is currently very blind indeed.