Tanya Gold

The book Adrian Mole would have written (if he hated Israel)

Tanya Gold reviews Asa Winstanley's new book, Weaponising Antisemitism

May 17, 2023 16:28

Asa Winstanley blogs at the Electronic Intifada, a website dedicated to attacking Israel. On Twitter he writes the Board of Deputies is “actively involved in promoting Israeli genocide”. He reads like a man who dedicates his conscious hours to thinking about Jews. I think he dreams about us. He has written a book called Weaponising Antisemitism: How the Israel Lobby Brought Down Jeremy Corbyn. It is styled like a murder mystery except we know whodunnit.

Like any conspiracist, he writes like the only wise man on a ship of fools, and this is his story: when Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party, the forces of Capital and anti-Palestinianism came together to destroy him. There are — pardon me — plot holes you could drive a bus through, and he does. If the cabal against Corbyn is so monomaniacal, I wondered, how come then-JC editor Stephen Pollard exposed Jeremy Newmark — then leading the Jewish Labour Movement — for alleged accounting irregularities? Was it a (rare) mistake? If Jews represent the malevolent forces of Capital, why did we never try to destroy Gordon Brown, who is also a leftist? But few people are leftist enough for Winstanley. He says “gaffe-prone” Neil Kinnock instituted a “witch-hunt” against the left, thus dismissing the very real struggles of witches, as fellow leftists might say in different circumstances. Many witches were murdered in the 17th century, and none of them was Derek Hatton.

Every drama of 2015-19 is replayed with his peculiar emphasis, which appears to be that “Zionists” always act in bad faith. Jews favour the Tories by a vast margin, he notes, ignoring the fact that until 2010, we were neatly divided between Labour and the Conservatives. There was a rehearsal for the plot against Corbyn under Ed Miliband, he says, offering Maureen Lipman and Pollard as evidence. Anything else? Not much.

Israel has Nazi-like policies because they practise collective punishment. Anything else? Not really. When left-wing activists — Momentum, for instance? — organise, it is righteous, but when "Zionists" organise, it is sinister. (The tiny group of anti-Zionist Jews meet his approval. He spends many pages on their self-inflicted woes). For Winstanley, the Union of Jewish Students is “a pro-Israel lobby group”, not a group of Jewish students that likes Israel. The conflict — what he calls the genocide, despite the Palestinian population quadrupling since 1948, which makes it a peculiar genocide — is our only obsession. He is writing about himself.

If you are a conspiracist, everything fits within your conspiracy: this is how you make sense of your world. So the Shoah is an inconvenience that he tries, in certain passages, to forget. He notes that the JC reported anti-Zionist sentiments pre-Hitler but does not explain why: Jews wanted to be German, or Polish, or French. Then he writes, “this later changed”. Again, why? Our politics are also an inconvenience. He says the current Israeli ambassador Tzipi Hotovely is unpopular with British Jews because she is “too crass for the ‘refined British ear’”. It cannot be that some do not like her politics. It is because she does not sound like a Terence Rattigan character.

His most cherished section is his defence of Ken Livingstone, who said that Hitler supported Zionism. Winstanley goes to his comforting archives — he is, above all things, a sort of anti-Zionist Adrian Mole — and digs out every document on the relations between early Zionists and Nazi Germany. “Zionist leaders were explicitly comparing their own movement to Nazism,” he writes. There is “a degree of ideological affinity between the Nazis and Zionism”. The goal of the Haavara agreement was “to save German Jewish capital, not German Jewish lives” and it “stabilised” the Nazi regime. This is a monstrous distortion, but it is useful: the insinuation that Jewish Nazis performed the Shoah on themselves. I’m also not entirely sure you could call Ken Livingstone tall, but this is a minor point.

Sometimes he finds antisemitism, but often where Jews don’t. Making John Mann an “antisemitism tsar” was “inappropriate”, he says, because the Russian tsars were antisemitic: surely it is triggering? I wait for the inevitable Christ reference, and here it comes: as Christ counselled, the Corbynites “turned the other cheek” initially. His conclusion is darkly hilarious. Corbynism failed because he was not brave enough to defy the cabal: the people needed more antisemitism, and Corbyn denied them.

Never does it occur to him that Jews genuinely feared Corbyn, and that almost everything we feared has come to pass. Nor can he acknowledge the eruption of antisemitism after 2015. It’s a truism that every wretch in the village is a king on the day of the pogrom because he is not a Jew. And here is his book.

May 17, 2023 16:28

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