The Chakrabarti report failed, again and again

November 24, 2016 23:19

On Monday, Shami Chakrabarti showed that she was not neutral between those who fight antisemitism in the Labour Party and those who angrily deny its significance. When Jeremy Corbyn appeared before the select committee to be grilled on antisemitism, Ms Chakrabarti sat behind him, as if she were his lawyer. Twice she was scolded by the chair for prompting him.

Ms Chakrabarti, on the issue of antisemitism, is on Team Corbyn.

Mr Corbyn slithered around questions; he answered questions which were not asked; he feigned ignorance and naivety; he replied to specific questions with rambling and platitudes.

The charge is simple. It is that a culture of visceral hostility to Israel has been moving into the mainstream of the left. Campaigns to delegitimise Israel, to portray it as a central source of racism and oppression, to say it is like Nazism and apartheid, have been successful. The leader of the Labour Party says that Hamas is dedicated to peace and justice. He, and many others, support the campaign to exclude Israelis from the global economic, scholarly and artistic community.

The key thing that Ms Chakrabarti needed to show was how the incidents of explicit antisemitism which triggered the inquiry were related to this underlying culture of hostility to Israel and to the Jews who are assumed to support it. She did not do this. She failed to describe or define antisemitism, how it operates and what it looks like. She failed to go through the incidents, explaining why they were antisemitic. She focused on a few bad apples, not the problem with the barrel.

For decades, Labour, union and student activists, as well as scholars, not only Jews, have made arguments and presented evidence concerning this kind of antisemitism. We have made strong, coherent, and moderate arguments; we have explained the problem. The Chakrabarti Inquiry is the latest body to look down at us over its spectacles and ignore what we say. We have experienced this inability to see what we see before; from our colleagues and comrades and from union and political leaderships.

Jewish scholars, institutions, journalists and activists produced compelling submissions to the Chakrabarti Inquiry. The report does not engage with the key issues; it ignores them.

Where was David Feldman, co-chair of the inquiry? Professor Feldman knows and understands the issues, no defence of naivety or ignorance is available to him. His Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism has remained scrupulously neutral between those who intellectually underpin the new antisemitism and those who oppose it.

Jewish antisemitism-denying groups, such as Jews for Justice for Palestinians and Independent Jewish Voices, of which Prof Feldman is a signatory, have been influential in their efforts to undermine the strong and healthy consensus against antisemitism among Jews.

These issues are more worrying because Britain has moved into economic and political crisis. The EU is threatened by xenophobic and racist nationalisms. Donald Trump has a chance in November. We must hold fast to democratic and rational thinking against racism; even when opposing racism is itself portrayed as bigoted.

November 24, 2016 23:19

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