Jeremy Corbyn’s opponents have long used antisemitism allegations as a political football to attack the Labour leader. But now, renowned Jewish scholar Norman Finkelstein has demolished the smear campaign’s arguments in an exclusive interview with The Canary.
Antisemitism smears emerged as the Israeli state “lost the battle for public opinion”
Finkelstein, who is the son of Holocaust survivors, began by explaining how smear campaigns based on bogus accusations of antisemitism have a long history. Israeli governments – as well as organisations acting under their command – have periodically used such smears to deflect criticism of the state’s policies:
The Canary has been consistently exposing the shameless use of antisemitism as a political football to attack Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. In recent weeks, for example, ex-MP Clare Short and Jewish-Canadian psychologist Gabor Maté have come to Corbyn’s defence. Prof Norman Finkelstein, a prolific scholar of the Israel-Palestine conflict and son of Holocaust survivors (whose entire extended family died in Nazi death camps), has also been outspoken on the issue. And he recently issued a searing attack on the smear campaign’s orchestrators.
British ruling elites protecting the status quo
Speaking at an event at the Portland State University in Oregon in April, Finkelstein said:
The smear campaign against Jeremy Corbyn and his allies shows no sign of abating. It seems his opponents on the right will sink to any depths to dethrone him as Labour Party leader. But now, a former MP has spoken out. And a renowned academic has backed her words up.
Strongly worded letter
In a letter to the Financial Times titled Anti-Semitism accusations are misplaced, former Labour MP Clare Short suggested that the smear campaign is a response to “the growing awareness of the injustice and suffering inflicted by Israel on the Palestinians”. She also pointed out that, “given Jeremy Corbyn’s history on the question, supporters of Israel have worked to extend the definition of anti-Semitism to include criticism of Israel”.
Ever since Bernie Sanders became a nationally known figure during the 2016 Democratic primary race, his proposal to bring European-style publicly-provided universal healthcare to the US has become firmly entrenched in the country’s political mainstream. Sometimes called “single-payer healthcare,” the idea is to take private healthcare companies out of the equation and have the government directly pay healthcare costs. The most simple way of doing this, of which Sanders is a strong advocate, is to expand Medicare – which provides public healthcare to over-65s – to everyone, regardless of age. Other candidates in the 2020 Democratic Party primary have latched on to this “Medicare-for-all” proposal and support for it has become something of an acid test to gauge their progressive credentials. Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Tulsi Gabbard have pledged their backing, though in spite of their best efforts, the policy remains most closely associated with Sanders and his brand of democratic socialism (more accurately described as social democracy.)
But for someone who has been such a champion of the issue for so many years, it is remarkable how Sanders occasionally demonstrates considerable misunderstanding of its intricacies, and in doing so, plays straight into the hands of his right-wing and centrist opponents. The latest example of this happened during the July 30 Democratic primary debate. Host Jake Tapper asked Sanders about whether the proposal would require an increase in taxes. Just days earlier, Tapper had put the same question to Sanders during a one-on-one interview aired on CNN on July 28. Tapper played a clip of fellow Democratic Party primary candidate Joe Biden. In the video, Biden says that his opponents who say they can implement Medicare-for-all without raising taxes on the middle class are living in a “fantasy world.”