In one of the most disgusting cases of antisemitism we have seen in recent years, Mireille Knoll, an 85-year old French Holocaust survivor, was stabbed 11 times, then burned to death in her council flat. The reason? She was Jewish. Nearly 75 years after the worst genocide in human history, and Jews are once again starting to wonder if they are safe in Europe.
In the same week the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council organised a rally in Parliament Square spreading awareness of the antisemitism in Labour Party. And that was what it took for Jeremy Corbyn to finally acknowledge the pain that had been caused to the Jewish community by antisemitic elements in the heart of Britain’s official Opposition. Corbyn’s student grassroots, the self-proclaimed champions of the oppressed, should be up in arms about the noxious attitudes their leader has permitted.
We millennials have a good way of dealing with uncomfortable truths – denial.
Except that they are not. In fact, the opposite it true. At Oxford University, Labour Club members mocked the victims of the Paris kosher supermarket attack, called Auschwitz a “cash cow” and used the Neo-Nazi slur ‘Zio’ about Jewish members. After months of dithering, the Labour NEC decided not to discipline the people responsible. The former vice-chair of Momentum, Jackie Walker, called Jews ‘chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade’, and, in a stunning exhibition of stupidity, criticised Holocaust Memorial Day for not being ‘inclusive enough’. After the comments went public, she was exonerated, and campaigned alongside Jeremy Corbyn. Extreme examples, but not isolated. An exhaustive list of recorded anti-Semitic incidents in the Labour Party can be found here. They follow a pattern of wilful ignorance and neglect of modern antisemitism in my generation, especially on the left.
For the left, Zionism, the national movement centripetal to the very foundation of Israel, is synonymous with colonialism, Islamophobia and white nationalism. This is particularly resonant with overwhelmingly Labour-supporting British Muslims – a poll found that 55% of Muslims held anti-Semitic attitudes, with 27% believing that ‘Jews get rich at the expense of others’. The concept that this oppressive people can be victims complicates an otherwise straightforward narrative about Israel – and by extension, Jews. Palestine, an old rallying cry for the left, has in many ways determined that narrative. Pro-Israeli attitudes are few and far between in the millennial mainstream, and leading Palestinian activist groups frequently interweave opposition to Israeli policy with outright antisemitism. One such association, Palestine Live, which Jeremy Corbyn was an active member of, perpetuated Holocaust denial, 9/11 conspiracy theories and antisemitic slurs. Jeremy Corbyn built his cult of personality within Labour on such simplified narratives. He appeals to the young, and the young don’t view Jews as a genuine minority – because they don’t ‘act like one’. Jews are media tycoons, lobbyists, bankers. A real minority is, or has been, socio-economically disenfranchised, has a historic grievance and is the victim of active discrimination. One could almost be forgiven for thinking that millennials don’t know their history.
‘Woke’ millennials don’t have a problem with Jews, ‘just Zionism’. But on the left, they are frequently regarded as one and the same. Most members of my generation are not antisemites – they would rather just not think about it. We millennials have a good way of dealing with uncomfortable truths – denial. The notion that the victims of one of the most grievous crimes in history were once again being victimised, and that you did nothing about it – no, best not go down that train of thought, young Corbynite. You might lose some sleep.