Leading British Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks made headlines this week after denouncing Jeremy Corbyn in a strongly-worded New Statesman interview, claiming that Corbyn’s views on Zionism are equivalent to Enoch Powell’s famous Rivers of Blood speech.
An initial social media storm quickly dissipated when people began to highlight Lord Sacks’ history of promoting and leading a repugnant nationalist march through Palestinian territory in Jerusalem and Hebron in order to threaten native Palestinians: ransacking businesses, chanting ‘death to the Arabs’ and displaying banners denying Palestine’s existence.
Lord Sacks invites Diaspora Jews to join him in leading the notoriously provocative March of the Flags each year on Jerusalem Day. Last year marked the 50th celebration of Israel’s capture of Jerusalem in the Six Day War, and on this occasion Sacks extended an invitation to the international Zionist organisation Mizrachi Olami and its youth wing Bnei Akiva to ‘dance with the brave IDF soldiers’ in radical settler enclaves of Hebron that violate the Oslo II accord.
According to Human Rights Watch, Palestinians in Hebron are subjected to harassment ‘almost every day’ owing to a resurgence of extremist Zionism within Jewish enclaves. A year before Sacks’ laudatory march one of his ‘brave IDF soldiers’ received only 9 months in prison for shooting two Palestinian civilians dead; in 2012 a Female IDF soldier was awarded a Certificate of Merit for shooting an unarmed 17-year-old boy at a checkpoint. The confidence given to radical settlers by esteemed supporters such as Jonathan Sacks has given them licence to creep further and further beyond established Israeli borders in the West Bank, chopping down olive trees that provide a livelihood to many and rolling armoured Caterpillar bulldozers through hand-built buildings that have reliably sheltered generations of loving families.
Haaretz’s Bradley Burston describes Sacks’ March of Flags as ‘an annual, gender-segregated extreme-right, pro-occupation religious carnival of hatred, marking the anniversary of Israel’s capture of Jerusalem by humiliating the city’s Palestinian Muslims; vandalizing shops in Jerusalem’s Muslim Quarter, chanting “Death to Arabs” and “The (Jewish) Temple Will Be Built, the (Al Aqsa) Mosque will be Burned Down”; shattering windows and door locks, and pouring glue into the locks of shops forced to close for fear of further damage.’
Sacks felt compelled to compare Corbyn to the infamous racist icon Enoch Powell after hearing him denounce Zionists who ‘don’t understand British humour’ in an old speech that circulated this week in the press. This has allowed to become a scandal because apparently words no longer have any intrinsic meaning and saying one thing can easily be transposed into something of a completely different significance in order to score points from Rupert Murdoch. Thus, the word ‘Zionist’ – correctly widely interpreted as a religious extremist movement centred on the creation of a Jewish ethnostate in a region where 6 million non-Jews already exist – apparently all of a sudden becomes shorthand for the great faith of Judaism and all its adherents.
The whole Jeremy Corbyn anti-Semitism scandal has been a grotesque case of playing the man instead of the ball in an attempt to discredit an honest movement against Israeli apartheid, mostly entailing Guido Fawkes bloggers digging up some guy Corbyn may have sat near at an event in 1994 and using this to create narratives from vague associations. The entire farce reached its logical conclusion when Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s 2-bit gangster Prime Minister fresh from legislating formal apartheid in the Knesset (which Sacks condones) and overseeing a summer of shooting over 4,000 Gazans protesting the border fence, joined to stick the dagger in.
The weak crumble, are slaughtered and are erased from history while the strong, for good or for ill, survive. The strong are respected, and alliances are made with the strong, and in the end peace is made with the strong.
— PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) August 29, 2018
Making the right enemies is crucial in politics, and pitting Corbyn against someone as demonstrably morally bankrupt as Netanyahu has done him a real favour. Sacks not only backs the Netanyahu Likud party consistently through his actions (though occasionally throwing him mealy-mouthed criticism after particularly bloody Palestinian civilian casualties), he has also given a significant hand to the White Nationalist occupants of the White House. He co-drafted Mike Pence’s speech announcing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, effectively endorsing an administration that attempted to implement a Muslim ban and is holding Honduran children in cages.
Jonathan Sacks’ unelected seat in British Parliament has never been called into question despite his annual circus of ethnic antagonism, instead he is now being held up as a moral authority in regards to xenophobia.
I don’t doubt that there are anti-Semites in the Labour Party and this issue must be dealt with urgently and stringently, though I maintain there is simply no evidence that Corbyn’s views have ever strayed beyond a steadfast condemnation of Israeli human rights violations. I however take issue with seeking moral guidance from brazenly racist individuals like Lord Sacks, and condemn the New Statesman for portraying him as anything more than a religious extremist with a corresponding agenda.