Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Twenty years ago last May, I voted for the first time. I was one of many millions electing to government the Labour Party, and making its dynamic young leader Tony Blair prime minister, ending 18 years of uninterrupted Conservative Party rule.
With the Conservatives tearing themselves apart over the question of Britain’s integration into the European Union, Blair expertly captured and shaped the zeitgeist of a Britain on the cusp of the 21st century. His New Labour portrayed itself as the standard bearer of a “New Britain” – sweeping away old Conservative (and conservative) prejudices about sexuality and gender, but also challenging and shattering totems of the Left; removing from the Labour Party constitution its commitment to the socialist concept of the public ownership of the means of production.
Blair’s Labour positioned itself as a new center-left party; accepting, even embracing, capitalism as the supreme generator of wealth and prosperity, while remaining true to the idea of government responsibility to ensure “power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many, not the few” – to quote the revised version of the “socialist” clause in the party constitution.
I enthusiastically joined the Labour Party and would go on to work as an aide to a Labour member of Parliament. Before that, however, I had to graduate university, and student politics would prove to be a rude awakening.
Unlike in “grown-up politics,” a significant portion of the student Left was of the revolutionary socialist variety, committed to the overthrow of capitalism, unilateral nuclear disarmament and – of course! – the elimination of Israel.
The roots of leftist anti-Zionism lie in the anti-imperialism of progressive politics since the 1960s and the rise of “the New Left,” and the misinterpretation of Zionism as a form of colonialism. What has given this tendency its toxicity however is the erosion over many years of a counterbalancing understanding, and instinctive hatred, of fascism and totalitarianism.
So it was that, as an undergraduate, I discovered socialist student organizations, ostensibly the vanguard against racism and bigotry, supporting in word and deed the rise of Islamist forces on campus on the grounds that these theocrats were loudly anti-Zionist and anti-American. Indeed they were. Their manifesto also included the subjugation of women, the relegation of non-Muslims to second-class status (at best), the execution of homosexuals and virulent antisemitism.
I learned a political lesson at that time which has become increasingly relevant to understanding the post-9/11 world, as well as the irrational, widespread and disproportionate condemnation of Israel: For many on the Left, fascism is strictly a white, Euro-American phenomenon. Muslims, Arabs, anyone with dark skin or from the non-Western world cannot be a fascist or similar. Any violence they commit is an “understandable response” to Western imperialism, Israeli crimes or American geopolitical hegemony.
A case-in-point is the Stop The War Coalition, which dominates anti-American and anti-Israel demonstrations in the UK. They are indeed opposed to war – but only war waged by the West. They are tacit supporters of, for example, Syrian President Bashar Assad’s war against the men, women and children of Syria.
And so, 20 years after my victorious first vote for Tony Blair, it is this Islamist-appeasing, West-despising far Left that now runs the Labour Party.
Labour leader and prime ministerial candidate Jeremy Corbyn is in fact a former chairman of Stop The War. His successor Andrew Murray has recently been recruited to a leading position in Labour’s election campaign. Murray is a declared supporter of the government of North Korea, a regime which has reduced its own citizens to the status of starving inmates in the world’s largest concentration camp. Meanwhile, Corbyn’s own well-documented sympathy for clerical fascists from Hamas to Iran becomes a genuine security concern in the wake of the Islamist atrocities in Manchester and London.
I have no love for the current Conservative government of Prime Minister Theresa May, and she has run a wretchedly uninspiring and incoherent election campaign. For me however, the ideological dispute between conservatives and progressives is less significant than the much more fundamental battle between the liberal democratic world and the forces of totalitarianism. If I have to choose between a conservative party that is comfortably part of the liberal democratic order, and a social democratic party that is instinctively hostile to Israel, suspicious of America and sympathetic to the most barbaric enemies of the West, the choice for me is regretful but obvious.
In contrast to the elation I felt the morning after Labour’s historic victory in 1997, a win for the party this time would leave me sick to my stomach and horrified for the future of Britain.The author is the director of the Israel Government Fellows program, an internship and educational program based in Jerusalem. He also writes and lectures on Israeli politics. Before immigrating to Israel from the UK he worked for the Israeli Embassy in London as the ambassador’s speechwriter and was a member of the executive committee of the Jewish Labour Movement. He is writing here in a personal capacity.