WHO ARE YOU CALLING A RACIST?

By one of those ironies of the news gathering world, the allegations about anti-semitism in the Labour Party reached peak coverage at the same moment hundreds of protestors from Gaza were injured by live gunfire from the Israeli army at the border fence, and at least 16 Palestinians were killed. There followed the customary, grotesque media pushback from Israeli govenment spokesmen saying that this was nothing more than a sovereign nation protecting its borders from terrorists hell bent on pouring over the border and attacking their citizens.

As with all these statements, some context seemed to have been mislaid. The citizens of Gaza, hemmed into a tiny strip of land, were engaged in a public protest as the anniversay approached of their being displaced en masse from territory where they had lived for generations before and which was annexed by the new nation of Israel following its inception in 1948. In subsequent years more Palestinian territory was taken over by Israeli families - many of them fundamentalist Americans - who set up home in what the UN has characterised as illegal settlements.  A massive wall was then built snaking along and bisecting farms and olive groves which the Palestinian growers could no longer access to work.

From the Israeli standpoint, all resistance to the march was legitimate since, they argue, Hamas, now controlling Gaza, was a terrorist regime which had never acknowledged Israel's right to exist, and which would in all probability have used the poublic protest as a gathering in which to hide armed men inent on breaching the border fence.  We might never know the precise truth of these awful events since the Israeli government has point blank refused to countenance an independent inquiry by international investigators.  Their own judiciary was more than capable of looking into the matter, said their spokesman. Which throws up the same problem as  police forces  investigating themselves. Rarely a convincing look.

But the problem with the juxtaposition of this with the anti-semitism coverage is that the fact of the latter, makes people reluctant to comment freely on the Gaza killings. When I posted a short tweet, several people shot back that I'd better be a bit careful what I said. Yet I can't for a moment think that the Jewish community whom I know in Glasgow are remotely sanguine about what the army is perpetrating in the name of national security.

They are properly and legitimately concerned about anti semitism in political parties and elsewere.  The rise of minority bashing in Britain post Brexit is a loathesome sight with both British Jews and Muslims rightly fearful that attacks by neanderthals on their places of worship and burial might esacalate into attacks on the person. And any political party worth its salt should  have no hesitation in chucking out any member found to be actively or passively encouraging racism however and wherever it occurs.

I imagine it's no more than the truth that Jeremy Corbyn, as his supporters insist, "hasn't an anti semitic bone in his body." Unfortunately the same cannot be said of some adherents. Nor of some adherents of people in all parties in the UK, but time will tell if this problem is more widespread in Labour than elsewhere.  The tragedy is that for many British Jews, the Labour Party had seemed a natural home given its stated commitment to social justice and internationalism.

For me the most important item on the charge sheet however is a failure of leadership.  We are faced with an incompetent UK administration stuffed with second rate ministers stumbling into post Brexit disaster and hauling their country with them. A half decent opposition would have made such a shabby, incompetent government toast by now. At least in the court of popular opinion. But the head of the main opposition party is a man who, whatever his personal qualities, has proved himself incapable of shooting into an empty goal.  Incapable too of sending a clear message as to what his own party's actual policy is on Brexit. 

That hesitancy is little short of criminal given the timescale we face.  Is it because the party itself cannot come together and find a line?  Seems unlikely given the private views of his top team and the statistics showing that three quarters of Labour members voted Remain. Most passionately so amongst those young voters whom, we are told, most want to follow  their leader.

The persistent belief amongs those despairing of Labour's apparent inability to link with other parties in defeating the Tory Brexiteers is that the Corbyn and McDonnell combo have never sloughed off their instinctive Euro scepticism. And thus do they flail around tying themselves in semantic knots as they try to square the circle of opposing the Tories, but not their hostilitiy to the EU.

It's right that people demand the Labour Party take action against any anti-semites in their midst. As the Jewish protestors said last week - "words are no longer enough."  But the need for action not words on Brexit is just as urgent. If Labour can't get a coherent act together on that, and help push the country over that cliff face, it won't just be the Tories who'll pay the price.