Corbynism, Revolutionary States and the Destruction of Jewish Communities: A Comparative History

Anti-semitic ‘Hep-Hep’ riots in Bavaria, 1819.

Introduction

The British Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn MP poses an “existential threat to Jewish life in this country”[1] were it to take power in the UK; these were the unprecedented words of three major British Jewish newspapers in a united editorial statement on July 25th 2018. Their words were echoed by the former Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth Jonathan Sacks.[2] On November 26th 2019, the current Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis made an equally unprecedented intervention in the U.K. General Election campaign in an article for The Times, accusing Corbyn of having “sanctioned” antisemitism “from the very top”; that “the vast majority of Jews are gripped by anxiety” at the prospect of a Labour victory; that Jeremy Corbyn himself is “unfit for high office”.[3] The Equalities and Human Rights Commission announced an investigation into the Labour Party and allegations of antisemitism under its statutory enforcement powers on 1st August 2019. Sworn testimony submitted to the EHRC by the Jewish Labour Movement in November 2019 alleged that the Labour Party was “institutionally antisemitic” and accused the Labour leadership of directly interfering in antisemitism cases[4], allegations which Corbyn said he “completely rejected”.[5]

How exactly Corbyn’s pronouncements and policy goals would translate into an ‘existential threat’ to British Jews in a British political context; with central government obstructed by checks from the judiciary, devolved national assemblies, the famously obstinate UK Civil Service[6] and the other constraints of a mature democracy; is a more opaque and speculative matter. Questions must be answered as to what exactly such an ‘existential threat’ would mean if Labour won a General Election and Jeremy Corbyn became Prime Minister. Would Jews be forced to leave? Would Jewish communal and political institutions be diminished or dismantled? Would Jews be arrested or imprisoned? Would Jews be placed in physical or life-threatening danger? And how and why would this come about? Why would Corbyn, an avowed anti-racist who denies holding any antisemitic belief or agenda, use the power of the British state to persecute or physically harm Jews?

87% of British Jews believe that the Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, is an antisemite.[7] Around 35% of British Jews would seriously consider leaving the country if Jeremy Corbyn became Prime Minister.[8] The antisemitism crisis afflicting the Labour Party under Corbyn’s leadership has recurred in waves each year since his election as Leader in 2015. A mass demonstration by the Jewish community against the UK’s main opposition party in March 2018[9], itself a first-time event, was the culmination of months of revelations about the scale of antisemitic abuse within Labour, and Corbyn’s own alleged role in promoting antisemitic conspiracy theories.[10] Corbyn became further embroiled in an acrimonious row with the Board of Deputies of British Jews in May 2019 following the public discovery of his unqualified endorsement and foreword-writing for a book promoting a profoundly antisemitic worldview, J.A. Hobson’s Anti-Imperialism. In the Board’s uncompromising letter of reply, it is stated that “it is the Labour Party which is seen as a current driver of antisemitism, with Jews in other countries regularly expressing alarm at the state of things they see in the UK, with principal reference to Labour.”[11] Corbyn has throughout the crisis insisted that Labour is “dealing with” antisemitism, or that he personally has “dealt with it”[12], and vehemently denied any allegations that he is personally antisemitic.

The majority of discussion about antisemitism in UK Labour so far has focused upon Corbyn’s own statements and actions, and the labyrinthine internal procedures and disciplinary processes of the U.K. Labour Party. Antisemitism is usually framed, including by Jewish organisations and leaders, as a “problem” or “poison”[13] which Corbyn has “failed” to “root out”[14], “tackle”[15] or “deal with”[16]. This narrative frames antisemitism within U.K. Labour as an aberrant foreign object, a disease which Corbyn could cure if he tried hard enough, but has so far failed to do so. The question of whether Corbyn himself is personally antisemitic, and whether his worldview itself poses an active threat to British Jews, is the most robustly-denied claim by Corbyn, the Labour Party and its supporters. Notably however, Corbyn and the Labour Party have not taken legal action against individuals and publications which have identified Corbyn as personally antisemitic, including Jewish newspapers, journalists and writers. Indeed, several former Labour Party staff members who became whistleblowers for the BBC Panorama documentary ‘Is Labour Anti-Semitic?’ announced plans in September 2019 to sue Labour itself.

Corbyn and the Labour Party have not stated any intent to enact overtly antisemitic policy or to pursue a campaign of state violence against Jews. Corbyn has endorsed the antisemitic political movements Hamas and Hezbollah as movements for “long-term peace and social justice and political justice”[17] but Labour has not imported their overtly antisemitic goals of the mass murder of Jews into its manifesto or party platform. However, whilst antisemitism is typically discussed with reference to the Nazi Holocaust and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, these two benchmarks can obscure the reality of destructive antisemitism elsewhere in the world. As the Jewish Chronicle writer Daniel Sugarman noted[18] in August 2018, it is not necessary to turn to the Holocaust to find examples of entire Jewish communities being destroyed by antisemitic policy. Were a self-proclaimed ‘Revolutionary’ British Government led by Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell to follow a similar trajectory to three ‘Revolutionary’ states which have strongly influenced Corbynism and Corbyn himself — Cuba, Venezuela and Iran — it is foreseeable that a majority of British Jews may be compelled to leave Britain. In Cuba, 95% of Jews have fled since the Cuban Revolution in 1959.[19] In Iran, 90% of Jews have fled since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.[20] In Venezuela, 70% of Jews have fled since the Bolivarian Revolution began in 1999.[21] Comparative examination of all three nations demonstrate in simple terms how social, economic and foreign policies that have inspired and influenced Corbyn and Corbynism, have led to the total destruction of Jewish communities in nations where they had existed for centuries.

The departure of a majority of British Jews would follow from the loss of their political, economic and religious independence; Jewish life as it currently exists would become unsustainable. Since the expulsion of all Jews from England in A.D. 1290 under Edward I[22], and their return in the 1650s under Oliver Cromwell[23], Jewish communities and institutions in the UK would be at unprecedented risk of destruction by population decline. Jewish communities can be threatened, intimidated and driven into without the use of Nazi racial laws. Policies which produce depopulation and exodus and produce existentially destructive outcomes. Jewish communities and terrestrial institutions can simply cease to exist, save for isolated holdouts maintained by skeleton congregants and staff. The same demographic ends can be met by regimes that are officially anti-racist, multi-ethnic and multicultural, as the three Revolutionary states define themselves. No officially or overtly antisemitic policies were required to fulfil this end in any of the three nations concerned. All that is required for an “existential hreat” to exist towards Jewish life is the rule of a political party which makes Jews living as Jews either intolerable or physically impossible. The Revolutionary states have achieved this through several means; by making it economically unviable for Jews to continue residing within them, by destroying civil liberties of the population as a whole and of Jews as a consequence; and the systematic, targeted persecution of Jews through ‘anti-Zionist’ campaigns.

There is an important relationship between these states, Jeremy Corbyn as an individual, Corbynism as an ideology and Corbynism as a political movement. As Paul Hollander’s Political Pilgrims[24] did before him, Corbyn has visited all three states as part of official visits and subsequently praised the regimes at rallies and events organised by the regimes or their supporters. Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet, including Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott, Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon, trade union leaders and other important figures within Corbynism, have done likewise.[25] Whilst typically discussed as a separate ethical quandary to the Labour Party’s antisemitism crisis, the political pilgrimages of Corbynism’s leaders is inextricably linked to how a tangible ‘existential threat’ to British Jews would play out in real time. The reified, real-world consequences of the ideas and worldviews held by each regime has been the existential destruction of Jewish communities.

I. Corbynism and the Revolutionary States

The term ‘Revolutionary’ broadly encompasses three different trajectories of anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist ideologies which have controlled state institutions in Cuba, Venezuela and Iran respectively since the occurrence of political revolutions in each nation. Grouping the states together on ideological and economic grounds may seem incongruous, particularly for the inclusion of the Islamic Republic of Iran with two more ideologically and geographically interlinked socialist states in Latin America. Iran’s theocratic rule of religious clerics and a Supreme Leader is in most respects a government of the extreme conservative right. However, Iran since 1979 has positioned itself within the ‘Revolutionary’ community of nations as much or indeed more so than as part of any alliance of Shia Muslim nations or communities within the Ummah. Olivier Roy discussed the manifestation of this position in The Failure of Political Islam, and how the militantly conservative Islamic Republic became aligned with militantly un-conservative movements:

“The Iranian press… devoted extensive coverage to non-Muslim revolutionary movements (from the Sandinistas to the African National Congress and the Irish Republican Army) and downplayed the role of the Islamic movements considered conservative, such as the Afghan mujahidin…Third World solidarity took precedence over Muslim fraternity…”[26]

Practical co-operation and ideological kinship flourished between Cuba and Iran as members of the Non-Aligned Movement; Iran joined immediately following its Revolution in 1979 at the Cuba-hosted 6th summit of the N.A.M., wherein Castro made the ‘Havana Declaration’ outlining the goals of the movement. This evolved into stronger and more co-dependent ties following the end of the Cold War. Fidel Castro declared in 2001 during a tour of Iran, Syria and Libya that “Iran and Cuba, in cooperation with each other, can bring America to its knees.”[27] By 2006, Cuba and Iran had begun sharing jamming equipment to prevent US radio broadcasts from reaching Iran.[28] Writing for the US-based Jewish Policy Center in 2012, Ray Walser discussed the ‘Bolivarian Alternative for our Americas’, an alliance of Latin American states founded by Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez for the stated goal of Latin American and Caribbean integration:

“… for Iran, Cuba — the quintessential anti-American “police state” — actually possesses revolutionary legitimacy, potent intelligence capabilities, a network of radical allies …. Iran’s strongest support, however, continues to come from Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez. The former army lieutenant colonel delights in flaunting support for Iran and the so-called “axis of unity.”[29]

Jeremy Corbyn made political pilgrimages to all three ‘axis of unity’ states during his thirty-two years as a Member of Parliament before being elected Labour Leader in 2015. In the UK, he has frequently spoken at events organised by the embassies and diplomatic missions, front operations and ‘solidarity’ campaigns run by the regimes and their supporters. Corbyn was often joined by sympathetic fellow MPs and trade union leaders who later served in his Shadow Cabinet or senior roles within the Labour Party. As well as praising the Islamic Republic of Iran at events organised by regime supporters, Corbyn presented his own call-in show on Iran’s English-language state propaganda channel Press TV. Corbyn did not tell the truth about the duration and chronology of his work for Press TV when asked by interviewers[30] about having continued his presenting work after the violent suppression of protests in 2009.

Most prominently among the three states, Corbyn and the other high-ranking figures in his Labour Shadow Cabinet and in Corbynism as a movement, extensively praised, supported and celebrated the Hugo Chávez and Nicolas Maduro governments of Venezuela.[31] Corbyn claimed that Chávez “was inspiring, is inspiring”[32]. In addition to his well-documented support for the Chavismo regime and its economic policies, Corbyn has appeared on Venezuelan state television several times, the latest being in 2015.[33] Following the death of veteran left-wing MP and campaigner Tony Benn in 2014, Corbyn took part in a call-in show hosted by Nicolas Maduro[34]; Corbyn took time to congratulate the new President even as the reality of the nation’s economic and humanitarian crisis had become inescapable.

Corbyn did not support pro-democracy or liberal reformist movements within any of the three Revolutionary states, but was and remains firmly on the side of the regimes, their supporters and their front organisations worldwide. Correspondingly, the fact that over 70% of Jews in each state have fled did not diminish or cause him to withdraw his support. Corbyn expressed sympathy, support and enthusiasm for regimes whose policies have forced entire national populations of Jews into exile from their homes, as both a secondary consequence and a defined primary objective of state policy. The way in which this demographic change was reached in each state requires examination in turn; firstly in targeted persecution which turns Jews specifically into political and religious refugees; secondly in the economic policies which drive Jews to mass migration along with non-Jews.

II. Political and Economic Antisemitism: Expropriation and Exodus

The history of antisemitism through state persecution of Jews has made it essential that Jewish communities are able to live independently of state control and interference. It follows that Jews must to be able to own property as individuals and communities which cannot be confiscated or destroyed, and to have freedom of choice over professions which allow the community to prosper. Thus, a state which nationalised all property or at least extended state direction into all aspects of life; placing all traditions, customs and communal practices under the government direction; would be necessarily antisemitic. It is true that in hypothetical circumstances, a Jewish-majority socialist state may emerge in which all property is collectively owned (indeed, as the nascent State of Israel gravitated towards socialism, some Israeli politicians considered the merits of joining the Soviet Bloc). But in the reality of the present, and in the context of Jews living in a minority in all nations outside Israel, the deprivation of all privately and communally-owned institutions beyond the direct control of the state prevents the most basic right of Jews to live as Jews, as well as that of any group wishing not to be dominated by a larger collective.

On a more practical level, the destruction of private-sector economies and ensuing Jewish exodus follows from a rational and universal economic principle; humans will migrate where opportunity exists, and destroying opportunity will in turn destroy entire communities:

“British Jews are predominantly middle-class, owners of small businesses who have made good by their hard work. If Corbyn comes to power, it may be a change in their socio-economic status that pushes them to leave — not just the fear of a creeping, sanitized anti-Semitism.”[35]

Economic fears over asset seizure and impoverishment run together with fears of official antisemitic policy. Even today, Jewish families in advanced democracies often have at least one relative, particularly those older or closer to the Holocaust generation, with “one bag packed” ready to leave a country of residence at any moment. Jeffrey Goldberg expressed this shared assumption in 2015 in an interview with the French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut; “I asked him a very old Jewish question: Do you have a bag packed?”[36] In August 2018, a Jewish caller to LBC Radio described how “the suitcase is packed with high valuables”[37] and making plans with his spouse to flee the UK in the event of a Labour election victory.

The ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors underlying migration are foremostly economic, even apart from political instability and persecution; income and opportunity differentials are enough to motivate the majority of migrants.[38] The three Revolutionary states have suffered mass migrations across demographics as economic opportunity in each state is closed off. Cuba’s GDP remained stagnant from 1959[39] despite decades of generous and disproportionate subsidy from the Soviet Union. Iran’s GDP has segwayed erratically from growth to depression[40] as a result of corruption, mismanagement, war losses and international sanctions resulting from its nuclear program. Venezuelan economic collapse has produced an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe and a migrant crisis now larger than any in the world; over one million migrated from 1999 to 2015 and a further three million have fled since 2015.[41] Jews are adversely affected by the same major economic crises as others; but as a minority community, the loss of significant numbers of Jews to economic migration can spell the end of an entire community within a few years.

Cuba

Jews in Cuba had numbered 15,000 in 1959; approximately 94% of them had fled by 1990.[42] Cuba under Fidel Castro demonstrates how a regime which officially condemns antisemitism and defines itself as anti-racist can preside over the wholesale depopulation of Jews as a consequence of state policy. In line with other Third World nations and members of the Non-Aligned Movement, Cuba voted in 1973 for the infamous ‘Zionism is Racism’ UN General Assembly Resolution 3379, and was one of a minority of nations to vote against its repeal in 1991.[43] Cuba’s overall relationship with the State of Israel was more complex, as was Castro’s attitude towards Jews. Following Castro’s death in 2016, Jewish newspapers recognised the ‘special treatment’ given to Cuban Jews via ‘Operation Cigar’, a program enabling Jewish emigration to Israel arranged by the Canadian government after 1990.[44] Castro “apparently gave his blessing” to the plan for Cuban Jews to make aliyah to Israel and allowed then to be given exit visas which would not have been given as favourably to non-Jews. In a 2010 interview with Jeffrey Goldberg, Castro even condemned Iranian President Mahmood Ahmadinejad for espousing Holocaust denial and defended Israel’s right to exist.[45]

What ultimately drove Jews to leave Cuba and to remain gone were the same forces which forced more than a million Cubans in total to flee after the 1959 Revolution; the destruction of both their economic opportunities and any guarantee of their independence as a community. Life as free and autonomous Jews, became impossible. In the article ‘Fleeing the Revolution: The Exodus of Cuban Jewry in the Early 1960s’, the historian and Reform rabbi Dana Evan Kaplan summarised the impact of the Cuban Revolution on Cuban Jews:

“The revolution’s economic policies destroyed the Jewish community of Cuba as it had been in the 1950s, with only a small contingent remaining. Most Jews were middle-class businessmen and the revolution’s socialist policies undermined the economic basis of the community.”[46]

Mass nationalisation of private property impoverished and disempowered Cuban Jews past the point of the intolerable. Religious independence was made impossible, or placed within constraints which did not exist in free societies. Castro’s public condemnations of antisemitism, his affirmations of respect for Jews and Judaism and even measures such as allowing one Kosher butcher to continue operating after private enterprise was abolished in 1961[47] were contrasted with the reality of life for Jews on the ground. Jews suffered religious persecution along with other religious groups until the Cuban constitution was amended in 1992. Whilst not singled-out with official antisemitic policy, Jews suffered as a minority left to the mercy of an authoritarian state that crippled individual freedoms at home whilst aggressively involving itself in other revolutionary conflicts abroad.

Venezuela

Estimates of Venezuela’s Jewish demographic decline vary; according to the Washington Post, based on a figure of 22,000 Jews in 1999 and between 6,000 and 9,000 remaining in 2017, approximately 60–70% of Venezuelan Jews have fled.[48] One million Venezuelans and 50% of Venezuelan Jews had fled by the time of Hugo Chávez’s death in 2013[49], before the worst of the economic and humanitarian crisis took effect. Jewish life in Venezuela collapsed under the weight of government-sponsored antisemitism[50] under Hugo Chávez as well as the economic crisis caused by his government’s policies. As early as 2010, the human rights monitoring arm of the Organisation of American States warned of “a threat to the life and physical integrity of the Jewish community in Venezuela”[51] as a result of the Chávez regime’s human rights violations and encouragement of antisemitism. Politically directed antisemitism in Venezuela lasted throughout Hugo Chávez’s rule. Pro-government newspapers baselessly accused Jewish leaders of involvement of the 2002 coup attempt.[52] There were multiple high-profile acts of collective intimidation, including police raids of Jewish schools and community centres following accusations of Israeli involvement in political assassinations. The Venezuelan state intelligence agency SEBIN actively targeted Venezuelan Jews and Jewish organisations[53], accusing them of “operating in the field of subversive socio-political influence through representatives of far-right Zionist groups and economic elites”.[54]

For most of the twentieth century, Venezuela had been a high-migration target, a “land of opportunity”[55] within South America that was looked on with envy for its energy wealth and comparably high rates of human development. Under Chávez from 1999 onwards, the state nationalised and expropriated companies in “sectors including aluminum, cement, gold, iron, steel, farming, transportation, electricity, food production, banking, paper and the media”[56], as well as the farm supply business[57] — one of the underlying causes of Venezuela’s current man-made starvation crisis. The intentional destruction of Venezuela’s private sector was masked and counteracted by abnormally high oil revenues, which the regime wholly squandered whilst amassing trillions in public debt.[58] Private wealth and access to it belonged to corrupt state officials and the Bolibourgeoisie[59], the new oligarch class of bureaucrats, cronies and socialist politicians to whom Chávez turned over the economy. Whilst expropriating, punishing and exiling middle-class business owners and entrepreneurs, Chavismo created an rentier bureaucracy which squandered and stole hundreds of billions of dollars in oil revenues, public funds and assets, including from expropriated businesses.[60]

As with their gentile neighbours, Jews who wanted to make an honest living and to create new wealth had no hope of doing so after the Bolivarian Revolution began. Venezuela now suffers an inflation rate estimated by the IMF to be 1,000,000% in 2018, projected to rise to 10,000,000% in 2019.[61] With 70% of Venezuelan Jews compelled to leave from 1999–2017, the once-prosperous community which previously existed has been effectively destroyed. The figure is very likely to rise as Venezuela’s collapse and Maduro’s despotic rule continues without end in sight.

Iran

Jewish demographic decline in Iran began immediately after the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and has proceeded continuously, with sharp spikes following political unrest. 90% of the 100,000 Jews who lived in Iran in the 1970s have migrated or fled; “Today, despite the bloated governmental statistics of 25,000, no more than 10,000 continue to live there.”[62] Among the three states, Iran does have the most viable and continuous Jewish community, with thirteen synagogues and a Jewish hospital still situated in Tehran.[63] These are legally protected and Iranian Jews owe their position to a declaration made shortly after the Revolution by the Ayathollah Khomeini. As Roya Hakakian explained in The Tablet:

“We recognize our Jews as separate from those godless, bloodsucking Zionists.”… The fledgling regime’s position on the Jews was determined in that speech, and it has remained in effect 35 years since it was first spoken. In light of it, Iranian Jewry remain physically safe. But that is about all. The sea change of laws that swept through the country since 1979 has made it impossible for Jews, or any non-Shiite people, including Iranian Sunnis, to thrive.”[64]

Corbyn’s description of “the inclusivity, the tolerance and the acceptance of other faiths and other ethnic groupings within Iran”[65] in his “case for Iran” speech is, on the facts, completely at odds with the reality experienced by Iranian Jews and other minorities. The impossibility for Jews to live freely as Jews is at the root of Iran’s antisemitism by consequence of state policy. Additionally, similar economic push factors as those experienced in the other two Revolutionary states came to bear upon Iranian Jews.

Unlike Cuba and Venezuela, there was no comparable mass expropriation of property rooted in Marxist-Leninist theory. Iran following the 1979 Revolution possessed no definite economic orientation; “economics is for donkeys”[66] was the dismissive statement of Khomeini even as Iran’s GDP and standards of living cascaded during war with neighbouring Iraq. Though neither socialist or Soviet-aligned, Iran was nevertheless firmly anti-liberal and anti-capitalist; central planning and state control has predominated the Iranian economy since 1979; 60% of the Iranian economy is effectively state-controlled as of 2016.[67] Although the state did not confiscate all private property following the 1979 Revolution, state interference in the economy has made genuine private sector prosperity impossible. Companies which succeed and can turn a profit in Iran do so only through the bribery and favour of government officials:

“Companies operating or planning to invest in Iran face a very high risk of corruption. A powerful system of political patronage, nepotism and cronyism pervade all sectors of the economy.”[68]

The existence of successful companies owned by Jews, particularly those with any foreign ties, is an impossibility. Competition against state monopolies remains impossible for any would-be innovators. Jews have no positive incentive to make their homes in Iran, as the other two states more starkly demonstrate. Moreover, the Jews who remain do not possess the freedom of choice in doing so:

“Since 1979, the numbers of the Jewish population are down by more than 90 percent, and fear is a familiar companion for those who remain, whether because they are too old to leave or because they remain attached to the country of their birth.”[69]

The leaders of Iran’s Jewish community have tactfully praised the Iranian government for officially protecting their religious rights. Practically, the community is hostage to the regime and has no freedom to make decisions on religious or community matters which contradict those of the state or its Supreme Leader. Iranian Jews will not criticise their government as it is in their existential interests not to do so; “We don’t talk about politics, mind our business, and try not to run into problems.”[70] Under continuous surveillance and harassment by security services, the remaining Jewish community exists at the mercy of the regime; in the event of war between Iran and Israel or the United States, this mercy is unlikely to last.

III. Anti-Zionism, the destruction and reconstruction of Jews

Outside the Nazi Holocaust, the most comprehensive and effective depopulations of Jews by state policy, economic distress and forced expulsion in the twentieth century were made in the context of ‘anti-Zionist’ political campaigns. These were present in the Soviet Union in the 1920s; “The regime referred to synagogues as clubs for businessmen and Zionists, and networks for the spreading of anti-Soviet slander.”[71] They continued with the mass expulsion of Jews from Arab states after the founding of Israel in 1948; in Iraq, “[t]he majority of the Jewish population (90 percent of the community of 150,000) left that year, amid a massive plundering of their property by the authorities.”[72] The three Revolutionary states discussed here achieved the same ends through their political and economic policies even after the Soviet Union had collapsed and Israel made peace with its Arab neighbours.

From the late twentieth century into the early twenty-first century, the demographic goals originally espoused by fascist states; the removal or expulsion of all Jews from their borders; were now achieved by the three Revolutionary states through the lens of anti-Zionism. All three states proclaimed that they welcomed and respected Jews but militantly opposed ‘Zionism’, which they defined as an evil perversion of Judaism analogous to fascism and imperialism. Castro oversaw Cuba’s rubber-stamp national assembly pass resolutions condemning Israel as “the Zionist entity” which was “reminiscent of the era of Nazism”.[73] Hostility to the State of Israel merges with ease into the paranoid financial and political conspiracism of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Chávez and Khomeini blamed ‘Zionism’ as well as the United States for the material shortages, economic malaise and political unrest within their own borders. In a similar spirit, several Corbyn-supporting publications have frequently attributed accusations of antisemitism and criticism of Corbyn in general to conspiracies involving the Israeli Embassy and ‘Zionist’ institutions.[74]

The Jewish People Policy Institute conducted extensive studies of relations between Diaspora and Israeli Jews in 2017. Approximately 90% of Diaspora Jews feel some affinity, support or connection to the State of Israel[75] and are thus ‘Zionists’ in an elemental sense. The two categories of Judaism and Zionism, whilst rightly distinct, are applied by the Revolutionary states in such a way to include this 90% of Jews in campaigns of targeted propaganda, intimidation and violence. When Khomeini uttered his statement that would legally protect Iranian Jews, “Moses would have nothing to do with these pharaoh-like Zionists who run Israel. And our Jews, the descendants of Moses, have nothing to do with them either. We recognize our Jews as separate from those godless, bloodsucking Zionists”[76], he thus condemned the global Jewish community which felt affinity for the Jewish state. It is necessarily antisemitic to define and condemn ‘Zionism’ in such a way that defines and condemns the vast majority of Jews.

A perverse irony is found in the application of community-destroying antisemitic policies under the banner of ‘Anti-Zionism’. By expropriating, exiling or expelling 90% of Jews within their borders, the three Revolutionary states have created the demographics which would otherwise only exist in imagination and myth. None of the subjugated Jews who remain within their borders can declare or voice any affinity towards Israel or a global Jewish community — for any expression of international Jewish solidarity is plausibly ‘Zionist’. With only a terrified, compliant and avowedly non-Zionist Jewish minority remaining, the Revolutionary states achieve the ultimate goal of the totalitarian mind — to reshape the outer and inner life into the mould of their ideas. They have destroyed the Jewish communities that once existed, and reconstructed them in their own image.

The links between Corbynism and the three Revolutionary states are both tangible and conceptual. Central to both Corbynism and the worldview of each regime, thematically expressed through interminable repetition on state-controlled media, are existential conspiracy theories. Corbyn himself is perhaps best understood not as an orthodox or doctrinaire Marxist but as a conspiracy theorist; see his statement on Iran’s Press TV in August 2012 that “the hand of Israel” was behind an Al-Qaeda terrorist attack in Egypt[77] or his claims in a column for the Communist Party newspaper The Morning Star about “the unbelievably high levels of influence that Israel’s government appears to have in the upper echelons of parts of the media.”[78] This extends far beyond foreign policy and terrorism; the conspiratorial worldview permeating Corbynism is at the heart of Corbyn’s economic thinking, as Matt Bolton and Frederick Harry Pitts, the authors of Corbyn: A Critical Approach explained in their discussion of ‘the Labour left’s personalised critique of capitalism’:

“What this lapse from critical to conspiracy theory suggests is that the anti-semitic tropes which pervade the Corbyn-supporting “alt-media” and activist base, as well as Corbyn’s own dubious brand of “anti-Zionism” and “anti-imperialism”, are not mere contingencies, but the logical outcome of the movement’s morally-charged, personalised critique of capitalism as conspiracy.”[79]

A crucial overlap in conceptual frameworks shared between Corbynism and the Revolutionary regimes is their belief in secretive cabals controlling events which counteract and obstruct the success of their own narratives. The projection of financial motives onto political opponents and critical authors (an self-explanatory example of the genre being, ‘Two Charts Which Explain J.K. Rowling’s Love of Blairism and Hatred of Corbynism’)[80] is integral to Corbynism, now accompanied by reflexive denunciations of negative and critical stories published by the “billionaire-owned press”. The authoritarian lingua franca more graphically emanates in the promotion of pseudoscientific narratives involving chemical weapons[81] and the denial of poison gas atrocities[82], photographic manipulation[83], rejections of negative polling data[84], and denunciation of factual information based on the ethnic or social identity of its transmitters[85]. These are some of the fixations of both Corbynism as a movement and the three Revolutionary states. All ultimately return to antisemitism.[86]

Antisemitic conspiracy theory is itself only one component of a worldview which would pose an ‘existential threat’ to British Jews. Corbyn and Corbynism’s choices of ‘solidarity’ reveal their views about legitimate and desirable statecraft; since 1965, the Communist Party of Cuba defines its role and purpose as the “leading force of society and of the state”.[87] The nature of a society where one political party becomes an immovable object of power wholly contradicts the spirit of constitutional and common-law societies which allow Jews to live as Jews. The goal of unconstrained power to dominate the social world and the individual conscience stands in total polarization with the modest ambitions described in England, Your England and Orwell’s recognisable evocation of English liberty:

“All the culture that is most truly native centres round things which even when they are communal are not official — the pub, the football match, the back garden, the fireside and the ‘nice cup of tea’… No party rallies, no Youth Movements, no coloured shirts, no Jew-baiting or ‘spontaneous’ demonstrations.”[88]

It is not accidental that Orwell identified the negation of liberty with “Jew-baiting” among other forms of social manipulation. Having fought most of his life to overcome a deeply-ingrained, personal antisemitic prejudice of his class background and the age he lived in, Orwell saw the possibility within English life for antisemitism itself to be expelled, rather than the Jews. A civil society made up of customs, traditions, loyalties and affinities which exist predominantly outside the direction of central government, thus allowing Jewish and other minority religious communities to thrive, is utterly incompatible with the imagination of the Revolutionary solidarity campaigns. James Bloodworth summarised in a recent review that Corbyn belonged to the present wave of ‘intolerant populism’ which arcs back invariably to statism and authoritarianism:

“As Bolton and Pitts put it: “If workers refuse to adhere to the ‘needs of the nation,’ the state must ensure that they do”. The trade unions, vocally supportive of Corbyn in opposition, would potentially be neutered and reduced to mere arms of the state under a Corbyn-led government, just as they are in favoured Corbynista despotisms such as Cuba.”[89]

Beneath the foundational certainties of free societies, “Jews have often functioned as a canary in the coalmine: when a society turns on its Jews, it is usually a sign of wider ill health”[90], the columnist Jonathan Freedland stated at the end of the Passover following British Jews’ unprecedented protests against Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, the Labour Party. British Jews will not be alone in suffering an existential threat from the “inspiring” politics and economics of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez, or the apocalyptic visions of the Ayatollah Khomeini. It was the Jews who fled first, followed by millions of gentiles whose lives have been irrevocably destroyed by the promises and realities of each Revolution made manifest.

[1] https://www.thejc.com/comment/leaders/three-jewish-papers-take-the-unprecedented-step-of-publishing-the-same-page-on-labour-antisemitism-1.467641

[2] https://www.timesofisrael.com/former-uk-chief-rabbi-warns-of-existential-threat-to-british-jews-by-corbyn/

[3] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-2019-50552068

[4] https://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/jlm-submits-bombshell-document-on-labour-hate-to-equality-watchdog-investigation-1.493993

[5] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/jeremy-corbyn-labour-antisemitism-refuge-jewish-group-jlm-probe-a9233796.html

[6] https://www.ft.com/content/fe329b28-69fa-11e6-a0b1-d87a9fea034f

[7] https://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/more-than-85-per-cent-of-british-jews-think-jeremy-corbyn-is-antisemitic-1.469654

[8] https://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/nearly-40-per-cent-of-british-jews-would-seriously-consider-emigrating-if-corbyn-became-pm-1.469270

[9] https://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/jewish-community-protests-in-parliament-square-against-labour-antisemitism-enough-is-enough-1.461420

[10] https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/corbynite-left-is-hooked-on-conspiracy-theories-jcq7zh76f

[11] https://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/jeremy-corbyn-claims-i-endorsed-book-s-antisemitic-content-are-politically-motivated-1.483756

[12] https://www.lbc.co.uk/radio/presenters/nick-ferrari/how-jeremy-corbyn-should-apologise-anti-semitism/

[13] https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/nov/25/labour-has-let-poison-of-antisemitism-take-root-says-chief-rabbi

[14] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/12/05/anti-semitism-dossier-15-incidents-claim-jeremy-corbyn-has-engaged/

[15] https://www.ft.com/content/66dec48c-173e-11ea-9ee4-11f260415385

[16] https://www.haaretz.com/world-news/europe/labour-party-corbyn-anti-semitism-antisemitism-british-election-uk-johnson-1.8201561

[17] https://twitter.com/TimesCorbyn/status/1142720799545221120?s=20

[18] https://www.thejc.com/comment/comment/yes-a-corbyn-government-could-pose-an-existential-threat-to-our-community-1.468763

[19] https://www.jpost.com/Magazine/A-look-at-Cubas-dwindling-Jewish-community-469512

[20] https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/238471/why-some-iranian-jews-stay

[21] https://www.businessinsider.com/venezuelan-jews-fleeing-to-israel-turned-away-2017-1?r=US&IR=T

[22] https://blog.nationalarchives.gov.uk/blog/remembering-englands-medieval-jews/

[23] https://www.haaretz.com/jewish/1655-cromwell-conference-on-letting-jews-back-into-england-fizzles-out-1.5474357

[24] https://www.commentarymagazine.com/articles/political-pilgrims-by-paul-hollander/

[25] http://labour-uncut.co.uk/2016/05/25/the-corbynite-take-on-venezuela-tells-you-all-you-need-to-know-about-the-leaderships-judgement/

[26] Olivier Roy, ‘The Failure of Political Islam’, (Harvard University Press, 1994), page 175

[27] http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.482.6531&rep=rep1&type=pdf

[28] https://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0215/p09s02-cojh.html

[29] https://www.jewishpolicycenter.org/2012/05/31/iran-influence-latin-america/

[30] https://www.timesofisrael.com/irate-corbyn-refuses-to-say-if-he-regrets-working-for-irans-press-tv/

[31] https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2018/05/fact-check-corbynista-support-for-maduro/

[32] https://stephendaisley.com/2019/01/28/corbyn-the-socialist-has-no-empathy-for-ordinary-people/

[33] https://order-order.com/2017/08/02/corbyn-congratulates-dictator-maduro-state-tv-propaganda-broadast/

[34] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_aFOkwaK4c

[35] https://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-would-a-corbyn-led-government-pose-an-existential-threat-to-uk-jews-1.6318269

[36] https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/04/is-it-time-for-the-jews-to-leave-europe/386279/

[37] https://www.lbc.co.uk/radio/presenters/shelagh-fogarty/jewish-caller-ready-to-flee-to-israel/

[38] https://wol.iza.org/uploads/articles/373/pdfs/demographic-and-economic-determinants-of-migration.pdf

[39] https://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2016/11/26/fidel-castros-economic-disaster-in-cuba/#7c0a30aa6b65

[40] https://knoema.com/atlas/Iran/Real-GDP-growth

[41] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/08/venezuela-migrants-fleeing-exodus-increase-united-nations

[42] https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/cuba-virtual-jewish-history-tour

[43] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_General_Assembly_Resolution_3379#Revocation

[44] https://www.jta.org/1999/10/13/archive/behind-the-headlines-operation-cigar-a-not-so-secret-cuban-aliyah-gets-world-attention

[45] https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2010/09/castro-no-one-has-been-slandered-more-than-the-jews/62566/

[46] http://pedropanexodus.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Kaplan-Cuban-Jewry.pdf

[47] https://www.thejc.com/comment/analysis/castro-supported-cuban-aliyah-1.147980

[48] https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/venezuelan-jews-are-moving-to-israel-to-escape-deepening-poverty/2017/01/01/437d015b-8676-49ed-89d3-1edc0a57418e_story.html

[49] https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/venezuelan-jews-are-moving-to-israel-to-escape-deepening-poverty/2017/01/01/437d015b-8676-49ed-89d3-1edc0a57418e_story.html

[50] https://foreignpolicy.com/2014/08/15/venezuelas-government-sponsored-anti-semitism/

[51] https://www.jpost.com/Jewish-World/Jewish-News/Serious-threat-to-Venezuelas-Jews

[52] https://2009-2017.state.gov/j/drl/rls/irf/2005//index.htm

[53] https://www.timesofisrael.com/venezuela-spying-on-its-jews-documents-reveal/

[54] https://www.timesofisrael.com/dossier-shows-jewish-group-spied-on-in-venezuela/

[55] https://www.forbes.com/sites/garthfriesen/2018/08/07/the-path-to-hyperinflation-what-happened-to-venezuela/#736dcee615e4

[56] https://abcnews.go.com/ABC_Univision/News/ways-Ch%C3%A1vez-destroyed-venezuelan-economy/story?id=18239956

[57] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-42398814

[58] https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/07/16/how-venezuela-struck-it-poor-oil-energy-Ch%C3%A1vez/

[59] https://www.gazetadopovo.com.br/wiseup-news/who-are-venezuelas-wealthy/

[60] https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=LmyBDwAAQBAJ&lpg=PA24&pg=PA39#v=onepage&q&f=false

[61] https://in.reuters.com/article/venezuela-economy/imf-sees-venezuela-inflation-at-10-million-percent-in-2019-idINKCN1MJ1YX

[62] https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/187519/how-iran-kept-its-jews

[63] https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jews-of-iran

[64] https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/187519/how-iran-kept-its-jews

[65] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MwJYbR3NHoU

[66] https://www.newstatesman.com/economy/2008/09/iran-economic-ahmadinejad

[67] https://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/with-sanctions-lifting-whats-in-store-for-irans-economy/

[68] https://www.ganintegrity.com/portal/country-profiles/iran/

[69] https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/238471/why-some-iranian-jews-stay

[70] https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/238471/why-some-iranian-jews-stay

[71] https://journals.openedition.org/monderusse/9139

[72] https://www.haaretz.com/jewish/.premium-the-inconvenient-truth-about-jews-from-arab-lands-1.5250159

[73] http://www.schaler.net/Horowitz.pdf

[74] https://www.jpost.com/International/Corbyn-supporters-criticism-is-a-Zionist-conspiracy-565158

[75] http://jppi.org.il/new/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Dialogue-at-70-English.pdf

[76] https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/187519/how-iran-kept-its-jews

[77] https://www.jpost.com/Diaspora/UK-Labour-leader-Corbyn-voices-conspiracy-theory-against-Israel-in-2012-563714

[78] https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Corbyn-in-2009-Israeli-govt-has-unbelievably-high-levels-of-influence-in-parts-of-media-588530

[79]https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2018/03/combat-left-anti-semitism-corbynism-must-change-way-it-sees-world

[80] http://www.ianwelsh.net/two-charts-which-explain-j-k-rowlings-love-of-blairism-and-hatred-of-corbyn/

[81]http://www.jeremy-duns.com/blog/someduediligenceonaaronbastani

[82] https://www.newstatesman.com/world/middle-east/2018/08/labour-can-be-jo-cox-s-party-or-chris-williamson-s-it-cannot-be-both

[83] https://www.channel4.com/news/factcheck/factcheck-did-the-bbc-edit-a-photo-of-jeremy-corbyn-to-make-him-look-close-to-russia

[84] https://metro.co.uk/2017/05/02/the-picture-that-john-mcdonnell-probably-doesnt-want-you-to-see-6609968/

[85] https://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/jess-phillips-gnasher-jew-twitter-labour-party-antisemitism-aaron-bastani-1.477870

[86] https://www.newstatesman.com/2018/03/how-conspiracy-theories-about-salisbury-attack-tap-antisemitic-tropes

[87] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-cuba-parliament-idUSKBN18S5KL

[88] http://orwell.ru/library/essays/lion/english/e_eye

[89] https://unherd.com/2019/01/corbyns-intolerant-populism/

[90] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/mar/30/antisemitism-jews-canary-coalmine-fake-news

Writer. History and Law graduate

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