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Anti-Semitism fatigue is now a normal part of British politics

How did it come to this? Here we are, in 2018, in modern, democratic, fair-minded Britain, and what happens when it turns out the leader of the Labour Party was a member of a secret Facebook group awash with anti-Semitic comments? Not a lot really.

As the political editor of the Jewish Chronicle, I have been writing about Jeremy Corbyn’s associations with anti-Semites, Holocaust deniers and radical clerics since long before he became leader of the opposition. I have also lost count of the number of stories I have written on Labour MPs, councillors, activists and supporters linked to Jew-hate since the summer of 2015.

When I saw the work of David Collier – an unassuming, quiet, personable researcher – on Wednesday morning, I have to admit, even I reacted with a shrug. His exposé of hundreds of offensive and anti-Semitic posts from the Palestine Live Facebook group uncovered the sort of material I have seen countless times before from such collectives – how the Rothschilds ‘invented the Holocaust hoax’, Mossad carried out the 9/11 attacks, and an article titled ‘why the Jews are the unrepentant destroyers of all that’s decent on the planet’.

Except this time there is one key added feature – not just the presence, but the active participation, of Mr Corbyn. Cue media scrum, right? Wrong.


First the Jewish media covered it online. Some commentators picked it up, and by Wednesday evening there were the first national newspaper pieces, tucked away inside. But since then there has been little further coverage and little further reaction – from Labour moderates, the Tories or anyone else – aside from the usual Twitter storm. Certainly by this lunchtime, more than 48 hours after the story broke, I have seen no sign of any coverage on mainstream BBC or ITV television news bulletins.

John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, managed to get his lines mixed up in a brief spot on Sky News this morning, further clouding what exactly Mr Corbyn knew and when, even while the facts appear to be in front of us. Such revelations about the man who is favourite to be our next Prime Minister would once have been on every front page and led the nightly news. But we have passed that point.

Anti-Semitism fatigue grips us all, public and media alike. And is it any wonder?

Barely a day goes by without another ‘Labour anti-Semitism’ story. The most prominent case – Ken Livingstone’s Hitler comments – has become a form of running joke, with supposedly comic Twitter accounts and websites following the saga as though it were light entertainment rather than Holocaust revisionism from one of the country’s most recognisable politicians.

Perhaps some of the slow response comes down simply to timing – the Sergei Skripal spy story is understandably of huge national and international interest; the Brexit debate is never-ending; even in the Jewish community, the Chief Rabbi’s intervention in an ongoing saga over a controversial coroner meant Mr Corbyn did not make it on to the front page of this week’s Jewish Chronicle.

A point will come where we have to decide, as a society, whether we really care about this age-old prejudice. When political leaders say they do not tolerate anti-Semitism, that they will not entertain Jew-hate in their parties, do they really mean it or are they simply offering glib soundbites? And will they be held to account, or let off the hook?

Whether this week’s revelations about Mr Corbyn come to be seen as that turning point we cannot yet know; but all the evidence so far suggests not.

Marcus Dysch is the political editor of the Jewish Chronicle. 


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