Britain’s Labour Party has been trying to get its anti-Semitism problem under control in preparation for national elections that could come sometime in the next couple of years: The party expelled the anti-Zionist activist Tony Greenstein last month, and recently extended the suspension of former London mayor Ken Livingstone, who has repeatedly insisted that there were close ties between the Nazis and the Zionist movement. But two new controversies shows just how deeply alleged anti-Israel extremists have penetrated the party, which has veered sharply left under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.
This week, the Daily Mail reported that Joss Macdonald, a Corbyn speechwriter, wrote a tweet in which he appeared to characterize Israel’s actions as “genocide” shortly after the 2014 conflict in Gaza. A few years earlier, Macdonald tweeted his view that “Apartheid Israel has killed the two-state solution,” leaving “a bi-national democratic Palestine” as the only possible outcome to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Andrew Percy, a member of parliament for the governing Conservative party, has already said that Corbyn “should reconsider his decision to employ this man,” according to the Mail.
In the annals of Corbyn-era Labour anti-Semitism rows, this ranks as a refreshingly mild one. Macdonald only wrote two questionable tweets, one of which was composed nearly a decade ago; the belief that a binational state is the only fair outcome to the conflict isn’t exactly an unusual one among left-leaning Europeans either. The “genocide” accusation came in the context of an exchange with a pro-Israel Twitter user in which Macdonald paraphrases his opponent’s argument in a way that strongly suggests Macdonald agrees with the caricatured version. A single, isolated, and fleeting reference to Israeli genocide is nothing compared to receiving $26,000 from Iran’s state television network, which Corbyn has received, or laying a wreath at the grave of one of the Munich Olympics terrorists—indeed, it would be unfair for Macdonald to lose his job when his boss is guilty of far less ambiguous dalliances with anti-Semites and anti-Semitism.
It would be especially unjust given the comparatively more recent social media activities of Corbyn himself. This week, it came to light that Corbyn was a member of a secret Facebook group called Palestine Live that allegedly features anti-Semitic content. Corbyn apparently posted to the group several times, and left it shortly after being elected Labour leader in 2015—a possible acknowledgement that membership would be untenable for someone in a position of actual responsibility. According to the Huffington Post, Labour has launched an investigation into the group in response to the news, something which might reflect an emerging willingness to at least acknowledge the extent of the party leader’s past dalliances with alleged anti-Semites.
Still, Corbyn’s Facebook activities and Macdonald’s tweets are a reminder of the kinds of views that have become mainstream within the Labour party, and perhaps even within Corbyn’s immediate staff. According to the latest polls, the conservatives hold a precarious lead over Labour. Corbyn’s party is making moves towards showing it’s reversed course on anti-Semitism, but Macdonald’s tweets show where even the institutional side of Labour stands on Israel-related issues. After all, Macdonald is a speechwriter for the party leader, not an activist or agitator, and Corbyn, who camped out at a potentially anti-Semitic Facebook group, is the leader of Her Majesty’s opposition. Labour supporters should know exactly what they’ll be voting for.
Armin Rosen is a staff writer for Tablet magazine.