By Ari Gold, student in History, Politics and Economics
Since the global financial meltdown in 2008, an emergence of a new left has hit the West. Indeed, the chaos and despair caused by the financial crisis had left little faith in the traditional leaders of mainstream political parties. The political status quo proposed by the mainstream political parties seems to be regarded by the newest members of the electorate as being increasingly insignificant. This young electorate is hungry for change, and their presence in the United Kingdom, France as well as the United States of America has fueled a newer and younger left-wing that has a very hard stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Ironically, the young electorate has chosen old leaders that all carry a certain amount of political baggage with them. Jeremy Corbyn, Jean-Luc Mélenchon and even Bernie Sanders seem to all have similar stances concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Although all three are in favour of a two-state solution, the way they condemn certain acts Israel takes to ensure its safety points a more pro-palestinian political position.
In France, the intensification of anti-zionist and anti-semitic political action found a new high during the last presidential elections. A far-left politician by the name of Jean-Luc Mélenchon proved to be a worthy rival to the traditional partisan politicians who seemed to be surprised by his successful election results. Indeed, his left-wing party has had great success thanks to its near communist manifesto that seems to please the younger parts of the French electorate. However, just like his leftist counterparts in the United Kingdom and to some extent in the United States, Mélenchon has had some incidents concerning his stance on Israel and his very strong support of the Palestinian cause. Mélenchon seems to have a deep disdain for any institution that supports Israel. Indeed, he has had an ongoing feud with the Crif the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions, and has made false accusations linking the Crif to violent groups such as the Jewish Defence League (https://www.i24news.tv/fr/actu/international/europe/175725-180527-l-extreme-gauche-affiche-par-moment-son-antisemitisme-et-son-antisionisme-bruno-jeudy-a-i24news). It is not the first time Mélenchon has stated completely unfounded claims on a political level, the leader of La France Insoumise also asserts that his old socialist friend, Nicolas Maduro, is not a dictator.
Moreover, he made similar statements about Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chavez as well as notorious Cuban dictator Fidel Castro (www.crif.org/fr/actualites/crif-letranger-les-grands-amis-de-jean-luc-melenchon). These outrageous omissions of facts and history can only serve as a warning to his young french electorate that maybe Mélenchon’s plans to reform the French Republic would actually put him in power as a pseudo-president much like his Venezuelan friends. Mélenchon’s opposition to any political thought that is not his own and complete loyalty to anything that bears the socialist name quite clearly blinds him to the democratic values he likes to discuss so much. This type of ignorant hypocriticism is reiterated in the latest round of anti-semitic incidents that involve a flyer his Party was handing out during a political Rally on the 26th of May. The piece of paper depicted the French President Emmanuel Macron in a Nazi SS uniform with an Israeli flag as an armband. The mere fact that this was an official Party flyer demonstrates a very clear position concerning rising anti-semitism in France.
The anti-zionist views of J-L Mélenchon seem to be in limbo between acceptable and totally anti-semitic. This limbo, however, is not present in the attitudes and actions of young supporters of Mélenchon who seem to have mixed their religion to their political beliefs creating a new trend called leftist-Islamicism (Islamo-Gauchisme) (https://www.marianne.net/debattons/editos/un-antiracisme-sectaire-l-assaut-des-facs-malaise-dans-la-culture-juvenile). The followers of this new political trend seem to always have the same position concerning any issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Israel is to blame. This narrow-minded stance seems to forget that Israel is the only democracy in the entire region, and that the freedom of speech these students are benefiting from is only truly protected in Israel. The flirt between anti-zionism and anti-semitism seems to be played at its best in France. Freedom of speech is regulated and due to France’s difficult history, anti-semitism is often an aspect of politics and culture that is suppressed. Nevertheless, France’s position as a country with rising anti-semitism clearly displays that even with the current limits on speech, a message of hate is still getting through. This message that is filled with hate and intolerance is transmitted through the emergence of the new anti-zionist left-wing that has entered the young minds of university scholars and has the power to change the form and actions of future political debate.
In the United Kingdom, the resurgence of antisemitism inside of British Labour politics is not as rare as a blue moon. Over the past decade, many accusations have been made by members of parliament and Jewish institutions concerning anti-semitic speech hidden in anti-zionist discourse made by the Labour Party. According to the Guardian (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jun/01/corbyn-israel-arkush-labour-antisemitism-fearful-jewish-community), Jonathan Arkush, the outgoing President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, stated that he believed that Jeremy Corbyn has views that “are anti-semitic” du to his close associations with Stop The War and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Furthermore, Arkush states, in his Telegraph interview with Corbyn, that when he asked him to say only one thing that is good about Israel, Corbyn went silent and couldn't answer the question. His silence clearly demonstrates a transparent disdain for Israel. In addition, Corbyn has quite a bad track record in his support of so-called revolutionary movements, he actively supported the Irish Republican Army during their conflict with British Forces and ever since his political debut, has supported the Palestinian Authority even during the most egregious outbreaks of hate and violence. His stance on Israel is a position that is supported by many of his young followers especially among university students. However, the resurgence of anti-semitism in Labour politics has infiltrated even the most prestigious British universities. Indeed, the Friends of Palestine Society at University College London hosted an event in which two notoriously anti-semitic speakers attended even after protests made by Jewish students (https://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/jewish-students-concerned-over-speakers-booked-for-campus-event-1.447565). Moreover,the Friends of Palestine Society leading members are implanted in the Student Union making the cancellation of the event virtually impossible. This egregious display of anti-semitism is not uncommon for Jewish students at UCL who suffered physical attacks during one of their events in the 2016 academic year. It is no secret that the relationship between the UCL Friends of Palestine Society and the Labour Society has been very close over the years, once again highlighting the proximity that is leading to more anti-semitism in young Labourites.
On the other hand, in the United States of America, a similar pattern of events is occuring with the emergence of the progressive left led by the most popular politician in the United States at the moment, Senator Bernie Sanders. Indeed, the Senator for Vermont who has been in politics for well over two decades leads a very justified fight for social justice on the domestic level but has disappointed many concerning his views (https://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2018/05/18/israel_has_no_friend_in_democrats_137064.html) on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Although Sanders is the son of two eastern european Jewish parents, his views about Israel have long been a barrier for him to obtain the support of the Jewish community. His grass-roots activism has sparked a political uprising in the United States in which the younger parts of the electorate have become increasingly vocal. The political upheaval led by Sanders has also given young anti-zionist militants a larger stage in the political arena and even though Senator Sanders cannot be blamed directly for a rise in anti-zionist and anti-semitic actions, his political movement has been seen to forgive Palestinian violence quite quickly while putting most of the blame on the Jewish State. Just like in the United Kingdom, the political level of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has integrated university life and has sadly led to a rise in heinous acts against Jews as well as Israel as a whole. Indeed, the Student for Justice in Palestine (SJP) took over the headlines after Nikki Haley, the United States’ ambassador to the United Nations, made a speech at the graduation ceremony at Houston University on the 22nd of May (http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/world/nikki-haley-heckled-at-houston-university-video-goes-viral/594757.html). SJP activists cut the speech short when they started protesting by accusing Nikki Haley of being responsible for a genocide committed against the Palestinian people. The SJP has had multiple issues concerning anti-semitic remarks made by their members, the most recent incident was on the 1st of June 2018 when the SJP had to make a statement to distance itself from flagrant statements made by their members that included mocking the holocaust, (http://jewishjournal.com/news/nation/234732/fsu-sjp-attempts-distance-accusations-anti-semitism/) accusing Jews of worldwide conspiracies and explicit physical threats made to the Jewish community. The watchdog, under the name of Canary Mission that made the report concerning these deplorable actions, added that this proved once again that the SJP is fundamentally against peace and a pro-violence anti-semitic association.
The similarities between both anglophone countries as well as France concerning the issue of anti-semitism and the emergence of the new-left seems to be a pattern that has no boundaries on both a geographical level as well as a political one.
Ari Gold, student in History, Politics and Economics