The right loves to drop bombs on progressives and then sit back and watch the ensuing carnage.
This strategy was on full display last week when Canada’s Centre for Jewish and Israel Affairs (CIJA), in partnership with the Board of Deputies of British Jews, released a statement decrying a planned fundraiser to benefit internationalist organizing featuring a conversation between NDP MP Niki Ashton and former UK Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn. The release had its intended effect, garnering headlines across Canada that painted the event as a nefarious attempt to import antisemitic bigotry into Canada.
In reality, the event is nothing of the sort. Coordinated by Progressive International, an organization focused on building connections between leftists around the world, its agenda focuses on the global challenges of wealth inequality, climate change, neoliberal austerity, and the rise of the far right.
According to polling, Canadians are overwhelmingly concerned about these issues, and across party lines are calling for policy solutions to address them head-on. To confront these challenges across borders is to challenge the status quo, and to call for a global society where the needs of the people are put ahead of special interests — an upsetting of the apple cart that neither CIJA nor the Board of Deputies is willing to risk.
Much like the rise of Corbyn and the Labour Party, the NDP’s recent uptick in the polls is a potential threat to the global economic order. For those that enjoy the benefits of the current system, it represents an existential threat to their policy goals, as well as a challenge to current foreign policy that could lead to an open and frank discussion on Israel’s dehumanizing 50-year occupation of Palestinian territories, something both Corbyn and Ashton have been vocal about.
This is a conversation that CIJA and the Board of Deputies don’t want to play out in the public discourse. Both organizations have a vested interest in maintaining the current system of power, no matter the cost for the millions of Canadians and Brits who are struggling economically.
CIJA’s bombastic language would have Canadians believe that this is a clear-cut case of opposing antisemitism and that Jeremy Corbyn is the physical manifestation of that hateful ideology. Was there a problem of antisemitism within the Labour Party? Undoubtedly. Corbyn openly admits as much.
Is Corbyn antisemitic? That would be hard to believe, given there have never been any allegations of antisemitism attributed to him personally and he has committed his life to fighting for the marginalized and the oppressed. The case could be made that Corbyn faltered as a leader, failing to act with the speed that was necessary to address incidents and right the party, but there is nothing to substantiate the notion that he is some kind of hateful bigot.
What seems to be more true is that what Corbyn represented was a serious threat to business and the accepted economic order of the UK — the same kind of threat that the NDP could pose in Canada. The right found that the political strategy of painting Corbyn as antisemitic was extremely effective. It eclipsed the compelling case he was making to the British people for a fundamental change to society in favour of working people. In fact, it worked so well that the right is now attempting to export it to Canada.
CIJA’s CEO, Shimon Koffler Fogel, says, “It is staggering that given the litany of catastrophic, consequential issues before us, including the pandemic, that this is where some in the NDP want to spend the party’s capital.” What is more staggering is that CIJA would make this event about something it is decidedly not in an attempt to weaponize antisemitism to attain a political outcome.
Canadians deserve an open discourse that isn’t policed by paternalistic special interest groups claiming to know what’s best for us, and we certainly deserve better than having our discourse hijacked by political smears that have no basis in reality.