While the least of media fringe nonentities take it in turns stamp their feet and shout “anti-Semite” at Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, nobody has stopped and asked what substance the claim has, and indeed whence it came. No-one has asked why Corbyn and anti-Semitism were not a thing before he stood for the Labour leadership. And they were not.
You read that right: analysis of the ProQuest newspaper database shows that, until he stood for the Labour leadership, Corbyn’s name had not been mentioned in the same sentence as “anti-Semitism” at all. Before May 2015, when Ed Miliband resigned the leadership, just 18 articles had both Jezza’s name and “anti-Semitism”, with none having the two terms in the same sentence. And after May 2015?
The number of hits since that time is a whopping 6,133. This has been brought to light in an investigation by Patrick Elliot for Medium, “The annual assault of antisemitism … What role has the press played in Labour’s seasonal saga?” It pinpoints the moment the assault began - on 12th August 2015, in an anonymous editorial in the Jewish Chronicle (Jake Wallis Symonds at the Mail started up the previous Friday, and is still going today).
It was by that point that it had become clear that Corbyn was a front runner in the contest to succeed Miliband. And the JC article was treated as some kind of starting signal: almost immediately, (thankfully) former Tory MP Louise Mensch began to scream “anti-Semitism” at Jezza, the Murdoch Sunday Times began looking for anti-Semitism smears against him, and JC editor Stephen Pollard gave Corbyn an ultimatum.
He had seven questions that Jezza MUST answer. Jezza’s people duly answered them. So Pollard kept on attacking him anyway. Then at the Telegraph, not even slightly celebrated blues artiste Whinging Dan Hodges first called “anti-Semitism” on Corbyn. Dan’s future employer, the Mail on Sunday, talked of a Corbyn Government using a “Gestapo”. And the Sun suggested Jezza was a fan of Osama bin Laden.
Hardly anything had been said before the first JC article about supposed anti-Semitism. But almost as soon as that article had been published, three major UK media groups, the Murdoch, Barclay Brothers and Rothermere titles, had as one declared that Corbyn and anti-Semitism were one and the same. It was the most miraculous coincidence.
At the same time, the anti-Semitic attacks on Miliband - such as the Mail’s vicious assault on the memory of his late father, using the trope of the “Disloyal Jew” - were forgotten. Also lost in the rush to denounce Corbyn was the mystery of how a party which had a Jewish leader until May 2015 had suddenly become a hotbed of anti-Semitism.
The statistics extracted from that database show how sudden the transformation was: until that day in August 2015, Jeremy Corbyn was just the obligatory Left Slate candidate making up the numbers in that year’s Labour leadership contest. After August 12, he was almost universally denounced as a supporter of anti-Semitism, or worse.
There are two explanations for this: either the papers concerned decided on that line independently of one another, or it was a coordinated and indeed premeditated attack. As to which of those is true, I will leave for others to decide.
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