Tuesday, 25 August 2020

In the eye of the beholder

This is a letter submitted to The Times from my hospital bed today: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/imageserver/image/%2Fmethode%2Ftimes%2Fprod%2Fweb%2Fbin%2F9feb4e22-e555-11ea-8fb6-8dc16a61b81b.jpg?crop=3543%2C2362%2C0%2C0&resize=1180 Your decision to illustrate the extracts from the new book on former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s travails with anti-semitism (“Pride, prejudice and a problems that struck at Corbyn’s core,” 24 August 2020;www.thetimes.co.uk/past-six-days/2020-08-24/news/pride-prejudice-and-a-problem-that-struck-at-corbyns-core-mwjpl36s9 ) with a photograph captioned as an “antisemitic” mural in Tower Hamlets in East London, is emblematic of how what may seem obvious to one beholder.’, is not obvious at all to another. The mural shows six elderly bewhiskered men sitting around a table comprising a board game top held up by several bent-double dark-skinned young men. This claimed to be a classic antisemitic trope: but it isn’t. The artist, from Los Angeles, is Kalen Ockerman (who likes to be called by his pseudonym, MearOne). His mural is certainly an attack of on the turn-of-the 19th century capitalists and bankers. But his representations are of six real men, only two of who were Jewish. It is not designed to be anti Jewish, but is much more a representation of the exploitative capitalist class. It it, therefore, unsurprising that Mr Corbyn‘s initial reaction was to support the mural, as his own politics are very much aimed at challenging exploitation and expropriation by the rich of the poor, regardless of religion or creed. It is a class reaction. Unfortunately, the authors of the new book - one a Times journalist- do not comprehend this subtlety in their narrative Neither does your correspondent, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, who described the Labour Party as led by Mr Corbyn as “ “infused with antisemitism in its leadership.” ( “Labour and racism”, letters, Aug 25). I hope his synagogue has good lawyers, as that assertion is defamatory, and a clear indefensible libel, which he should withdraw.

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