Thursday, February 29, 2024

Ian Dunt admits he wanted Israel to cease to exist, until the Corbynites made him cross by being antisemitic

The absurdity of the title says it all, really, but I was staggered by something I saw on Twitter earlier.  Owen Jones challenged centrist dad hack Ian Dunt on why he regularly calls out Russia for its war crimes in Ukraine but rarely does the same to Israel for its even worse crimes in Gaza.  As far as I know, Dunt himself didn't reply, but someone else dug out the most recent thing Dunt had written on the subject of Israel.  Extraordinarily, it stated that he used to find the very idea of Israel "disturbing" and that he regarded the country's existence as the root cause of the Middle East conflict, and that the only reason he changed his mind about that was the "antisemitism" of the Corbyn years!

I mean, where to start?  Anyone who has looked at the matter seriously knows that instances of antisemitism under Corbyn, to the extent that they actually existed, were blown out of all proportion into a Hollywood production cynically intended to discredit Corbyn and bring about Labour regime change.  The whole enterprise was surprisingly successful given that the pro-Israel lobby in the UK is traditionally weaker than in the US, but it was, nevertheless, an obvious confidence trick. To purport to be so overwhelmed by the seriousness of the confected "Corbyn antisemitism crisis" that it totally changed your view on a question as fundamental as whether Israel should exist or not is practically centrist-dad-gone-parody.  It's also astoundingly parochial to claim that any internal matter within a British political party could possibly have had that effect.

But the real elephant in the room here is that Dunt's pre-2017 position as he has set it out can only be described as "anti-Zionist" - that's the catch-all term for hostility to Israel's existence as a Jewish state.  Probably most of Israel's critics don't go anything like that far and never have done.  I dare say if I'd been around in the 1940s I would have supported Palestine's right to self-determination without any imposed partition on the basis of ethnicity or religion, and I certainly wouldn't have said a self-declared Israeli state had any right to drive Palestinians from their homes and land in order to create or buttress an artificial Jewish majority in the state.  But you can't really wind the clock back after several decades of Israel's existence, and nor should you want to when Palestine's own leaders accept it.  Paradoxically, the greatest threat to Israel as a Jewish state is Israel's own attempt to render a Palestinian state non-viable, which could eventually leave a one-state solution - with all Palestinians granted citizenship and voting rights in Israel - as the only game in town.

Dunt was, then, well outside the mainstream in his anti-Zionist views, and if he'd been a Corbynista, an expression of those views would have been more than enough to qualify him as an antisemite as far as the likes of Margaret Hodge and Luke Akehurst were concerned. So the alleged antisemitism that shocked Dunt into dropping his anti-Zionist stance was simply other people espousing exactly the same stance as his own, or in some cases a much less radical stance.  The circularity of it is almost painful.


  1. Not exactly a defence, but I listen to his podcast Origin Story. It went into the history of Zionism, from the pogroms to the Balfour declaration, and then the history and (pre-October) present of the state of Israel. Rather than just a simple story time, he and his cohost tracked the political situation in Washington, London and Moscow into the battles within Zionism itself.

    It’s complicated. That’s what I like about their pod: they bring a lot of the source material to the table and don’t hack it all apart for a single view to be duly proved the winner.

    But yes, I don’t agree with his politics on this. Corbyn’s reign in Labour seems to have traumatised a great many English liberals. Starmer’s cynical pivot to oppose them on everything for sheer electability’s sake, tells of something dark and horrifying that happened to England’s centrists. It’s as if they all just went through the Stalin era, inside their heads.

  2. Interesting and excellent article James. It is thought that the percentage of Jews in Palestine was about 10% in the 40s. It ain't that now that's for sure. Another part of the world still suffering due to the malign British influence.