The great British antisemitism witchhunt: McCarthyism redux

John Wight
5 min readFeb 15, 2024

PUTNAM: Now look you, sir. Let you strike out against the Devil, and the village will bless you for it! Come down, speak to them — pray with them. They’re thirsting for your word, Mister! Surely you’ll pray with them.

PARRIS: (swayed) I’ll lead them in a psalm, but let you say nothing of witchcraft yet. I will not discuss it. The cause is yet unknown. I have had enough contention since I came; I want no more.

In his magisterial autobiography Timebends, Arthur Miller describes his motivation for writing his classic work The Crucible (extracted above):

What I sought was a metaphor, an image that would spring out of the heart, all-inclusive, full of light, a sonorous instrument whose reverberations would penetrate to the center of this miasma. For if the current degeneration of discourse continued, as I had every reason to believe it would, we could no longer be a democracy, a system that requires a certain basic trust in order to exist.

The ‘miasma’ referred to by Miller was the atmosphere of censorious paranoia whipped up by the anti-communist witchhunts of the 1940s and 1950s, starting under the auspices of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), established in 1938, and joined thereafter by Senator Joseph McCarthy’s Senate hearings into alleged Communist infiltration of the US federal government, universities, movie industry and elsewhere from the late 1940s.

Arthur Miller

The period concerned, commonly referred to as McCarthyism, illumined the parameters of free speech and expression in a country and culture that had always prided itself on being a champion of both. It drilled home the profound truth that tyranny is less the product of totalitarian political systems and more the product of the totalitarian ideas that sustain political orthodoxy in any given space and time. And, too, whenever those ideas and nostrums come under challenge, said democracy is exposed as a cloak behind which mendacity resides, ruthlessly seeking malcontents to expose and miscreants to punish.

In Britain in 2019 we did not need to US history for an understanding of McCarthyism and its execrable fruits. For in 2019, during the Corbyn period, McCarthyism was with us and among us, corroding our public and political discourse, poisoning it with the untruths, lies and smears of some of the most malign political forces to ever exist anywhere.

Reds under the bed was replaced by antisemites under the bed. This with the full and open complicity of a mainstream media, whose dread over the prospect of transformational political and social change is entwined in tight embrace with an establishment determined to ensure that nothing but nothing will ever change in Britain apart from the colour of the curtains on the windows in Downing Street.

Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party was to all intents usurped by an apartheid (Israel) lobby in service to a state, Israel, whose crimes would shame all the devils in hell. The witchhunt that ensued thereafter was undertaken with the objective not of locating and hanging out to dry antisemites but instead anti-Zionists, which means to say genuine anti-racists.

For what is Zionism if not a species of white supremacy responsible for relegating the humanity of some five million men, women and children of the illegally occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip to that of latter day Helots?

Adding to the mountain of intellectual and moral ordure erected in service to this miasma of untruth and base hypocrisy at the time were the findings of a UN investigation into the Palestinians killed and wounded by Israeli snipers during the 2018 Great Return March in Gaza. According to the UN’s Santiago Canton, “Israeli soldiers committed violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Some of those violations may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity.”

In diplomatic-speak, Mr Canton is here referencing the manner in which Israeli soldiers shot down dozens of unarmed Palestinians — among them children, medics and journalists — like deer in a forest in a murder spree that was accompanied by some of the soldiers involved being caught on tape laughing and celebrating their ‘kills’.

It is to this this monstrosity of an apartheid state that a morally bankrupt British establishment has provided material, political and diplomatic support without question. And it this supremacist juggernaut of oppression that we are expected to accept as compatible with progress.

There is nothing more grotesque than being lectured to about racism by apologists for and supporters of an apartheid state. Yet this grotesquerie is precisely where we arrived at in response to Corbyn’s unlikely elevation to the leadership of the Labour Party back in 2015.

His legacy as a staunch supporter of Palestinian human rights and self determination was ruthlessly weaponised against him and his supporters by the apartheid lobby both within and without the Labour Party, plumbing depths of indecency last witnessed during the era of McCarthyism across the Atlantic. For those who doubt how deeply entrenched the pro-Israel lobby now is within the UK body politic, Al Jazeera’s blistering documentary The Lobby is required viewing.

But this issue is now bigger than Jeremy Corbyn (above) and the machinations of Labour Party that has been snapped back into line as pro-business, pro-war, and pro-Israel. It’s about where we stand on matters of intellectual and moral integrity; and most of all on the rights we accrue to an oppressed people and those of their oppressor. Future generations are watching and waiting for the stance that we take in this respect.

Arthur Miller understood this, which is why his light will shine forever bright as a beacon of moral courage in a time of universal deceit. In our time he would also have well understood the difference between antisemitism and its weaponisation for political ends.


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John Wight

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