Labour’s crisis has been caused by the spread of a modern anti-Zionism of a particularly excessive, obsessive, and demonising kind. This anti-Israelism has co-mingled with an older set of classical antisemitic themes, prejudices, images and assumptions to create something new: antisemitic anti-Zionism. In short, that which the demonological Jew once was in older forms of antisemitism, demonological Israel now is in contemporary anti-Semitic anti-Zionism: uniquely malevolent, full of blood lust, all-controlling, the hidden hand, tricksy, always acting in bad faith, the obstacle to a better, purer, more spiritual world, uniquely deserving of punishment, and so on.

The party must stop being so intellectually lazy. Antisemitism’s core motif is that the Jews, in their essence, are malign, but over the millennia the content of this perceived malignity has changed with the times and with the needs of the anti-Semites themselves: ‘God-killers,’ ‘aliens,’ ‘cosmopolitans,’ ‘sub-humans’, and now ‘Zionists’, have all served as code words to mark the Jew for destruction. While classic antisemitism wanted to make the world Judenfrei, free of Jews, antisemitic anti-Zionism wants to make the world Judenstaatrein, free of a Jewish state.

The degree to which the party simply does not currently ‘get’ antisemitic anti-Zionism was shown by the warm reception given to the Islamist anti-Semite Raed Salah by Jeremy Corbyn in 2012. Corbyn organised a press conference to defend Salah’s presence in the UK and said of him: ‘He is far from a dangerous man. He is a very honoured citizen, he represents his people extremely well, and his is a voice that must be heard.’ Corbyn even added this personal message to Salah: ‘I look forward to giving you tea on the terrace [of the House of Commons] because you deserve it!’

In fact, Saleh – as many pointed out to Jeremy Corbyn at the time– opposed not the occupation but the ‘bacteria of all times’. He did not criticise Benjamin Netanyahu, but the demonic ‘unique mover’ who was behind 9/11. He did not call for the West to apply diplomatic pressure on Israel but attacked the entire West as a ‘slave to Global Zionism’. These statements were all one click away on the internet and the leader was pointed to them. He ignored them all and instead issued fulsome praise for Saleh. About Saleh’s blood libel speech, the UK Appeal Court decided that ‘We do not find this comment [by Salah] could be taken to be anything other than a reference to the blood libel against Jews.’ It also decided that this would ‘offend and distress Israeli Jews and the wider Jewish community’.

If the party misses this opportunity to construct an intellectual and cultural firewall to separate legitimate criticism of Israeli policy from foul demonization of Israel per se, then the party’s crisis will likely become chronic. Antisemitic anti-Zionism will flourish, the fundamental perception of the party among the electorate will be that Labour is ‘extremist’, there may well be an exodus of long-standing members; and the climate for Jews in this country will become less welcoming and more dangerous. Much is at stake.