When is an apology not an apology? And what do we want an apology to say, exactly? What qualifies as weasel words, and what is absolutely genuine?
Sometimes an apology can be obviously heartfelt and thus will be accepted. I’m thinking of the apology given by the Labour MP for Bradford West, Naz Shah, after she issued posts on social media guaranteed to offend the Jewish community. She’d posted a graphic on Facebook showing Israel’s outline superimposed on to a map of the US, under the headline Solution for Israel-Palestine Conflict – Relocate Israel into United States, with the comment: “Problem solved”.
A Twitter post later emerged in which she urged supporters of the Palestinians to vote in an online poll on Israeli military action, claiming that “the Jews are rallying” to skew the result.
Naz Shah lost the parliamentary whip for three months in 2016 while an investigation was carried out. She apologised in Parliament and acknowledged she had lessons to learn. She promptly set about building bridges with the Jewish community.
Those seem almost days of innocence viewed from the sewage pit that characterise relations between Labour and the Jews today. Much, much worse has been said and written by those on the left, from union boss Len McCluskey’s “antisemitism is mood music” to Derby North MP Chris Williamson, who claimed accusations of antisemitism within the party were a “dirty lowdown trick” being used for “political ends”.
Very few apologies have been issued and my belief is things are at such a low ebb that even if Corbyn, McCluskey, Williamson and the whole inner Labour shebang were to get on their bended knees and crawl to beat their breasts in a universal Al Chet at the Western Marble Arch shul, even fewer Jews than apologies would be around to take them at face value. Indeed, every time Corbyn issues a supposedly emollient statement relating to “never forgetting” or some such mantra, the word “chutzpah” is a more usual response.
Which brings me to an extraordinary video put out by Momentum, the left-wing ginger group founded by Jon Lansman, and released this week.
This video features a young woman called Tania Shew who is Jewish and wants to discuss antisemitism on the left, that which has been repeatedly derided as something which does not exist, something used to “weaponise” Jewish antagonism to the Opposition leader.
Shew is a PhD history student and her video begins promisingly with her sharing some of her experiences of what she insists on describing as “antisemitic tropes”.
All is fine until she says “Israel is a country half way round the world that I’ve literally never been to. I can’t vote in their elections, I boycott Israeli goods”. And there, I am afraid, is where she and I part company.
I don’t care, as others do, that Shew-And-Tell is apparently also a professional actress. She has been attacked for this, but I think it does not undermine what she says. What I do object to is her being presented as a “Good Jew”, one who has nothing to do with Israel; and one, moreover, who appears to have been chosen by Momentum as the face of its “apology” to the Jewish community.
She ticks all the right boxes: she is young, smart, and “woke”. But, sadly, she and Momentum miss the point entirely. Not just weasel words, but a whole forest of chattering animals.
And not a genuine apology in sight.