About two years ago, responding to the controversies around the London Anarchist Bookfair in late 2017, I mentioned my worry that people throwing around unsubstantiated charges of antisemitism could lead to a “boy who cried wolf” effect that would undermine the social taboo that currently makes antisemitism politically toxic. The two years since then… they have really, really not been good ones as far as people casually doing that exact thing have been concerned.
This week, the Guardian commentator Jonathan Freedland publicly accused Majid Mahmood, a Birmingham Labour councillor, of making antisemitic comments, a claim that was picked up and amplified by the Guardian liveblog. Except that, as it turned out, the Majid Mahmood who’d made the antisemitic comments was a totally different bloke living in a different city, meaning that Freedland had just made a high-profile and very serious claim that turned out to be totally false
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