A Union Jack flag flies in front of the clock face on the Houses of Parliament in central London.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
On June 8, British voters will head to the polls.
Recent numbers show the gap closing between British Prime Minister Theresa May and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. When Prime Minister May called for a snap election last month – three years early – most assumed she would win easily and increase her parliamentary majority. But Corbyn – who was given odds of 200-1 when he ran for his party’s leadership in 2015 – is doing surprisingly well again. He also happens to lead a party that has been soft on antisemitism, and Corbyn himself has been accused of anti-Jewish bigotry.
When facing such criticism, the Labour leader has offered the defense that he is anti-Israel, not anti-Jewish.
But Corbyn’s words and deeds demonstrate that he often uses his virulent anti-Zionism as a cover for his soft antisemitism.
Consider a speech Corbyn gave last year where he said that Jews are “no more responsible” for the actions of Israel than Muslims are for the actions of Islamic State (ISIS). Moreover, Corbyn’s “affinity” for terrorist groups (sworn to the destruction of the nation state of the Jewish People) is also well documented. In 2009 Corbyn said: “It will be my pleasure and my honor to host an event in Parliament where our friends from Hezbollah will be speaking. I also invited friends from Hamas to come and speak as well.” In light of these events, a key former adviser to Corbyn, Harry Fletcher, wrote: “I’d suggest to him [Jeremy] about how he might build bridges with the Jewish community and none of it ever happened.”
Corbyn himself has said that he is not an antisemite but rather opposed to Zionism.
Generally speaking, it is easy to say you hate Israel but don’t hate Jews. Even if this were true – and I am not sure that it is – the company that Corbyn keeps suggests that at best he gives a free pass to bigotry, racism and antisemitism within the ranks of his own party, and at worst, he espouses those same views. Indeed, Corbyn has been known to share speaking platforms and lead rallies with some of the most infamous Jew-haters. He has attended meetings hosted by Paul Eisen – a 9/11 conspiracy theorist and Holocaust denier who wrote a blog titled “My Life as a Holocaust Denier.” Corbyn has also been associated with Sheikh Raed Salah – who was convicted for incitement to violence and racism, has been known to perpetuate traditional blood libels about Jews and claimed that Jews were warned not to go to the Twin Towers on 9/11 – calling him a “very honored citizen” whose “voice must be heard.” Corbyn was also a paid contributor for Press TV, which is part of Iran’s tightly controlled media apparatus whose production is directly overseen by Iran’s antisemitic supreme leader.
One of the biggest criticisms of what has been referred to as the “Corbynization” of British politics has been the mainstreaming of traditional antisemitism.
The country’s chief rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, has also chimed in on the conversation, calling the Labour Party’s antisemitism problem “severe.” Consider the bigotry of Gerald Kaufman (now deceased), for example – a Labour veteran and close political associate of Corbyn – who touted conspiracies about Jews and Jewish money throughout his political career. When speaking at a pro-Palestinian event Kaufman said: “Jewish money, Jewish donations to the Conservative Party – as in the general election in May – support from the Jewish Chronicle, all of those things, bias the Conservatives.”
While Corbyn condemned these remarks, he refused to yield to widespread demands for disciplinary action against Kaufman.
Let’s be clear: I do not believe that Corbyn’s rise in the polls is because he hates Jews and their nation state, but rather despite his bigotry. His opponent, Theresa May, called for elections and then refused to debate her opponents. She is running a lackluster campaign somewhat reminiscent of Hillary Clinton’s last year. Corbyn, for his part, like US President Donald Trump, is a populist. Though they represent polar opposites on the political spectrum, they have much in common including their penchant to shoot from the hip, and their unpredictability. Many British voters are unaware of Corbyn’s antisemitic associations. Others know but don’t care.
The hard Left in Britain, especially among union activists and academics, include many knee-jerk opponents of the nation state of the Jewish People and many supporters of academic and cultural boycotts of Israel. Many such supporters favor trade and engagement with such massive human rights offenders as Iran, Cuba, China, Russia, Belarus and Venezuela.
Indeed, it is antisemitic to single out only the nation state of the Jews – the Middle East’s only democracy and a nation with one of the world’s best records of human rights, the rule of law and concern for enemy civilians – for boycotts.
Corbyn himself has called for boycotts of Israel.
He has advocated for an arms embargo citing Israel’s supposed “breach” of the human rights clause of the EU-Israel trade agreement. Corbyn also supports academic boycotts in some instances, and when Israel’s national soccer team was traveling to Cardiff, Wales, for a qualifying game for the European Championship, Corbyn led calls for a boycott only of the soccer team representing the nation state of the Jewish People.
(Ironically, Israel only plays in this league as it was expelled from the Asian Football Confederation due to the Arab League’s boycott.) Moreover, Corbyn has been a vocal supporter of the so-called Palestinian right of return, stating that the Palestinians’ “right to return home” is “the key” to the solution. This would soon make Arabs the majority within Israel and Jews the ethnic minority, rendering the two-state solution completely obsolete.
Whether antisemitism is the root of the Labour Party’s problem or the consequence is not important.
Likewise, the distinct role Jeremy Corbyn has played in getting the Labour Party to this point is not particularly relevant. The fact is that he has not stemmed the tide of bigotry and anti-Jewish hate within the ranks of his party, but has played a big part in perpetuating it. British voters now have the opportunity to choose where they will go as a nation. Will they opt to move away from stability, rationality and tolerance – and toward simple-mindedness, xenophobia and intolerance? I don’t know, but I hope they choose wisely.
This article was originally published by Gatestone Institute.
Follow the author on Twitter @AlanDersh and Facebook: @AlanMDershowitz.