Corbyn and Labour: A Fish Rots from the Head

Something is rotten in the state of the British Labour Party.

Probably the most famous newspaper front page ever published is that of the French paper L’Aurore of January 13, 1898 with an open letter titled “J’Accuse,” written by Emile Zola to the President of the French Republic, Felix Faure, defending Alfred Dreyfus, who was accused of treason by the leaders of the French Army. Zola blamed the army for concealing the truth about the false charge and conviction of the Jewish officer Dreyfus. His impassioned plea, countering the anti-Semitic agitation of his day, is a landmark in the use and the power of the media in rousing and influencing public opinion.

In the midst Britain’s general election campaign, an unusually strong article was published on the front page of the Jewish Chronicle (JC), of November 7, 2019, titled, “To all our fellow British citizens,” and addressed to non-Jews. It is a devastating criticism of Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, expressing dismay that he could ever be elected prime minister. It deplores the near total inaction of Corbyn and the rest of Labour leadership in dealing with the anti-Semitism in the party that has both emboldened them and encouraged others. 

The JC acknowledged that voters would obviously consider the great issue of Brexit facing Britain and other issues such as the National Health Service and education, but the racist views of a party is also a fundamental issue. The JC believes that the overriding majority of British people abhor racism. It asks only that when people cast their vote they act on that issue.

The evidence of the extent of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party and of Corbyn himself has led to extraordinary politics; a number of Labour MPs have called on their supporters not to vote Labour but to vote for the Conservative party. On November 6, 2019 Ian Austin, close associate of Gordon Brown, the last Labour PM, called on decent, traditional, patriotic Labour voters to vote conservative, because the scandal of anti-Semitism has poisoned the party since Corbyn became leader in September 2015. Austin accused Corbyn of creating a culture of extremism and intolerance. Moreover, throughout his career Corbyn has allied with and supported anti-Semitism. It is necessary to stand up to this or “disappear into a vortex of eternal shame or embarrassment.” 

Simultaneously, Tom Watson, longtime Labour MP, resigned on November 6, 2019 as deputy leader, and as a candidate for the next election. Though he did not specifically raise the issue of anti-Semitism in his resignation letter, Watson has been not only a key moderate, but critical of the inaction of the Corbyn and the rest of the leadership in dealing with anti-Semitism in the party.  Other well-known Labour figures -- Luciana Berger, Dame Louise Ellman, and Joan Ryan, chair of the Labour Friends of Israel, have resigned. 

Ryan, MP for a London constituency, was the eighth LP member to quit the party because of its culture of anti-Jewish racism.  She accused Labour leadership of allowing Jews to be abused with impunity, and declared that Corbyn and the “Stalinist clique that surrounds him,” was not fit to lead the country. She held that the party had become institutionally anti-Semitic, and that Corbyn presided over the culture of anti-Jewish racism and attacks on Israel that now “afflicts my former party.” 

Corbyn, of course, purports not to be anti-Semitic, yet allegations to the contrary seem justified.  He has clearly had questionable associations with anti-Semites such as Paul Eisen, Rev. Stephen Sizer, and Raed Salah, while treating leaders of organizations such as the Jewish Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council with indifference or worse. 

Eisen, self-confessed Holocaust denier, has been close to Corbyn for 25 years. Corbyn attended all his annual events and donated money to his pressure group. Even the Palestinian Campaign group disowned him because he was in thrall to anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Rev. Sizer was banned in February 2019 by the church from using social media because of anti-Semitic remarks, and his statement blaming Israel for 9/11. Corbyn wrote a letter defending Sizer, arguing he was under attack by a pro-Israel smear campaign.  Sizer, he said, had been victimized because he had “dared to speak out against Zionism.”  Salah, who has been charged in Israel with anti-Jewish racism, was called by Corbyn a “very honored citizen.” 

The indictment can continue. Corbyn was not a distant participant. He hosted representatives from Hamas and Hezb’allah. He defended a mural in East London that was widely condemned as anti-Semitic. In 2014 he attended and laid a wreath at a ceremony in Tunisia honoring Palestinians who were linked to the murders of the 11 Israelis at the 1972 Munich Olympic games. Corbyn hosted meetings with representatives of Hamas and Hezb’allah. He was a member of Facebook groups that posted anti-Semitic remarks. 

The head of the party rots the body. Labour anti-Semitism is not subtle. Examples are plentiful but two in recent days will suffice.  Chris Williamson, a Corbyn defender, asserted that those claiming that Corbyn is anti-Semitic were conducting a “proxy war and bulls..t.”  Labour, he said, had been too apologetic over anti-Semitism, and was being demonized as racist and bigoted. Yet, Williamson had booked a room in Parliament to show a film about an activist suspended for alleged anti-Semitism. Deliberately inflammatory, Williamson defended people such as Jackie Walker, the activist expelled from Labour for comments on the role of Jews in the slave trade.  Walker, black and Jewish, had declared that “many Jews (my ancestors too) were the chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade, which explains why there are so many synagogues in the Caribbean.” Corbyn has defended Williamson as “a very good, very effective Labour MP.”

Another recent comment comes from Kate Ramsdem, senior official with Unison TU, and once a Labour candidate. Claims that Corbyn was an anti-Semite, she argued, were orchestrated by the wealthy establishment who do not want a socialist government. The historic anti-Semitic tropes are mixed with Holocaust denial.  She compared the actions of Israel to those of a child abuser: “Like many abusers, unable to reflect on their own abuse, and ending up in the abuse of others, exerting their power  on those weaker than themselves, because once they were the powerless.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anti-Semitism keeps rearing its ugly head everywhere in recent months.  In October 14, 2019 in Sofia, fans of a Bulgarian soccer team gave Nazi salutes, as well as shouting racist and anti-Semitic remarks in their international game against England. In Halle, where Jews have lived since the 11th century, an attack was made on a synagogue on Yom Kippur. The elderly Italian-Jewish Senator Lilian Segre, now 89,  called for a parliamentary committee to tackle anti-Semitism and racism in the country. She received hundreds of hostile messages on social media, after making her proposal. Also, prominent political figures Silvio Berlusconi, Matteo Salvini, Giorgia Meloni of the Brothers of Italy, all abstained on the motion.  

Will the Jewish Chronicle have the same effect as J’Accuse, and change the voting of non-Jews as well as Jews because of Labour anti-Semitism?  In the past, the majority of British Jews voted Labour. This has changed in recent years: estimates regarding the 2017 general election indicate that 63% of Jews voted Conservative while 26% voted Labour.  Not surprisingly, Labour lost the “Bagel Belt,” the Jewish areas in north London. The Jewish Labour Movement, JLM, which claims 2,500 members and is affiliated to Labour, announced on October 31, 2019 that it would not support Labour in the December election. The JLM however, still supports Labor’s values and will not back a conservative for PM. 

Whatever the impact of the article, it focused attention on a key issue -- whether Labour is institutionally anti-Semitic and whether a racist can possibly become prime minister. British voters will decide. 

Something is rotten in the state of the British Labour Party.

Probably the most famous newspaper front page ever published is that of the French paper L’Aurore of January 13, 1898 with an open letter titled “J’Accuse,” written by Emile Zola to the President of the French Republic, Felix Faure, defending Alfred Dreyfus, who was accused of treason by the leaders of the French Army. Zola blamed the army for concealing the truth about the false charge and conviction of the Jewish officer Dreyfus. His impassioned plea, countering the anti-Semitic agitation of his day, is a landmark in the use and the power of the media in rousing and influencing public opinion.

In the midst Britain’s general election campaign, an unusually strong article was published on the front page of the Jewish Chronicle (JC), of November 7, 2019, titled, “To all our fellow British citizens,” and addressed to non-Jews. It is a devastating criticism of Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, expressing dismay that he could ever be elected prime minister. It deplores the near total inaction of Corbyn and the rest of Labour leadership in dealing with the anti-Semitism in the party that has both emboldened them and encouraged others. 

The JC acknowledged that voters would obviously consider the great issue of Brexit facing Britain and other issues such as the National Health Service and education, but the racist views of a party is also a fundamental issue. The JC believes that the overriding majority of British people abhor racism. It asks only that when people cast their vote they act on that issue.

The evidence of the extent of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party and of Corbyn himself has led to extraordinary politics; a number of Labour MPs have called on their supporters not to vote Labour but to vote for the Conservative party. On November 6, 2019 Ian Austin, close associate of Gordon Brown, the last Labour PM, called on decent, traditional, patriotic Labour voters to vote conservative, because the scandal of anti-Semitism has poisoned the party since Corbyn became leader in September 2015. Austin accused Corbyn of creating a culture of extremism and intolerance. Moreover, throughout his career Corbyn has allied with and supported anti-Semitism. It is necessary to stand up to this or “disappear into a vortex of eternal shame or embarrassment.” 

Simultaneously, Tom Watson, longtime Labour MP, resigned on November 6, 2019 as deputy leader, and as a candidate for the next election. Though he did not specifically raise the issue of anti-Semitism in his resignation letter, Watson has been not only a key moderate, but critical of the inaction of the Corbyn and the rest of the leadership in dealing with anti-Semitism in the party.  Other well-known Labour figures -- Luciana Berger, Dame Louise Ellman, and Joan Ryan, chair of the Labour Friends of Israel, have resigned. 

Ryan, MP for a London constituency, was the eighth LP member to quit the party because of its culture of anti-Jewish racism.  She accused Labour leadership of allowing Jews to be abused with impunity, and declared that Corbyn and the “Stalinist clique that surrounds him,” was not fit to lead the country. She held that the party had become institutionally anti-Semitic, and that Corbyn presided over the culture of anti-Jewish racism and attacks on Israel that now “afflicts my former party.” 

Corbyn, of course, purports not to be anti-Semitic, yet allegations to the contrary seem justified.  He has clearly had questionable associations with anti-Semites such as Paul Eisen, Rev. Stephen Sizer, and Raed Salah, while treating leaders of organizations such as the Jewish Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council with indifference or worse. 

Eisen, self-confessed Holocaust denier, has been close to Corbyn for 25 years. Corbyn attended all his annual events and donated money to his pressure group. Even the Palestinian Campaign group disowned him because he was in thrall to anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Rev. Sizer was banned in February 2019 by the church from using social media because of anti-Semitic remarks, and his statement blaming Israel for 9/11. Corbyn wrote a letter defending Sizer, arguing he was under attack by a pro-Israel smear campaign.  Sizer, he said, had been victimized because he had “dared to speak out against Zionism.”  Salah, who has been charged in Israel with anti-Jewish racism, was called by Corbyn a “very honored citizen.” 

The indictment can continue. Corbyn was not a distant participant. He hosted representatives from Hamas and Hezb’allah. He defended a mural in East London that was widely condemned as anti-Semitic. In 2014 he attended and laid a wreath at a ceremony in Tunisia honoring Palestinians who were linked to the murders of the 11 Israelis at the 1972 Munich Olympic games. Corbyn hosted meetings with representatives of Hamas and Hezb’allah. He was a member of Facebook groups that posted anti-Semitic remarks. 

The head of the party rots the body. Labour anti-Semitism is not subtle. Examples are plentiful but two in recent days will suffice.  Chris Williamson, a Corbyn defender, asserted that those claiming that Corbyn is anti-Semitic were conducting a “proxy war and bulls..t.”  Labour, he said, had been too apologetic over anti-Semitism, and was being demonized as racist and bigoted. Yet, Williamson had booked a room in Parliament to show a film about an activist suspended for alleged anti-Semitism. Deliberately inflammatory, Williamson defended people such as Jackie Walker, the activist expelled from Labour for comments on the role of Jews in the slave trade.  Walker, black and Jewish, had declared that “many Jews (my ancestors too) were the chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade, which explains why there are so many synagogues in the Caribbean.” Corbyn has defended Williamson as “a very good, very effective Labour MP.”

Another recent comment comes from Kate Ramsdem, senior official with Unison TU, and once a Labour candidate. Claims that Corbyn was an anti-Semite, she argued, were orchestrated by the wealthy establishment who do not want a socialist government. The historic anti-Semitic tropes are mixed with Holocaust denial.  She compared the actions of Israel to those of a child abuser: “Like many abusers, unable to reflect on their own abuse, and ending up in the abuse of others, exerting their power  on those weaker than themselves, because once they were the powerless.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anti-Semitism keeps rearing its ugly head everywhere in recent months.  In October 14, 2019 in Sofia, fans of a Bulgarian soccer team gave Nazi salutes, as well as shouting racist and anti-Semitic remarks in their international game against England. In Halle, where Jews have lived since the 11th century, an attack was made on a synagogue on Yom Kippur. The elderly Italian-Jewish Senator Lilian Segre, now 89,  called for a parliamentary committee to tackle anti-Semitism and racism in the country. She received hundreds of hostile messages on social media, after making her proposal. Also, prominent political figures Silvio Berlusconi, Matteo Salvini, Giorgia Meloni of the Brothers of Italy, all abstained on the motion.  

Will the Jewish Chronicle have the same effect as J’Accuse, and change the voting of non-Jews as well as Jews because of Labour anti-Semitism?  In the past, the majority of British Jews voted Labour. This has changed in recent years: estimates regarding the 2017 general election indicate that 63% of Jews voted Conservative while 26% voted Labour.  Not surprisingly, Labour lost the “Bagel Belt,” the Jewish areas in north London. The Jewish Labour Movement, JLM, which claims 2,500 members and is affiliated to Labour, announced on October 31, 2019 that it would not support Labour in the December election. The JLM however, still supports Labor’s values and will not back a conservative for PM. 

Whatever the impact of the article, it focused attention on a key issue -- whether Labour is institutionally anti-Semitic and whether a racist can possibly become prime minister. British voters will decide.