Even the most attentive observer could be forgiven for failing to keep up with the extent of the anti-Semitic scandals currently engulfing Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party.
Each of these incidents is a disgrace in its own right. As a mere components of a bigger picture, however, they form an utterly damning portrait of systematic bigotry which, far from being confined to the fringes, or “pockets” as Corbyn puts it, goes right to the heart of the party and implicates its leader directly.
Let’s remind ourselves of the magnitude of this issue.
When Bradford West MP Naz Shah posted a Twitter meme (which she later confessed was anti-Semitic in nature) endorsing the forced relocation of Israel to the United States, she was suspended for three months, re-instated, and later promoted to a position as Corbyn’s equalities minister. This was not an isolated incident. Shah had previously been guilty of so-called Holocaust Inversion – the anti-Semitic trope of invoking comparisons between the state of Israel and Nazi Germany. In all fairness, and to Shah’s credit, her subsequent expiation appears to have been genuine.
The same can’t be said for Ken Livingstone unfortunately. When his apparent affliction for compulsively mentioning Hitler every time he exhales manifested itself as a public assertion that the Führer was a Zionist, he was likewise suspended, a move which apparently had no calming effect on his bizarre vocal tick which resurfaced some time later when he argued that Jews collaborated with the Nazis. He has a long and sordid history of dubious remarks on this topic, including, but by no means limited to: defending Shah’s self-described anti-Semitic meme; blaming the lack of PLO support under Neil Kinnock on the prevalence of Jewish voters and MPs; stereotyping British Jews as rich Tory voters and publishing an article—as editor of the Labour Herald—accusing Zionists of willfully preventing the rescue of European Jews during the Holocaust. Livingstone eventually did what the Labour leadership had failed to do and dismissed himself from the party.
Jackie Walker, vice-chair of the Labour affiliated group Momentum, was suspended and then readmitted for minimizing the Holocaust and claiming that “Jews were the chief financiers of the slave trade.” This is a baseless anti-Semitic conspiracy theory often wheeled out by unequivocal racists and Holocaust deniers such as former Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon David Duke and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. Owen Jones protested Walker’s suspension claiming that it was “completely unjustified” and was instrumental in her successful re-admittance. Walker went on to claim the existence of a conspiracy of favoritism in British society afforded to Jews at the expense of black people and Muslims.
Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East, a parliamentary group whose membership as of 2015 included over seventy Labour Party MPs including Jeremy Corbyn, Dianne Abbott and Sadiq Khan, issued a tweet last year claiming that Labour’s proposed resolution to the Israel–Palestine conflict represented a “Final Solution.” Whether this disastrously worded proclamation constitutes direct incitement, dogwhistle bigotry or catastrophic obliviousness is debatable at best.
This apparent obliviousness to nefarious references and remarks seems to be a recurring theme.
The head of Labour’s Disputes Panel, Christine Shawcroft, who was responsible for investigations into anti-Semitism within the party, resigned from her post in March, after it came to light that she had written a complaint over the suspension of Labour MP Alan Bull, who had been discovered posting Holocaust denial material on his Facebook page, and claiming that JFK had been assassinated by the national intelligence agency of Israel. Shawcroft subsequently claimed that she wasn’t aware of the reasons for his suspension.
In 2012, Corbyn defended the contents of a mural which depicts hook-nosed Jewish bankers controlling world affairs as members of the illuminati. This was essentially a pictorial imagining of the central themes of the anti-Semitic forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Corbyn waited six years to express his “sincere regret,” claiming not to have noticed the overtly racist and conspiratorial content of the mural.
In a confrontational interview given to reporter Cathy Newman for Channel 4, Corbyn justified a decade-long association with, and donations to, a group whose leadership consists of self-professed Holocaust deniers such as Paul Eisen, with another claim to nescience. Yet Corbyn attended at least one event arranged by this organization subsequent to the exposure of the nefarious positions it represented. Eisen had written his essay “The Holocaust Wars” as far back as 2004, in which he defended infamous Holocaust denier David Irving and made a case for Holocaust “revisionism.” By 2008, he had published his piece “My Life as a Holocaust Denier.” Corbyn was still attending Eisen’s meetings in 2013.
Reports revealing the three private Facebook groups Corbyn was a member of, in which explicitly anti-Semitic material was frequently posted, were likewise dismissed with the defense that he was not aware of any racism displayed in the groups, and in one case, was not even aware that he’d joined it.
Similarly, in response to criticism of his sharing a stage, on Holocaust Memorial Day 2010, with speakers who likened the Israeli government to Nazis, Corbyn once again claimed ignorance and offered the thoroughly lackluster excuse that he has “on occasion appeared on platforms with people whose views (he) completely reject(s).” This might have been believable were it not for the fact that the event was part of a tour subtitled “Auschwitz to Gaza.” Corbyn had hosted the event. He had provided the platform for this sideshow in the House of Commons. He had personally ordered Jewish dissenters in the audience (including a Holocaust survivor) to be forcibly removed from the event. And, true to form, had forgotten to express his supposed “complete rejection” of the views expressed therein for almost a decade.
His explanation may also have been slightly easier to swallow had Corbyn himself not also engaged in similar rhetoric. In a speech given the same year outside the Israeli embassy, he drew comparisons between the 1940s sieges of Stalingrad and Leningrad, and the ongoing blockade of Gaza. In an excellent recent piece on the topic, writer David Paxton comically addresses the lame excuses proffered in Corbyn’s defense:
Labour have since stated that he was not comparing the actions of the IDF to the Wehrmacht, but merely the timeframe. As if the rhetorical worth of Leningrad and Stalingrad lies in comparative time frames (for example, the Labour antisemitism saga has now been going on for 7.2 Stalingrads).
Worse still, Corbyn has not only engaged in this anti-Semitic simile personally, but expressed what appears to be a desire for the British education system to do likewise in its teaching of Middle Eastern history. At a 2013 event hosted by the Palestinian Return Centre, Corbyn described the Jewish state as implementing in the West Bank “an occupation of the very sort that would be recognized by many people in Europe who suffered occupation during the Second World War,” whilst bemoaning the fact that schools and universities do not adopt this narrative.
Holocaust inversion has become another recurring theme in Labour’s commentary on Israel and Palestine. This ludicrously inaccurate and wildly overstated analogy seeks to imply that the Jews effectively learnt nothing from their treatment at the hands of the Nazis, since they now perpetuate morally identical atrocities towards Palestinians. The Final Solution is therefore painted as less a despicable act of genocide and more a lesson in morality, to which the descendants of its victims have a responsibility to be uniquely sensitive. This is an absurd moral and historical equivalence, which favors antagonism over accuracy, and a grossly irresponsible recasting of victims as aggressors.
Yet these comparisons between the Jewish state and the Third Reich are significant for reasons beyond their bigotry: Holocaust Inversion is a component of the internationally recognized definition of anti-Semitism, as laid out by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, and it is a component that Corbyn, to the horror of many of his own party members, has obstinately continued to adopt.
Corbyn’s rejection of this specific criterion in Labour’s working definition of anti-Semitism led Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge to call Corbyn “a fucking anti-Semite and a racist” to his face. Tellingly, the Labour Party opted not to challenge these accusations with disciplinary action.
Between 2009 and 2012, Corbyn was a semi-regular contributor to Press TV, the propaganda network of the deeply anti-Semitic and homophobic theocratic government of Iran, a station with a history of pushing anti-Semitic conspiracies, including those of the aforementioned KKK leader David Duke. Condemned by the Anti-Defamation League in 2012 as “one of the world’s leading dispensers of conspiratorial anti-Semitism in English,” Corbyn apparently saw no issue with the network’s output and happily accepted £20,000 to appear on the station on five separate occasions, including an appearance made subsequent to its banning by OFCOM for its role in filming the forced confession of the maker of an anti-government documentary, obtained by means of physical and psychological torture.
During one such appearance, Corbyn demonstrated an ability and willingness to criticize the output of certain news media. Except that the target he chose for his criticism in this case was the BBC, and the nature of his criticism was the apparent ease with which the broadcaster allows the Israeli government and embassy to “bias” its reporting in favor of the narrative that “Israel has a right to exist.” Presumably, Corbyn would prefer more BBC broadcasts arguing that Israel should be eradicated.
During another appearance, Corbyn was interviewed by lifelong Labour supporter Lauren Booth, herself no stranger to anti-Semitic controversy, having claimed that Jews are indigenous not to the Middle East but to Eastern Europe and having fiercely criticized the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign for their decision to distance themselves from a Holocaust revisionist, who had tacitly endorsed the desecration of Jewish places of worship. Prompted for his thoughts on the 2012 Sinai attack, which left sixteen people dead, Booth nodded along in agreement as Corbyn launched into a conspiracy theory, falsely accusing Israel of being behind this assault against Egyptian police and Israeli armed forces, a crime which was actually perpetrated by Islamic jihadists.
Whilst under Labour Party investigation for anti-Semitic comments, Ken Livingston chose to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day 2018 with an appearance on this same TV station, to argue that the Holocaust is being cynically exploited to oppress others. The entire episode, featuring the soft-Islamist journalist Roshan Muhammed Salih, is an extended exercise in Holocaust Inversion. Highlights include Livingstone and Salih drawing equivalences between Nazi-era Germany and current-era Israel by rhetorically asking why the plight of the Palestinians has thus far failed to be given the Schindler’s List treatment by Hollywood, agreeing with a caller that “the nakba is the same as the Holocaust,” sitting patiently through a caller’s monologue, as he named Hitler as the creator of Israel, questioning the official numbers of Jews killed in the Holocaust, and taking vocal exception to an assertion that Hamas are genocidally anti-Semitic.
Someone who shares this conclusion that the Holocaust is used to provide Jews in Israel with a justification for their “murder of a nation,” is former Palestinian ambassador and Fatah official Husun Zomlot. In a BBC interview in 2014, Zomlot appeared to claim that the Holocaust, along with the Islamic State’s beheading of James Foley, were Israeli “fabrications.” Not only was Zomlot hosted by Labour Friends of Palestine at the first party conference under Corbyn, but Corbyn has recently been discovered to have delivered a speech at Zomlot’s wedding. It seems that Jeremy Corbyn’s run of bad luck extends to his incapability to so much as attend a wedding without sharing a platform with Holocaust deniers.
This sycophantic fawning over anti-Semitic extremists appears to be somewhere between a pastime and a full-time job for Corbyn. In recent days, The Daily Mail has published a photograph of Corbyn attending a Tunisian memorial and clutching a wreath at the graveside of members of Black September, the organization responsible for torturing, murdering and (in at least one case) castrating Israeli athletes in the Munich Massacre of 1972. After initially issuing spurious denials that the event was commemorative of terrorists, Corbyn admitted it was, but added the dubiously worded caveat that he doesn’t “think” he was “actually involved” in the laying of the wreath. The fact that the commemoration of terrorists does not appear to sufficiently violate his principles—to the extent that he was unable to do more than doubt his own involvement in such a shameful ceremony—is extremely telling.
When the preposterous Reverend Stephen Sizer became the subject of a Church of England investigation into his promoting of conspiracy theories that Israel was responsible for 9/11 and posting links to Holocaust denial websites, Corbyn wrote a letter in his defense, describing his admiration for Sizer’s “well-informed” and “excellent work” and attributing criticism of him to a pattern of demonization of opponents of Zionism.
Upon the overturning of a banning order preventing Sheik Raed Salah from entering the UK in 2012, Corbyn greeted the news with delight and praised him as a voice who “must be heard.” “He is far from a dangerous man,” Corbyn went on to say. “He’s a very honored citizen (who) represents his people extremely well.” He then proceeded to issue a public invitation to Salah to join him in Parliament with the promise of a warm welcome and a well-deserved tea on the terrace.
This “honored citizen” who “must be heard” happens to be a global-caliphate-supporting Islamist and convicted anti-Semite who propagates both classic and contemporary anti-Jewish conspiracy theories, namely those of blood libel (the claim that Jews murder and consume the blood of Christian children in religious rituals) and of Israel’s complicity in, if not outright responsibility for, the September 11th attacks. When Salah is not promoting egregious myths erroneously implicating Israel in the biggest terror attack on US soil, as well as accusing Jewish World Trade Centre workers of collusion by implication, he finds the time to squeeze in favorable citations of the debunked Franklin Forgery, a piece of Nazi propaganda falsely attributed to Benjamin Franklin, which argues the dangers of Jewish immigration.
Someone else whom Corbyn claims to “know extremely well” and considers a “very good friend” is Intrapol chairman, Ibrahim Hewitt, whose job guiding the British charity was, according to a speech given by Corbyn in 2013, “fantastic.”
Hewitt, who famously found himself unable to condemn, the sharia punishment of stoning adulterers to death, is a committed homophobe who paid tribute at the graveside of Hamas founder, peace process opponent and instrumental figure in the planning and authorization of terror attacks against Israelis, Ahmed Yassin.
The genocidal terror group Hamas feature prominently in Corbyn’s sympathies. He has argued against classifying the suicide bombing organization, whose official charter contains a commitment to the global extermination of Jews, as “terrorists.” He prefers instead to describe them and their Shia Lebanese counterpart Hezbollah as “friends,” inviting members of the group to parliament, and rejoicing in the release of one thousand convicted Hamas “brothers,” responsible for over six hundred murders.
The list goes on: Corbyn attended a book launch for an anti-Semitic author, arranged by the group responsible for the pro-Hezbollah Al-Quds Day march, at which the slaughtered Charlie Hebdo cartoonists were awarded a posthumous “Islamophobe of the Year” award. He accepted an invitation (and in response to the backlash, subsequently declined) to share a stage with allegedly anti-Semitic cartoonist Carlos Latuff at an event organized by the pro-Hamas group Middle East Monitor. He repeatedly failed to speak out against the anti-Semitic placards brandished at the al-Quds Day protests at which he spoke and which were sponsored by the group he chairs. He personally escorted anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist Tapash Abu Shaim on a guided tour of Parliament, in his capacity as a patron of the blacklisted BDS group of which Shaim was a member.
Since Corbyn’s election there have been over three hundred Labour Party referrals for anti-Semitism, as well as a backlog of more than seventy unprocessed cases, a pattern which has not gone unnoticed by the Jewish Community nor by the public at large. According to a survey conducted by the Independent, almost two thirds of Britons believe that Labour has a problem with racism/religious prejudice. The UK’s three biggest Jewish newspapers have published joint front page warnings that a Labour government in its current incarnation would constitute an existential threat to British Jews. Widows of the Israeli athletes killed in Munich have denounced Corbyn’s conduct as “the ultimate act of maliciousness, cruelty and stupidity.” Jonathan Goldstein of the Jewish Leadership Council described him as unfit to be a Member of Parliament, much less a national leader. “He has spent his entire political career cavorting with conspiracy theorists, terrorists and revolutionaries,” said Goldstein.
Paul Goodman, writing in Conservative Home, summarizes the nature of Corbyn’s recklessness nicely:
He never expected to become his party’s leader … he thus felt free to do and say whatever he liked, unburdened by any expectation of executive responsibility. (And) what he seems to have liked doing best … (is to) line up alongside extremists, terrorists and anti-Semites, or turn a blind eye to what they said or did.
Corbyn has not simply been caught engaging in a few off-color gaffes, inappropriately worded remarks and minor indiscretions, of the kind that regularly plague public figures. He has committed some of the most viciously stupid, hateful, offensive and egregious offences imaginable from a mainstream politician. For all the talk of his anti-racist credentials, and his commitment to rooting out anti-Semitism, Corbyn’s actions have betrayed his words repeatedly and to a degree which borders on mockery.
If the Labour Party and its most vocal supporters are to be believed, these episodes constitute nothing more than a spectacularly unfortunate series of extraordinarily unlikely coincidences. Every time Corbyn walks into a room, he seems to inexplicably find himself in the company of some raging anti-Semite or another. When he attempts to pay tribute to victims of Israeli airstrikes, he finds himself accidentally memorializing terrorists. When he attends innocent political protests in our country’s capital, he inadvertently finds himself photographed grinning like a Cheshire cat in front of the flag of an anti-Semitic terrorist organization. Yet we are urged not to view any of this as a reflection on him personally. However, crediting such stories as even remotely plausible does nothing to address the fact that Corbyn has proven himself embarrassingly unable to recognize anti-Semitism in both his own statements and actions, and in those of myriad colleagues and associates. If this is not the behavior of an anti-Semite, as Labour insist, then it is at the very least, the behavior of somebody who is utterly incapable of not appearing to be one.
If a genuine and pressing goal of the Labour Party is to challenge and eradicate anti-Jewish bigotry within its ranks, that goal is extremely unlikely to be accomplished under the leadership of a man who has spent a significant part of his political career espousing it, engaging in it and acquiescing to it in others.