‘You cannot pursue peace by a cycle of violence, the only way you can pursue peace is by a cycle of dialogue’. Wise words indeed, spoken by Jeremy Corbyn. To judge him by his own words, Corbyn’s record is one of abject failure. His management of Labour’s problem with anti-semitism has been shocking and wilfully lacking.
Throughout this row, a solution has been within reach. Thirty-one countries have adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of anti-semitism, including the United Kingdom, as well as more than 130 local councils, the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and the judiciary.
Rather than uphold this, Corbyn — through Labour’s National Executive Committee — has decided to water it down by removing certain examples contained within the working definition. Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel is not, under Labour’s definition, classed as an anti-semitic trope, despite the fact it was a frequent device deployed in the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. It is merely described as ‘wrong’ under Labour guidelines despite blatant evidence that it is more serious than this.
His management of Labour’s problem with antisemitism has been shocking and wilfully lacking.
The Labour Party has argued that it is acceptable to compare Israeli policy to that of the Nazis because ‘discourse about international politics often employs metaphors drawn from examples of historic misconduct’; only when ‘there is evidence of anti-semitic intent’ is it wrong. Discourse about international affairs that falls back on this kind of tactless comparison is not fitting for a self-acclaimed government-in-waiting.
A favourite line of defence used by senior figures in the Party to defend themselves is that they are ‘an anti-racist party’. Yet, the suggestion that something is not anti-semitic ‘unless there is evidence of anti-semitic intent’ contradicts the Macpherson principle that minorities should be allowed to define the racism they face. It is high hypocrisy that a movement such as Labour have one rule for one minority, and a different set of rules for another.
His opinion is concealed behind the language of peace, a weak facade easily torn away when one consider Corbyn’s actions alongside his words.
Why does Labour find itself in this position? The solution concerning the gaps in Labour’s anti-semitism definition appears simple: accept the full IHRA definition in full.
Ideologically, however, Corbyn is clearly uncomfortable with the full definition. He cannot bring himself to fully support it because it contradicts his foundational view of the world. Corbyn holds the West, which created the modern state of Israel, at fault for most of the planet’s ills. His opinion is concealed behind the language of peace, a weak facade easily torn away when one consider Corbyn’s actions alongside his words.
Would someone who claims to act only in the cause of peace against any and all violence be ‘present…[but not] involved’ in the laying of wreaths for terrorists in 2014? This is the rhetorical dithering of a man unable to justify himself. Corbyn honoured those responsible for the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre, in which Palestinian terrorists tortured and murdered Israeli athletes. To be present at such a memorial service is to be involved by virtue of one’s own presence.
At a personal level, many of those with whom Corbyn surrounds himself and considers close allies infringe regularly those parts of the IHRA definition Labour has excluded. MP Naz Shah compared Israel to Nazi Germany and darkly suggested ‘the Jews were rallying’ in defence of Israel in a Facebook post. Her suspension was overturned after three months following merely an apology. Within a year, she was elevated to the Shadow Cabinet as — ironically — Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities.
Corbyn’s chief adviser, Seamus Milne, has previously described the foundation of Israel as a ‘crime’, an example of anti-semitism under the IHRA definition. After a meeting of Labour’s National Executive Committee on 17 July to discuss accepting all the examples of anti-semitism provided by the IHRA, Labour sources conceded Milne’s past comments ‘would likely have led to suspension and expulsion under that [full] definition’.
Corbyn’s outdated views belong in the past, along with his leadership of the Labour Party.
Corbyn, as leader, is complicit in this. His silence speaks far louder than the occasional banal soundbite, such as ‘we are against all forms of racism’. His lack of effective, genuine action to make efforts towards stamping out anti-semitism entirely from his party is striking. He has, at the very least, facilitated anti-semitism. So much for the ‘kinder, gentler politics’ we were promised at the start of Corbyn’s leadership.
To make matters worse, Corbyn seeks to avoid being held to account. His supporters, seeing a conspiracy against their leader, have protected him and allowed him to escape addressing this sensitive issue. In a ludicrous and shocking recent interview, two Corbyn supporters — and members of Momentum — falsely suggested that Corbyn could not be anti-semitic because he had won a Nobel Peace prize. Shameless fake news.
Enough is enough: this conduct is unworthy of any politician. Corbyn’s outdated views belong in the past, along with his leadership of the Labour Party.