THE list goes on and on.
The list of incidents involving Jeremy Corbyn that have aggrieved the British Jewish community.
From rolling out the red carpet to a virulent antisemite who he’s described as “honoured” and members of anti-Israel terror groups he’s described as “friends” to resisting desperate pleas for his party’s ruling body to adopt an internationally accepted definition of antisemitism; from attacking Israel with a venom reserved solely for the Jewish State to hosting events where Israel is compared with the Nazis; from defending a blatantly antisemitic mural to defending a vicar condemned by his own church for spreading theories that Israel was behind 9/11; from trying to get Holocaust Memorial Day renamed Genocide Memorial Day to attending a seder organised by a far-left Jewish group that has described Israel as a “steaming pile of sewage which needs to be properly disposed of”.
From … to … from … to … each week it seems there’s yet another revelation of something offensive Corbyn has said or someone offensive he’s been pictured with.
It’s little wonder that a recent poll found 40 per cent of British Jews would “seriously consider emigrating” if he becomes prime minister, a tragic possibility when the country next goes to the polls. Tragic not only because of the man himself, but tragic also in that the Great British public as a whole could vote for him, unmoved by the anguish he causes their Jewish neighbours.
It’s not that they’re unaware.
The story of his and his party’s failure to tackle the scourge of antisemitism within Labour has been headline news in the UK for the past two years.
Corbyn himself just shrugs. He didn’t know the person was there, he wasn’t aware of their views, he didn’t mean to be offensive, he didn’t look that closely, he can’t recall … he’s spent his life fighting racism. And yet, members of his own party call him an antisemite, the highly respected former Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks calls him an antisemite and thousands of British Jews take to the streets crying “Dayenu … Enough is enough.”
The sad truth is Jeremy Corbyn is an antisemite but he doesn’t realise it. He doesn’t wear a swastika armband or post cartoons online of hook-nosed Jews with octopus-like tentacles wrapped around the globe. But he continually and persistently displays a disdain for Jews and Jewish concerns that he would never exhibit if they were expressed by another minority. Rather, true to his self-avowed anti-racist principles, he would beat the drum on their behalf, and beat it loudly.
In short, this isn’t simply about him not liking Israel or Zionism, or associating with antisemites and Holocaust deniers – all of which in his mind he can justify or excuse, or at least apologise for a few years down the track – this is also about double standards. Unlike other issues of racism, as far as Corbyn is concerned, when it comes to Jews it’s not for the victim to define the bigotry against them, it’s for him – Jeremy Corbyn – to define it.
That said, Corbyn’s view of Israel is a key part of the problem. That the party’s national executive recently had to be dragged kicking and screaming into accepting a definition of antisemitism that included describing Israel as “a racist endeavour” – a definition accepted by political parties and governments around the globe – shows how deeply the hostility to the Jewish State is rooted.
Indeed, even when it finally accepted the definition, it included a caveat allowing freedom of expression on Israel and Palestine.
Given how far British Labour has moved since the days of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, when the leaders loudly and proudly proclaimed their friendship with Israel, it’s little wonder that at last week’s conference, the party leader announced he would recognise a state of Palestine the moment he became PM.
Meanwhile, a two-hour debate on Palestine – incidentally prioritised over Brexit, the National Health Service and aged care as a topic for discussion – pointed the finger at the Jewish State and heard no mention of terrorist atrocities against Israel and no mention of incitement to violence from the Palestinian leadership.
As for his pledge on Palestine, clearly for Corbyn there’s no need for a negotiated settlement to ensure the two sides can live in peace. Only one side matters as far as he is concerned. The only side he ever consorts with. The side whose flags flew throughout the conference chamber during the debate … the Palestinian side.
Perhaps if he’d shown some sympathy with an Israel that lives in fear of terrorist attacks and rocket fire, perhaps if he’d called for the Palestinian leadership to prove itself to be a partner for peace, British Jewry could have some scintilla of faith in the man who could very well be the country’s next PM.
Instead, as Lord Jonathan Sacks said just last month, “When people hear the kind of language that has been coming out of Labour, that’s been brought to the surface among Jeremy Corbyn’s earlier speeches, they cannot but feel an existential threat.”
Zeddy Lawrence is the national editor of The AJN.