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Considering the antisemitism of Jeremy Corbyn

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Extracts from the yet unpublished Left Out: The Inside Story of Labour Under Corbyn by Gabriel Pogrund and Patrick Maguire are being published in The Times this week and include interesting tidbits about Jeremy Corbyn and his alleged antisemitism.

The latest revelations are a quote from one of Corbyn’s right-hand men, Andrew Murray, saying that Mr Corbyn ‘would have had massive empathy with the Jewish community in Britain in the 1930s and he would have been there at Cable Street, there’s no question. But, of course, the Jewish community today is relatively prosperous.’  Is Murray being antisemitic in saying this, and what does it say about Corbyn?

Even within the Jewish community, there has been much debate as to whether Corbyn is antisemitic. The majority think he is according to surveys. If so, what does that mean?

Clearly there is antisemitism and then there is antisemitism. No one would say that an Arsenal fan singing antisemitic/anti-Spurs chants is in the same league as say the person who shot up the synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018. So there are degrees of antisemitism, although none of them is laudable.

There is also the racism of inaction. As we see from the BLM movement, many in that movement are saying that inaction is a form of racism, and that would equally apply to systemic antisemitism.

Corbyn’s most significant ‘crimes’ have been indirect, i.e. he has never come out and said, Jews are running the world or that Jews are the cause of all wars etc. However, he has associated with many people who do espouse these ideas. Let’s take a quick look at some of the highlights of Corbyn’s potential antisemitism:

Zionists have ‘no sense of English irony’, referring to two well known Zionist campaigners in the audience at the time, could be his most direct antisemitic statement. The Zionists in question were born and bred British men. He explained he meant it in a purely political sense.

Calling Hamas and Hizbullah friends – he later regretted having said this, was that because he understood the feelings of Jews or because it was bad politics?

Missing the antisemitism in Mear One’s mural – having to have it pointed out before retracting his endorsement.

His associations with Holocaust deniers Paul Eisen and Steven Sizer – he ‘didn’t know their views at the time’.

Being present at a memorial for the architect of the Munich terrorist attacks – he was ‘present but didn’t know what was going on’.

There are many more examples.  

Murray’s alleged quote seems to suggest he views racism through the lens of classism.  Something like: Jews can’t be victims because they’re not working class (which is in itself potentially antisemitic an idea).

Former momentum chair Jon Lansman claimed at Limmud in 2018 that Jeremy was hurt by all the accusations of antisemitism and that’s one of the reasons he had not dealt with them well.

The most sympathetic picture that builds here is someone who doesn’t understand the Jewish community; perhaps he gets some of the fringes. He doesn’t seem to get antisemitism. He has had many friendships with antisemitic people, mostly through his Palestine activism. He didn’t know how or didn’t want to heal his relationship with the Jewish community.  Many in the community will accuse him of a lot worse.

It may be some time before historians call on Corbyn’s antisemitism. The Jewish community mostly has, but where does he sit on the scale of antisemites?

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Dan is a founder of JewThink, admin of SAAS, editor of DailyJews, Chair of the JVS, and a Technology consultant.  In his spare time he sleeps.
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Joel Conn
Joel Conn
2 months ago

where does he sit on the scale of antisemites?”

Now that’s a fun Top Trumps for you to design and market. Put me down for the first pack.

John B.
John B.
1 month ago

If Corbyn was an antisemite we would have known about it long before he became leader. Having been active in north London Labour for a long time and and being Jewish myself no one I know has ever heard the faintest thing about him being a racist of any kind.

The writer of this article is clearly a right winger happy to regurgitate tired out of context talking points relentlessly promoted by the media. I wonder if he’s mates with the hard right Zionists who have been banned from meetings and also convicted of assault. Corbyn teased them with his irony comment but I would have been much more severe.

Hazel Seidel
Hazel Seidel
Reply to  John B.
1 month ago

You are right that Corbyn has a reputation for being anti-racist, however most of us have unconscious biases, and Corbyn’s may never have revealed themselves until he had to deal with a rash of antisemitism within Labour. At the very least, it seems to me, he may have a blind spot concerning left-wing forms of antisemitism.
In your second paragraph you choose to make ridiculous and false assumptions about Dan Jacobs. It’s never great to rely on an ad hominem argument, but in any case a bit of research would show you that he is an admin of Socialists against Antisemitism, which by no means identifies with the ‘hard right Zionists’ you mention and has published posts deeply critical of some of them.

John B.
John B.
Reply to  Hazel Seidel
1 month ago

Oh dear – don’t start with all this psychological claptrap about unconscious biases. This is all part of the smear against people like me and Corbyn when nothing else sticks. I come from a strong Jewish socialist tradition and I will not be browbeaten into doubting comrades, Jewish and non-Jewish, who have proved themselves over decades as anti-racists.

From what you say Dan Jacobs does know who these nasty disruptors are – I certainly do as I’ve seen them in action at meetings. This makes his prize exhibit for Corbyn ‘antisemitism’ ludicrous and mendacious. You would have thought he’d be happy that Corbyn is no longer leader but he can’t leave it alone.

I’ve had a look at ‘Socialists Against Semitism’ and clearly the socialist part should be reported to trading standards.

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