Extracts from the yet unpublished Left Out: The Inside Story of Labour Under Corbyn by Gabriel Pogrund and Patrick Maguire are being published in The Times this week and include interesting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?