The Israel Lobby’s Attacks on Corbyn

David Cronin at Electronic Intifada spoke on August 5 about how the “amoral” Israel lobby within the Labour Party (Labour Friends of Israel (LFI)) has undertaken analysis that is both “deceitful and dangerous”. As a group that still speaks of Tony Blair “in reverential tones” and has a “strong overlap [with] Blairite “think-tank” Progress”, LFI’s director Jennifer Gerber has claimed that, since 2010, the Labour leadership has shown a “certain carelessness” towards Jews in Britain. She called the response to the 2014 invasion of Gaza, for example, “one-sided with little empathy with the fears of ordinary Israelis”. For Cronin, this was “simply not true”, as Ed Miliband’s words came in the form of “timid criticisms of Israel with repeated references to “both sides”” (erroneously suggesting “some kind of parity” in the conflict). Furthermore, Gerber implied with her words that defending Israel and its crimes was somehow “a central concern for all British Jews” (as if they represented one homogenous entity). In doing so, Cronin asserted, Gerber had negated the existence of “many Jews in the UK and further afield who are horrified by Israeli aggression and by its apartheid system”.

An issue blown out of all proportions by Zionists and the right-wing press was Corbyn’s “innocuous” use of the term “our friends” (one “used frequently in political discourse”) to refer to Hamas and Hezbollah. Everyone knows, Cronin added, “that calling someone a “friend” doesn’t mean you agree with him or her on everything”, and instead represents a “polite” welcome to visitors. London-based Zionist newspaper The Jewish Chronicle, however, “exaggerated the significance of his comments in a smear campaign”. Geoffrey Alderman, for example, “effectively accused Corbyn of anti-Semitism” for having referred to the opposition of “some of the Jewish members” of the British government to the 1917 Balfour Declaration (which expressed support for the creation of a “Jewish national home” in Palestine), even though “Edwin Montagu was the sole Jew serving as a British cabinet minister” at the time. For Alderman, this overstatement (most likely accidental) meant that Corbyn had a “problem with Jews, whose political influence he grossly overstates”. For Cronin, this statement represented the “baseless allegations of anti-Semitism” routinely directed at Palestine solidarity activists by the Israel lobby.

“Pro-Israel pundit” Jonathan Freedland, meanwhile, who edits the Guardian’s opinion pages, allowed “quite a few anti-Corbyn rants” to feature in the paper “over the past few weeks”. Such treatment, Cronin explains, comes as a response of “an establishment besotted by capitalism and imperialism” to Corbyn’s “views on public services, taxation and foreign policy”.[1]

From August 13, the Zionist attempts to slander Jeremy Corbyn stepped up a gear. In a front-page editorial of Britain’s oldest Jewish newspaper, The Jewish Chronicle (JC), claims emerge that Corbyn had “associated with Holocaust deniers and “outright anti-Semites””. The paper asked whether he was attending a conference held by pro-Palestinian organisation Deir Yassin Remembered (DYR) (“founded and run by holocaust denier Paul Eisen”). If he did not answer this question, and others, the paper would label him as “an enemy of Britain’s Jewish community”. A spokesperson for Mr Corbyn soon confirmed that he was not attending the conference (set for August 22) and that “opposition to anti-Semitism was his “strongly held view””.[2] Whilst having attended meetings held by DYR in the past, Corbyn would stress that Eisen’s “views on the Holocaust were only aired years later” and that his position was “wrong and reprehensible”.[3]

The Guardian’s James Bloodworth, meanwhile, followed along the same lines, asserting that Corbyn shares “platforms with people” who have anti-Semitic views. For him, this was a sign that the “Labour party – and the left more generally – no longer takes antisemitism seriously”.[4] Having stood up against war, apartheid, and occupation, while advocating dialogue for peace, Corbyn in reality represents the best of the Left. True, the Israeli state’s genocidal actions don’t exactly make Tel Aviv a desirable tourist destination for the Left (to put it lightly), but anti-Semitism is something different entirely. And, as long as reactionary attempts are made to equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism, sympathetic people who are not well-read on the Palestinian Question are in fact more likely to support (unwittingly) anti-Zionists who are also anti-Semites. If a clear distinction can be made between the ethno-nationalist political ideology of Zionism and the religion of Judaism, however, people criticising the former will be much less likely to criticise the latter at the same time. [Note here that the same is true with the political ideology of Islamism (and Wahhabism in particular) and the religion of Islam. As long as the media lazily equates the two, a fight against Islamism will seem to many under-informed observers as an excuse for Islamophobia.]

On August 19, the media attacks intensified, and The Telegraph shared a list of the supposed proof of Corbyn’s so-called ‘dodgy connections’. It started by talking about Dyab Abou Jahjah, with whom Corbyn had very briefly shared a platform in 2009. Having allegedly fought with Hezbollah and called British soldiers a “legitimate target for resistance” when they invaded Iraq in 2003, Jahjah said his “collaboration” with Corbyn when they met had been “guided by common belief in dialogue, justice and equality of all”. The leadership candidate, meanwhile, “claimed that he had forgotten meeting” Jahjah – one of thousands of people he had shared platforms with over the years. He said that his staff had told him he “did meet this man in 2009”, but insisted he had “no recollection of him”.

Another argument used by The Telegraph was that Corbyn had called Raed Salah, “a cleric the UK government tried to deport for his ‘virulent anti-semitism’”. an “honoured citizen” (a phrase used “solely… as a term of diplomacy”). Corbyn would soon remind people that Salah’s “appeal against the attempt to deport him [had] succeeded on all grounds”. Finally, the paper stressed that Corbyn had written “to the Church of England authorities to defend [anti-Zionist] Rev Stephen Sizer”, who had been “banned from social media after blaming Israel for the 9/11 attacks”. There is nothing particularly shocking about this defence, as the MP was simply standing up for people’s right to criticise the provocative actions of the Israeli State.[5]

At the Electronic Intifada, Asa Winstanley clarified the nature of the accusations laid at Corbyn’s feet. Firstly, he asserted, Paul Eisen should be considered as “an obscure figure” whose “only real notoriety” had come from “his attempts to infiltrate the Palestine solidarity movement”. As soon as “it became clear what his views were”, Winstanley highlights, Eisen “was widely condemned and shunned by a movement which is fundamentally anti-racist in its basic principles”. The “only real link”, meanwhile, between Corbyn and Eisen (which had been “conveniently omitted” by the corporate media) was that the latter had lived in the Islington constituency governed by the former, and had claimed “to have met him in that capacity”. In fact, emphasised Winstanley, Eisen was not even “named on the contact page, the About page or the Board of Advisors page” on the DYR website. Eisen’s stealth, then, had meant that Corbyn had “not [been] the only person misled” by the organisation.

Raed Salah, meanwhile, was to be recognised as “a legitimate Palestinian leader”, according to Winstanley. Being the “three times elected mayor of the Palestinian town of Umm al-Fahm”, Salah had come to Britain in 2011 for a “speaking tour”, and had been detained because of an allegation that he had “invoked the anti-Semitic blood libel [an allegation that Jews used to kidnap and murder Christian children to use their blood in religious rituals] in a 2007 speech during a Palestinian demonstration against Israeli occupation in Jerusalem”. Salah, however, argued that he was actually making a reference to “the Spanish inquisition spilling the blood of children and using religion as a cover for its crimes”. He would even clarify later on that he did not believe in the ‘blood libel’ and rejected it “in its entirety”. The following year, said Winstanley, “an Israeli court [had] found Salah had not used the blood libel and acquitted him of incitement to racism”.

The problem with the UK’s treatment of Salah had been that the government and media had relied on the “Community Security Trust” (a charity dedicated to monitoring and combatting anti-Semitism) for their information – in spite of the fact that the organisation “systemically conflates valid criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism”. And this tactic, Winstanley stressed, was commonplace, with the “Israel lobby habitually [smearing] all critics as “anti-Semites””. Labour’s Alan Johnson, for example, who is a “leading figure in the Israel lobby group BICOM” argued that he could not support Corbyn because “Raed Salah is a deal-breaker”. [Alan Johnson essentially slandered Corbyn on June 16 by claiming he ‘supported’ “the fascistic and antisemitic forces of Hezbollah and Hamas”.[6]] According to Winstanley, though, “not even the Israel lobby directly claims Corbyn is an anti-Semite” – because they are very aware that such an allegation would amount to slander.[7]

[1] https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/david-cronin/game-over-labour-friends-israel

[2] http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/08/12/jeremy-corbyn-jewish-chronicle-anti-semitism_n_7978226.html?1439461017

[3] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/labour/11812730/Jeremy-Corbyn-denies-knowing-Muslim-firebrand-who-condones-killing-British-soldiers.html

[4] http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/aug/13/jeremy-corbyn-labour-leadership-foreign-policy-antisemitism

[5] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/labour/11812730/Jeremy-Corbyn-denies-knowing-Muslim-firebrand-who-condones-killing-British-soldiers.html

[6] http://leftfootforward.org/2015/06/an-open-letter-to-jeremy-corbyn/

[7] https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/asa-winstanley/4-reasons-anti-semitism-attacks-jeremy-corbyn-are-dishonest

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