15 August 2015

Corbyn’s links to anti-Semites and terrorists bring shame to Labour

If the Labour Party elects Jeremy Corbyn as leader as now seems likely, it will deserve everything that follows.

I don’t mean that in relation to his support for policies like raising taxes and nationalising the railways and energy companies, though the latter would be fiendishly difficult and very expensive to do (before the government even starts trying to manage them).

No, a Corbyn-led Labour Party competing on these and other old Left policies would struggle to win elections, but it wouldn’t bring shame on itself. These are solid left-wing positions with some good rationale and decency behind them, even if they may be unwise.

Jeremy Corbyn MP, Labour leadership elecion front-runner
Most anti-Corbyn campaigners around Labour have been fighting on this ground, seeking to appeal to Labour members and supporters on the basis that Corbyn is ‘unelectable’, as if that is argument enough. But it isn’t. I don’t blame anyone for being idealistic and seeking to break beyond the narrow bounds of political activity and debate in this country. Sometimes you’ve got to stand up for what you believe in and do your best to convince others you are correct – otherwise you are just filling space.

Right and wrong matters in politics. On the left we wouldn’t express support for racist and terrorist organisations because it would be convenient for us.

Or would we?

As it turns out of course, this is precisely what Corbyn has done, though not to fit in with the views of the Great British public but with the particular tribe of hard left anti-Western activists within whose circles he moves.

In an increasingly notorious video filmed in 2009, Corbyn explains to his Stop the War Coalition how it is “my pleasure and my honour” to host “our friends from Hezbollah” in Parliament while lamenting that “friends from Hamas” will not be able to attend because the Israelis will not let them.

Now, leaving aside the terrorist organisation Hezbollah for sake of saving space and time, let’s have a look at a passage from Hamas’ constitution:

“The prophet, prayer and peace be upon him, said: ‘The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him!’”

There’s plenty more where that came from, and there’s plenty more evidence about Corbyn which should concern us too. As James Bloodworth among others has pointed out, the Stop the War Coalition which Corbyn chairs has basically supported attacks on British troops in Iraq. He shares political platforms with individuals who advocate literally pushing Jews and Christians aside in the street and getting them to pay jizya (a special tax for non-Muslims) in order to make them know they are inferior. And these examples are just the tip of the iceberg.

No one I have seen says that Corbyn himself is anti-Semitic, but his associations and praise for anti-Semites (including violent ones) shows very poor judgement at the very least.

As the Campaign Against Antisemitism says though, “Perhaps more worrying than Corbyn’s association with antisemites is that this appears not to bother his supporters.”

Now Labour prides itself on its anti-racism and commitment to tackling racism and religious bigotry. But as far as I am aware only one Labour MP - Ivan Lewis - has come out and even questioned Corbyn's support for anti-Semites and terrorist groups, let alone condemned them. One. And he's Jewish.

Imagine if Corbyn had a habit on appearing on political platforms with members of UKIP and talking of them as ‘our friends’. The condemnation from all parts of Labour and the left would be incendiary; he would be branded repeatedly as a racist, including by senior members of the party; he would quickly become persona non grata. But UKIP doesn’t advocate racism, let alone advocate slaughtering certain racial groups.

When it comes to being ‘friends’ with organisations which pledge themselves to killing Jews, the silence from Labour and the wider left is deafening.

That the ‘mainstream’ leadership candidates haven’t attacked Corbyn for these troubling links brings shame on them – principally for showing tolerance towards something that should not be tolerated, but also as politicians trying to win an election. It shows a lack of moral fibre and also of political fighting spirit.

To me, it seems indicative of how internal Labour politics works – that the mainstream candidates have all been concentrating on appealing to the internal Labour electorate, using all the equivocations and coded language that Labour people use to appeal to each other. They have been practising the sort of narrow transactional politics that is ubiquitous in the party, based on making offers and promising favours to the various interest and pressure groups around the party rather than making a case based on anything bigger and wider.

Corbyn has come across as relatively authentic compared to these others. But his election would be a disaster for Labour – as indeed it should be.

But why the silence about Corbyn’s friendships with obvious racists and religious bigots?

I would put it down partly to herd behaviour and partly to the conventional ideology of anti-racism and ‘equalities’. Some (not all) of the anti-Semites that Corbyn hangs out with are Muslims and have brown skin. In the structural (rather than behavioural) sense of racism favoured by most of the left, they are therefore people who suffer racism; they cannot perpetrate it, they are victims.

On the left we're quick to attack any vague sign of racism as long as it fits in with these structural racism conventions. But Jews as mostly white-skinned don't fit that narrative. Indeed Corbyn is very much part of the anti-racism movement.

But now the word is out that we tolerate and even indulge racism as long as it is against people of white skin-colour, in this case Jews (though interestingly not if they were immigrants, in which case they would be defended). The word is out that we are basically sympathetic to terrorism if it is against Britain, British troops or Jews.

This will not go down well with the Great British public of course. If Corbyn wins the Labour leadership, it will be a disaster for Labour, but then again it should be a disaster for Labour.

Frankly, it’s an indictment of us that his links with anti-Semitism and Islamic terrorism (not to mention IRA terrorism during the Troubles) haven’t killed the Corbyn candidature. Much of the damage has surely already been done, even if he doesn’t win the leadership.

Despite these views above, I wouldn’t support Labour MPs seeking to depose Corbyn if and when he is elected. With the odd caveat about Tories and Greens registering to vote for their own partisan reasons – and how boring it has been for the most part - the leadership contest has been a great exercise in democracy, with more than 600,000 now registered to participate in it. If Corbyn wins, he will have a mass mandate from the wider ‘Labour movement’.

Breaking with that mandate will mean breaking from the party, so if MPs aren’t prepared to abide with his leadership, they should leave and perhaps set up a new grouping or party. The sort of politics that Corbyn shares will ultimately have to be defeated in the court of public opinion and in elections, not through internal Labour Party manoeuvrings. The far left has remained strong within the party. It’s well-organised and well-motivated. It’s not going away. Perhaps now is its time.

As for me, I shall be voting for None of the Above, as I have been doing in too many internal Labour selections in recent times. I don’t know what is to be done with Labour, but I don’t see much evidence any of the candidates do either. Now is a time for clear heads and brave hearts, yet these seem to have been distinctly lacking over the past few months (and indeed, you could say, the past few years). The choice looks like one between Corbyn and ‘more of the same’. Neither of those looks remotely appealing to me.

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