Tough questions for Corbyn

Tough questions for Corbyn

Column for Jewish News August 10 2015

A couple of weeks ago, I finally cracked and handed over my £3 to register as a Labour Party supporter in order to be able to vote in the forthcoming leadership elections.

Those candidates who have written back to me have invited me to say why I signed up – lest I should be a closet Conservative seeking to manipulate the result. I have been completely honest: I registered in order to stop Jeremy Corbyn becoming leader of the Labour Party, a prospect that now looks increasingly likely. I registered, because in the event of the race being a close-run thing, I couldn’t bear to think that if I didn’t, my vote might be the one that could make a difference. I registered, because voting matters, freedom of speech matters, being a British Jew in this country matters, and Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership will be inimical to all that.

As far back as June I was horrified, and said so, when Corbyn’s name went on the ballot in the name of “diversity”. Of course, my agenda is very specific: the well-being of Jews in Britain. But Corbyn has enough devastating form – in issues nothing to do with the Middle East – to make the heart sink, and to wonder what will become of a Labour Party led by this man.

Corbynmania has now reached such a pitch that all kinds of accusations are flung at him. The problem is in distilling the lunacy from the reality.

Here’s an example of the lunacy: the allegation, so far made only in the Daily Mail, that Corbyn was a regular donor to Paul Eisen, a self-confessed Jewish Holocaust denier. Eisen, who embraces views voiced by that other Jewish anti-Semite, Gilad Atzmon, claims friendship with Corbyn, says he regularly says hello to him when he sees him in Islington, and – worse – alleges that Corbyn “whipped out his chequebook” to contribute to his group, Deir Yassin Remembered (DYR), and has attended every annual DYR event for the past 15 years.

DYR is said to be so extreme that it was even dropped by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, of which Corbyn is a patron, with the PSC expressing revulsion for the anti-Semitism expressed by the DYR crew. There is an accompanying photograph in the Daily Mail purporting to be of Corbyn in the audience of a DYR event in 2013. It is impossible to tell whether this is indeed the case or what Eisen imagined would be the end result of his enthusiastic endorsement of Corbyn.

Corbyn’s office has issued a statement that – in typical Team Corbyn style – skirts the issue. It says: “Paul Eisen is not someone Jeremy Corbyn‘s office has any dealings with. Based upon what is written in the articles here, anyone can call themselves a ‘long-time associate’ when in fact that is not the case.

“Paul Eisen clearly holds some of the most extreme views that are entirely his, and Jeremy totally opposes them and disassociates himself from them.” But the spokesperson declined to confirm or deny whether Corbyn himself had befriended Eisen, or donated money to the DYR campaign.

Here’s an example of the reality: on August 22, after the voting has begun for the Labour leadership, Corbyn is due to take part in a conference organised by MEMO, a ferociously anti-Israel outfit. One of the other participants is the cartoonist Carlos Latuff, a man who has previously won second prize in Iran’s international Holocaust Denial cartoon competition. One of his most recent cartoons, reproduced last month by MEMO, shows a Zionist octopus, wearing an Israeli headband decorated with a swastika, with its tentacles around a Gaza-bound flotilla ship.

I asked Corbyn’s office if their candidate still intended to take part in this conference, or if he thought it was appropriate for a future Labour leader to sit with someone who picked Holocaust denial as a cartoon subject. There was no response. Previously, I asked them – six or seven times – if Corbyn would distance the Stop the War Coalition, of which he is chairman, from the blatant anti-Semitism on display at the annual Al-Quds demonstration, of which Stop the War is a sponsor. Again, no response, save for sending me back to Stop the War.

There are signs that the organised Jewish community is so nervous about having to deal with a Corbyn-led Labour Party that it is now distancing itself from these challenges to Corbyn and his dubious associations. I can’t say this loudly enough – this is a big mistake. Jeremy Corbyn, personally, and not his office, has questions to answer and the community will only have itself to blame if it does not put them to him, directly and repeatedly.

  • 25 September, 2015