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If the right wing remove Corbyn, the ideals that we share will be defeated

An open letter to my good friend Simon Hattenstone, from KEN LOACH

DEAR Simon,

I was about to drop you a note to say I enjoyed your piece on Man City’s film series — spot on! Promotional ads masquerading as documentaries.

Then I was sent your comment piece in the Guardian, “I still don’t believe Corbyn is anti-semitic – but his ‘irony’ comments unquestionably were.”    

Simon, I know that you are committed to supporting the rights of Palestinians, are critical of Israel, work with great generosity to help refugees and live rigorously by your principles. I respect you for that.

But on this occasion I think you have got it wrong on several counts.

As the smear campaign is at its height, you have written critically of Jeremy Corbyn, and have been quoted approvingly by his enemies. Where is the understanding of the politics of this vilification? 

First of all you don’t explain what was said to Corbyn at the meeting or the irony he was referring to. Here’s one possibility. 

The meeting at which Corbyn was speaking was in support of Palestinian refugees. Why are they refugees? 

Because those who founded the state of Israel drove them from their land and homes and denied them the right to return. Why were they driven out? Because they were Palestinian Arabs — because of their race. 

Anyone who publicly holds Israel responsible for the denial of rights of Palestinians can expect to be attacked as anti-semitic.  

So to spell it out: Corbyn would have been heckled and called a racist at a meeting which exposed Israel’s racism.  That the hecklers ignored that larger racism is the irony.

Secondly, I’m afraid it is you who have linked anti-semitism with anti-zionism. 

The Oxford English dictionary says zionism is a political movement to establish a Jewish state in Palestine and a zionist is a supporter of that movement. That seems a fair definition to me.  

Many non-Jews are zionists — Trump and the religious right for a start — and many Jews are anti-zionist. Yet you write that Corbyn’s words were “a clear example of somebody conflating zionists with Jews.” 

What is your evidence? You are a good journalist, surely you could not rely on the Daily Mail clip? But you have accused Corbyn of anti-semitism on the basis of this extract.  

This is critical because you and I would agree, wouldn’t we, that anti-zionism is not anti-semitism, as Walter Wolfgang wrote so clearly in the Morning Star

Jews who are not zionists are discounted. Jewish Voice for Labour, the Jewish Socialists’ Group and many, many others are ignored. 

It was they who said that the claims of anti-semitism had been “weaponised” against Corbyn. They should be at his side throughout this campaign.  

How can we be anti-semites if we stand alongside each other in solidarity, Jews and non-Jews alike, in the same causes as Corbyn has done throughout his career?

As to “unnamed zionists,” and being verbally abused by them, this is my experience too. If I go to a meeting to support Palestinian rights, I will be accosted and abused as I go in, shouted at inside, and very obviously filmed during the meeting, in a way that is calculated to be intimidating. That’s the easy bit. 

“Unnamed zionists” specialise in online abuse. I’ve had death wishes against my grandchildren, been called a Jew-hater, Holocaust denier (thanks to the Guardian) and fanatical anti-semite. 

What are they but zionists who do not give their names? And who among Corbyn’s public attackers condemns this harassment and abuse?  

Another question: does no-one care about Israeli racism? The ethnic cleansing from the very beginning? 

Israeli historian Ilan Pappe called it “a crime against humanity that Israel has wanted to deny and cause the world to forget.”  

That crime was committed against the Palestinians. Why is their voice barely heard? They, more than any, can tell us if Israel is indeed a racist endeavour.

I hope you have been appalled by the well-organised, relentless campaign against Corbyn. A new story emerges regularly that is fed to the press and broadcasters, only too eager to make something out of every incident.  

No conspiracy, and no need to conspire with people who share the same intention and who all know the steps to the dance.  

As a journalist don’t you want to know who is doing all this digging? There has been an alliance from the Mail to the Guardian and the BBC to make the most of stories provided largely by Corbyn’s enemies in the Labour Party.  

The aims are clear: protect Israel and undermine Corbyn. The Labour right, along with all the above, oppose his social and economic programme, his determination to base a foreign policy on

International law and human rights and the general resurgence of the left that he represents.

It seems the tactics of the old Blairites are either to remove Corbyn or to split from Labour altogether, not by honestly challenging his and John McDonnell’s politics but by the smear of racism. The Labour right wants to achieve by stealth what is beyond them in open debate.

We face huge problems, internationally and environmentally. Great riches sit alongside poverty, insecurity, desolation and, for many, despair. 

Corbyn’s Labour Party, if we ensure it is not only in government but in power, will start to make changes that challenge the established order. This is why he is under attack.  

These are critical times, Simon. If the right wing remove Corbyn, the ideals that we share will be defeated. Please stand with us.

In friendship,


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