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THE self-proclaimed “leaders of British Jewry” attempting to disinter bogus accusations that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is somehow soft on anti-semitism do nothing but expose how threadbare is their pretension to speak for British Jews.
Their preposterous posturing is a cynical ploy aimed at undermining Labour’s performance at forthcoming local elections.
On its own, it is unlikely to do this.
The Daily Mail’s 12 pages of smears accusing Corbyn, John McDonnell and Diane Abbott of sympathising with terrorists on election day last year backfired, increasing support for Labour.
Similarly, a public weary of the same baseless allegations being thrown repeatedly at the party leader’s head will see through the open letter published by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC).
Unlike Corbyn, neither body can claim any consistent opposition to racial prejudice.
As Jewish Voice for Labour points out, “there is massively more anti-semitism on the right of politics than on the left.”
But the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) were indifferent to the racist Tory campaign against Sadiq Khan when he ran for mayor of London, just as they are silent now on the Conservative Party pamphlet in Havering, also directed at Mr Khan, which Labour MP David Lammy describes as “one long dog whistle about race.”
Nor did they rush to the defence of Ed Miliband, whose father was a Jewish refugee from nazism, when the Mail proclaimed Miliband Senior had “hated Britain” and launched a nod-nod, wink-wink tirade implying that the family were un-British and unpatriotic because of their background.
Their own letter reveals their real gripe, as their references to the “far left’s obsessive hatred of zionism, zionists and Israel” and to “Jews” as a group supposedly having expressed collective fears over what “such politics” — Corbyn’s — would mean for their “wellbeing” indicate.
As an anti-imperialist, Corbyn as prime minister might object to long-standing features of British foreign policy — such as playing second fiddle to the warmongers in Washington, slavishly sucking up to the head-chopping despots of Saudi Arabia and, yes, collaborating with Israel’s illegal colonisation of Palestinian land.
That the Board of Deputies and the JLC are more concerned about a loss of political support for the Israeli government than they are about racism is demonstrated by board president Jonathan Arkush’s rush to congratulate Donald Trump on his election to the White House — despite the US president’s associations with a US “alt right” steeped in anti-semitism.
That they will not be satisfied by anything less than Corbyn abandoning solidarity with Palestine and vetoing criticism of Israel is shown by the contempt they openly display for the Shami Chakrabarti investigation into anti-semitism within Labour, which highlighted genuine examples of anti-semitism in the party — which are completely unacceptable — while stating, correctly, that Labour is not a haven for anti-semites and nor are anti-semitic views typical, prevalent or tolerated within it.
Feeble as the latest smear on Corbyn is, its danger lies in its propensity to kick off another round of backstabbing by Labour MPs who remain hostile to the party’s leftward shift.
Ian Austin’s immediate call for Corbyn to apologise, and demands by some in the PLP that the Labour leader “explain himself” before them, are evidence that this constituency is as shameless as ever.
Austin was not always so keen on apologies — when Corbyn apologised in Parliament for the party’s role in starting the Iraq war in 2003, the Dudley North MP had to be shushed by Speaker John Bercow for shouting “sit down and shut up” and “you’re a disgrace” while his leader was talking.
That nasty little incident tells us everything we need to know about the politics of Corbyn’s accusers. The left must show unity in the face of these attacks, and make it clear that MPs who connive at slandering him will be held to account by our movement.
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