Jeremy Corbyn – the view from Jerusalem
Today, Thursday, nearly 7,000 Christians marched are openly and proudly marching through the streets of Jerusalem. About 24 hours earlier, Jeremy Corbyn, the controversial leader of the Labour Party in the UK, spoke to his annual conference. Regarding Jews and Israel, he said:
I believe we are all stronger from listening and learning from each other.
The Jewish people have suffered a long and terrible history of persecution and genocide. I was humbled to see a memorial to that suffering two years ago, when I visited the former Nazi concentration camp at Terezin.
The row over antisemitism has caused immense hurt and anxiety in the Jewish community and great dismay in the Labour Party. But I hope we can work together to draw a line under it.
I say this to all in the Jewish community:
This party, this movement, will always be implacable campaigners against antisemitism and racism in all its forms.
We are your ally.
And the next Labour government will guarantee whatever support necessary to ensure the security of Jewish community centres and places of worship, as we will for any other community experiencing hateful behaviour and physical attacks.
We will work with Jewish communities to eradicate antisemitism, both from our party and wider society.
And with your help I will fight for that with every breath I possess.
Anti-racism is integral to our very being. It’s part of who you all are, and it’s part of who I am.
……. And let me next say a few words about the ongoing denial of justice and rights to the Palestinian people. Our Party is united in condemning the shooting of hundreds of unarmed demonstrators in Gaza by Israeli forces and the passing of Israel’s discriminatory Nation-State Law.
The continuing occupation, the expansion of illegal settlements and the imprisonment of Palestinian children are an outrage. We support a two-state solution to the conflict with a secure Israel and a viable and secure Palestinian state.
But a quarter of a century on from the Oslo Accords we are no closer to justice or peace and the Palestinian tragedy continues, while the outside world stands by.
As my great Israeli friend Uri Avnery who died this year put it: “What is the alternative to peace? A catastrophe for both peoples”.
And in order to help make that two-state settlement a reality we will recognise a Palestinian state as soon as we take office.
Promising, but as with much of the speech, great words and little substance. To find out if the deeds can match the words, it is worth referring back to the debate on Tuesday, when the conference voted to ban arms’ sales to Israel. The reasoning is that because Israel is deemed a goliath of an aggressor against the Palestinians, it should only be allowed to defend itself against terror with one hand tied behind its back.
Now this debate was considered the fourth most urgent issue at the conference, as judged by delegates. It was placed higher than the National Health Service or pensions to name a few. In fact, Israel was the only country selected for a foreign policy debate.
Some considered the discussion an empty gesture by an irrelevant force. Judging from the popularity of Corbyn’s own speech, I find this naïve. The debate on Israel had to be carefully orchestrated. And despite the control, many speakers managed to work into their comments anti-Semitic elements. For example:
If you want to know how that orchestration (of alleged antisemitism smears) works you need to watch that Al Jazeera documentary The Lobby.
What really concerned me was the chanting not reported about in the general press. At the beginning of the discussion, many delegates were bellowing out the phrase “Palestine will be free from the river to the sea”.
Sounds innocuous? It is part of the PLO constitution. It refers to the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. The constitution explicitly says that Jews will not be allowed to live in that area.
Nobody took any action to stop these chants. And where exactly are the Jews of Palestine supposed to live? In a Corbynite Britain?
In this context, what do the 360 words of Corbyn’s speech quoted above add up to?
Let me provide an answer in manner that challenges the newspeak of Corbyn. He argues that he talks to the IRA, Hamas, the Iranians, et al because he believes that in order to make peace, you have to talk to the enemy. Sounds potentially plausible.
It is funny how he never talks to his own enemies like leading rabbis in the UK or the Zionist organisations in the UK. Why is that? What do those lack of action signify?
I am currently reading a book called The Holocaust by Laurence Rees. With some ironic timing, his description of Hitler’s manipulation of the economic chaos of the late 1920s and the speeches of the Fuhrer are worringly familiar to a politician of the modern era.