Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘shocking’ refusal to distance himself from anti-Semitism has been denounced by the woman who took on the Holocaust-denying British historian David Irving and won.
Acclaimed American academic Professor Deborah Lipstadt claimed the Labour leader has ‘fomented a sense among Jews of being unsafe in Britain’.
Professor Lipstadt was speaking ahead of the publication of her new book, Anti-Semitism Here And Now, to mark International Holocaust Memorial Day on Sunday.
Acclaimed American academic Professor Deborah Lipstadt claimed the Labour leader has ‘fomented a sense among Jews of being unsafe in Britain’. In her new book, Professor Lipstadt devotes several pages to Corbyn
She made headlines worldwide when Irving, who dismissed Hitler’s gas chambers as a ‘fairy tale’, sued her for calling him a ‘Holocaust denier’.
The story of her epic legal victory was turned into the 2016 film Denial, in which Lipstadt was portrayed by Rachel Weisz and Irving by Timothy Spall.
In an interview with the Mail, Professor Lipstadt compared Mr Corbyn’s refusal to disown Holocaust deniers with those in the U.S. who refuse to disown people who use the ‘n’ word.
‘No respectable politician would associate with anyone who used the ‘n’ word,’ she says. ‘The same should apply to Corbyn over anti-Semitism.’
She made headlines worldwide when Irving, who dismissed Hitler’s gas chambers as a ‘fairy tale’, sued her for calling him a ‘Holocaust denier’
Professor Lipstadt also took aim at Corbyn’s repeated references to his mother Naomi’s role in the anti-fascist Cable Street riots in 1936, when Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts marched through a district of London’s East End which had a large Jewish community.
‘His view is ‘I’m a progressive so I can’t be anti-Semitic’,’ she says. ‘He boasts how his mother was at the Cable Street demonstration — ‘I had progressive mother’s milk so you can’t call me anti-Semitic.’
In her new book, Professor Lipstadt devotes several pages to Corbyn.
Here, in this extract, she explains why she believes the Labour leader is guilty of facilitating, amplifying and institutionalising anti-Semitism. . .
As horrific as the Holocaust was, it is in the past. Contemporary anti-Semitism is not. It is about the present. It is what many people are doing, saying and facing now. Today, anti-Semitism is ‘back’.
Jeremy Corbyn’s record in politics is deeply rooted in firmly held ideological beliefs. Fundamental to his political philosophy is an automatic — critics might call it knee-jerk — sympathy for anyone who is or appears to be oppressed or an underdog.
Those who fight with rocks are always preferred to those who use tanks. Coupled with that is a class and race-based view of the world.
Let’s call it the Corbyn Syndrome — a syndrome in which Jews, for the most part white, privileged members of the elite, cannot possibly be considered victims.
Jeremy Corbyn’s record in politics is deeply rooted in firmly held ideological beliefs. Fundamental to his political philosophy is an automatic — critics might call it knee-jerk — sympathy for anyone who is or appears to be oppressed or an underdog
Indeed, anyone white, wealthy or associated with a group that seems to be privileged cannot be a victim. Whereas anyone who is, or claims to be, victimised by those who are white, wealthy and/or privileged deserves unequivocal support.
It is doubtful that Corbyn deliberately seeks out anti-Semites to associate with and to support. But it seems that when he encounters them, their Jew-hatred is irrelevant as long as their other positions — on class, race, capitalism, the role of the state, and Israel/Palestine — are to his liking.
Alan Johnson, the former moderate Labour MP, aptly described Corbyn as someone who does not ‘indulge in anti-Semitism himself. It is that he indulges the anti-Semitism of others’. The only type of anti-Semite Corbyn seems to have no trouble condemning is that of the neo-Nazi or Right-wing extremist.
In August 2015, Corbyn defended Stephen Sizer, a former Church of England vicar who was accused of posting a link to an avowedly anti-Semitic website, The Ugly Truth, which contends that Jews were responsible for 9/11, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the daily murder of Palestinian children for sport and harvesting organs from Gentiles at gunpoint.
Jewish Labour MP Luciana Berger MP walked with two police officers back to the Labour Party conference last year
Corbyn did more than defend Sizer. He attacked Sizer’s critics, claiming the vicar was under attack only because he ‘dared to speak out against Zionism’.
When the Church of England disciplined Sizer, Corbyn seemed to suggest that Church authorities were part of a pro-Israel smear campaign.
Corbyn has come to the defence of other questionable personalities.
One month after 9/11, Raed Salah, a Palestinian Islamist preacher, contended that American Jews working in cahoots with Israel had planned and carried out the attacks as a means of ‘diverting attention’ from Israeli wrongs and directing sympathy ‘towards the American continent’.
Salah asserted that 4,000 Jews had been warned not to go to work on September 11, and were saved as a result. In 2007, Salah revived the pernicious accusation that Jews used the blood of gentile children in making matzah [bread]. When the Home Office announced it was denying Salah permission to enter the UK, Corbyn protested, declaring him an ‘honoured citizen’.
Corbyn publicly invited Salah to Parliament, where he promised to serve him tea on the terrace, because he ‘deserves it’.
While some people were not surprised that Corbyn was willing to keep company with a person who had such radical views about Jews, they were a bit perplexed that he would welcome a man who had declared homosexuality to be ‘not only a crime, but a great crime’.
Even though the EU and the U.S. have classified Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist organisations, Corbyn has described them as ‘friends’, attacked the notion they were ‘terrorists’ and invited them to meet him at Parliament. (He eventually backed down from his ‘friends’ description, but only after repeatedly refusing to do so.)
Corbyn also worked with Dyab Abou Jahjah, an Arab political activist who described his sense of ‘sweet revenge’ as he watched the 9/11 attack on TV, but later denounced the attackers as criminals. Corbyn invited him to speak at a London anti-war rally in 2009.
During the 2015 UK election campaign, Jahjah praised Corbyn’s ‘common belief in dialogue, justice and equality of all’, which made their ‘collaboration’ possible.
When questioned about this, Corbyn said he could not remember ever having worked with Jahjah. When reporters produced pictures of the pair together, Corbyn quickly withdrew his claim.
Members of London’s Jewish community are pictured on a protest outside Parliament last March. The Jewish community have called on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to stamp out anti-Semitism in the Labour Party
In 2010, he hosted a call-in show on Iranian Press TV — the Islamic Republic’s only legal television station. To a caller who described Israel as a ‘disease’ Arabs must ‘get rid’ of from the Middle East, Corbyn responded: ‘OK. Thank you for your call.’ Another caller described the BBC as ‘Zionist liars’. Corbyn said the caller had ‘a good point’. That same year on Holocaust Remembrance Day, he hosted an ‘Auschwitz to Gaza’ event in Parliament at which repeated comparisons were made between Jews, Israelis and Nazis.
In 2011, he proposed that Holocaust Remembrance Day be renamed Genocide Remembrance Day because ‘every life is of value’. Of course every life is of value. Of course every genocide is deplorable. But his determination to erase the specific Jewish connection to this day was striking.
In 2012, American graffiti artist Kalen Ockerman painted a mural, entitled Freedom For Humanity, on a privately owned building in London’s East End. It depicted elderly, formally dressed men (described by the artist as an ‘elite banker cartel’) playing Monopoly on a table that rested on the backs of naked, darker-skinned men.
The hook-nosed, repulsive-looking characters at the table were straight out of an anti-Semitic Nazi publication. A local Labour politician stated that the ‘images of the bankers perpetuate anti-Semitic propaganda’ and the local council ordered the mural to be removed.
When Corbyn learned about it, he praised the artist and defended his artwork. His comments resurfaced last March when screenshots of his Facebook post about it appeared in the media.
Asked about the post by Labour MP Luciana Berger, Corbyn’s staff replied: ‘In 2012 Jeremy was responding to concerns about the removal of public art on the grounds of freedom of speech. However, the mural was offensive and used anti-Semitic imagery, which has no place in our society, and it is right that it was removed.’
Corbyn’s office eventually released a statement which said he regretted he ‘did not look more closely at the image I was commenting on, the contents of which are deeply disturbing and anti-Semitic’. But this isn’t only about Jeremy Corbyn. Were he to retreat into the political wilderness, this problem would not disappear. It’s far too entrenched within the current Labour Party leadership and Corbyn wing of the party.
The Left has an anti-Semitism problem, which was confirmed by events at the 2017 Labour Party conference. Some party members called for the expulsion of Jewish groups. Others refused to condemn Holocaust denial and questioned whether someone with anti-Semitic attitudes should necessarily be barred from the party.
Film director Ken Loach, a longtime party member and leading Corbyn supporter, dismissed the charges of anti-Semitism as ‘mood music’ designed to create hostility towards Corbyn and told the BBC he could not condemn Holocaust denial because ‘history is for us all to discuss’.
He then segued into a condemnation of Israel and the original sin of its founding. Loach and party leaders (those closest to Corbyn) refuse to acknowledge the existence of anti-Semitism within the party, despite the fact the official charged with investigating the matter insisted that the comments he received from Labour Party members on this topic made his ‘hair stand up’ and were ‘redolent of the 1930s’.
In August 2018, the Mail published photographs of Corbyn participating in a wreath-laying ceremony to honour members of the Black September faction of the PLO who were the architects of the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics
Labour faced new criticism in April 2018 when it was revealed that Sameh Habeeb, founder and editor of the Palestine Telegraph, a journal that had published 9/11 conspiracy theories, anti-Semitic cartoons and Holocaust-denial stories, was put forward as a Labour council candidate in Northwood, in North-West London.
The spread of this tolerance for anti-Semitic sentiment was further revealed when reporters discovered that more than a dozen senior staffers who worked for Corbyn and the Labour Party’s Shadow Chancellor were members of social media sites that contained anti-Semitic and violent messages, including posts that called Hitler a great man and threatened to kill Prime Minister Theresa May.
More than 20 Facebook pages associated with Corbyn and Labour contain Holocaust denial, anti-Semitic, misogynist and violent messages. These sites have more than 400,000 members.
One of them, a Facebook group called Jeremy Corbyn Leads Us To Victory, contained an Israeli flag on which the Star of David had been replaced with a swastika.
Another site carried a post stating that ‘six million is a fallacy’, while yet another contended that ‘the Holocaust was a big lie’.
Some of the posts were so laced with expressions of violent extremism that a former Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation suggested that they be investigated by the police.
When confronted with evidence that proves their assertions wrong, Corbyn and his associates routinely fall back on a number of familiar explanations, which include claims that the comments and articles in question are not anti-Semitic, but merely anti-Israel, or that they had not seen the offensive posts.
Another one of his close allies dismissed the allegations of anti-Semitism as coming from Jewish ‘Trump’ supporters who were ‘making [it] up’.
When it was first reported he had said this, he denied having made the comments and said he’d been misquoted. Then a tape surfaced, proving he had done so. The fact he spoke out in response to a letter, signed by 68 UK rabbis and accusing Corbyn of failing to stamp out anti-Semitism inside the party, only made matters worse.
Recently, Labour had to do another about-face. Though Corbyn’s office has insisted he does not support blanket boycotts and sanctions of Israel, only those of items produced in West Bank settlements, footage emerged from 2015 of his participation in a panel in Ireland in which he called for a blanket boycott of Israel ‘to be part and parcel of the legal process and for sanctions against Israel’.
This array of self-contradictory stances, convoluted corrections and reversals leaves many people, including some of Corbyn’s closest allies, unsettled.
In March 2018, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and Jewish Leadership Council decided they’d had enough and sent an open letter to the Labour Party in which they stated: ‘Again and again, Jeremy Corbyn has sided with anti-Semites rather than Jews.
‘At best, this derives from the far-Left’s obsessive hatred of Zionism, Zionists and Israel. At worst, it suggests a conspiratorial worldview in which mainstream Jewish communities are believed to be a hostile entity, a class enemy.’
Corbyn’s response was conciliatory: ‘I recognise that anti-Semitism has surfaced within the Labour Party and has too often been dismissed as simply a matter of a few bad apples.’
Others in the party were not as placatory. That same month, Diane Abbott retweeted a message that claimed ‘more and more people are joining the Labour Party because they are so disgusted by the constant smearing of Jeremy Corbyn.’ In May 2016 on BBC TV, she had said it was a ‘smear against ordinary party members’ to suggest ‘the Labour Party has a problem with anti-Semitism’.
Rank-and-file members weighed in, too. A letter posted on the ‘We Support Jeremy Corbyn’ Facebook page referred to the Board of Deputies of British Jews and Jewish Leadership Council as ‘a very powerful special interest group mobilising its apparent, immense strength against you [Corbyn]. It is clear this group can employ the full might of the BBC to make sure its voice is heard loudly and clearly’.
It is doubtful that Corbyn deliberately seeks out anti-Semites to associate with and to support. But it seems that when he encounters them, their Jew-hatred is irrelevant as long as their other positions — on class, race, capitalism, the role of the state, and Israel/Palestine — are to his liking
Last summer saw the Labour Party enmeshed in new controversies.
In August 2018, the Mail published photographs of Corbyn participating in a wreath-laying ceremony to honour members of the Black September faction of the PLO who were the architects of the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
Initially commenting ‘I was present at that wreath-laying [of the 1985 victims], I don’t think I was actually involved in it,’ Corbyn had to acknowledge his participation in the ceremony when he was shown the photographs and reminded of a column he wrote in the Morning Star, in which he referred to ‘wreaths laid at the graves of those who died on that day [in 1985] and on the graves of others killed by Mossad agents in Paris in 1991’.
Never mind that he got the facts wrong (three of the four men buried at the site were killed by a rival Palestinian faction in Tunis; the fourth was reportedly killed by Mossad agents in Paris in 1992), what infuriated people was Corbyn’s refusal to apologise for honouring the memory of men regarded as terrorists.
Then, at the end of August, the Mail reported that in 2013 Corbyn gave a speech at a conference by an organisation called the Palestinian Return Centre in which he declared that British Zionists ‘clearly have two problems. One is that they don’t want to study history, and secondly, having lived in this country for a very long time, probably all their lives, they don’t understand English irony’.
Corbyn may have said ‘Zionists’ and not ‘Jews’, but listening to the speech, the two seemed interchangeable.
This was a cut to the quick. For what is it but a sense of history and irony that has got Jews through the vicissitudes of their collective experience? It was this statement, more than anything else, that left many Jews utterly convinced that Corbyn was a man whose contempt for them runs deep.
The difficulty he and his associates have in acknowledging anti-Semitism on the Left seems to be rooted in their foundational claim that because being a progressive means being opposed to any form of racism, oppression or group hate — including anti-Semitism — by definition, a true progressive cannot be an anti-Semite.
Their claim runs into trouble when they are confronted by progressive compatriots who include blanket statements about Jews in their excoriation of capitalists who oppress and exploit the poor, who imply that Jews exert undue influence on the media, who deny that Jews can be the victims of race-based hatred in the same way that people of colour are, and who include hate-filled Jewish stereotyping in their criticism of Israeli government policies regarding Palestine.
So, in answer to the question: Is Jeremy Corbyn an anti-Semite? My response would be that that’s the wrong question.
The right questions to ask are: Has he facilitated and amplified expressions of anti-Semitism? Has he been consistently reluctant to acknowledge expressions of anti-Semitism unless they come from white supremacists and neo-Nazis? Will his actions facilitate the institutionalisation of anti-Semitism among other progressives?
Sadly, my answer to all of these is an unequivocal yes.
Adapted from Anti-Semitism: Here And Now by Deborah Lipstadt (£14.99. Scribe UK) © Deborah Lipstadt 2019.
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