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Friday, August 24, 2018

Corbyn in hot water over comments about 'Zionists'

If anybody was under the delusion that Labour's problem with anti-Semites was because of infiltration by undesirables, or even a misunderstanding born of crass insensitivity on the part of the party hierarchy, then the revelation of an historic faux pas yesterday should have disabused them. The problem is neither of these things. The problem is Jeremy Corbyn himself.

As The Times reports, a leading Jewish charity has accused the Labour leader of “unambiguous anti-Semitic hate” after he was caught on camera telling a pro-Palestinian event that Zionists in Britain “don’t understand English irony”. It is a speech that appears to portray Jews as an alien culture.

The paper says that Corbyn has been fighting claims of antisemitism in his party for most of the three years of his leadership. However, the latest disclosure is the most damaging blow yet to his claims that he opposes prejudice against Jews. They add that Jamie Susskind, a former speechwriter for Ed Miliband, has called on the Labour leader to resign:

In the 2013 speech Mr Corbyn referred to a speech by Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian Authority representative in Britain. Mr Corbyn said that the envoy’s words had been “dutifully recorded by the thankfully silent Zionists who were in the audience on that occasion and then came up and berated him afterwards for what he’d said.

“So clearly 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 either. Manuel does understand English irony and uses it very, very effectively so I think they need two lessons which we can help them with.”

Although Mr Corbyn referred to Zionists, his description was of an immigrant community of long standing in Britain, which he declined to name.

As The Times points out, Baroness Chakrabarti, the Labour peer, said in her report on antisemitism in the party, commissioned by Mr Corbyn two years ago, that “Zionist” was a term of abuse for Jews. She said that she had “heard testimony and heard for myself first hand the way in which the word ‘Zionist’ has been used personally, abusively or as a euphemism for ‘Jew’.

“My advice to critics of the Israeli state and/or government is to use the term ‘Zionist’ advisedly, carefully and never euphemistically or as part of personal abuse,” she wrote.

Mr Susskind, who is the former chairman of the Oxford University Labour Club, said: “Corbyn is not criticising Israel or supporting Palestinians. He is saying that Zionists (read Jews) who have lived in England their whole lives are somehow not fully English in their sensibilities. He has to go.” But there is more:

Mr Corbyn made his comments at Friends House in Euston during an event publicised on the propaganda website of the military wing of Hamas, the Al-Qassam Brigades, which has been proscribed as a terrorist organisation by the Home Office since 2001. A spokesman for Labour said that he was there to support peace.

Among the speakers was Daud Abdullah, a former deputy general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, who has been accused of calling for violence against Israelis and condoning attacks on British troops. Stephen Sizer, a vicar who has suggested that Israel was behind the 9/11 attacks, also spoke.

It has also emerged that Mr Corbyn accused Israel of genocide at a rally in 2014. The Daily Mail reported that he was recorded at a protest near the Israeli embassy in London, saying: “This is an occupation, this is a genocidal attack on Palestinian people.”

In the light of these incidents it is no longer enough for Corbyn's spokespeople to trot out the line that “Jeremy is totally opposed to all forms of antisemitism and is determined to drive it out from society." He needs to apologise in person for his past actions and then take decisive action to drive out racist and anti-Semitic speech and behaviour from the Labour Party altogether, including adopting the unamended international definition of anti-Semitism.
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