18April2019

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The Fake News Nazi - Corbyn, Williamson And The Anti-Semitism Scandal

One of us had a discussion with an elderly relative:

'He can't be allowed to become Prime Minister.'

'Why not?'

'It's so awful...'

'What is?'

'The way he hates the Jews.'

The last comment was spoken with real anguish, the result of continuous exposure to just two main news sources: the Daily Mail and the BBC.

What is astonishing is that, just four years ago, essentially no-one held this view of Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn first became an MP in 1983. He stood for the Labour leadership 32 years later, in May 2015. We searched the ProQuest database for UK newspaper articles containing:

'Jeremy Corbyn' and 'anti-semitism' before 1 May 2015 = 18 hits

'Jeremy Corbyn' and 'anti-semitism' after 1 May 2015 = 11,251 hits

None of the 18 hits accused Corbyn of anti-semitism. For his first 32 years as an MP, it just wasn't a theme associated with him.

We also searched the ProQuest database for UK newspaper articles containing:

'Labour Party' and 'anti-semitism' before 1 May 2015 = 5,347 hits

'Labour Party' and 'anti-semitism' after 1 May 2015 = 13,921 hits

The archive begins in 1980, which means that more than twice as many articles have included these terms in the last four years than in the 35 years from 1980 until May 2015 when Corbyn stood for the Labour leadership. A standard response to these findings runs along these lines:

'Irrelevant backbencher gets less Press attention than Leader of The Opposition SHOCKER. What's your next scoop, Water Wet, Sky Blue?'

But in fact, Corbyn was not an irrelevant backbencher. We found 3,662 hits for articles mentioning Corbyn before May 2015. Many of these are mentions in passing, but he had also long been a high-profile anti-war MP at a time of numerous wars. And he was frequently smeared, only not about his supposed anti-semitism. Consider, for example, an article that appeared in The Sun in 1999, under a typically cruel title:

'Why did it take you so long to dump him, Mrs Corbyn?' (Ally Ross, The Sun, 13 May 1999)

The story:

'EXTREME Left MP Jeremy Corbyn has been dumped by his missus after an amazing bust-up over their son's education.'

The key issue, according to The Sun:

'Now the question on everyone's lips is: Why did it take her so long to leave the loathsome Lefty, and more importantly, why is she only moaning about his choice of schools?'

Because there was, apparently, plenty to moan about. The Sun described Corbyn as 'class crusader Jeremy - a rabid IRA sympathiser' who 'not only looks and dresses like a third-rate Open University lecturer, he thinks like one too. In 1984 the Provo stooge invited twice-convicted terrorist and bomber Linda Quigley to the House of Commons just 13 days after the IRA's murderous attack on Tories staying at the Grand Hotel in Brighton'.

This was pretty brutal stuff. The Sun added of Corbyn's ex-wife:

'Claudia's saviour of the masses also suffers incredible delusions of grandeur. Communist states may be falling like dominoes, but raving Red Jeremy still believes his outdated views are relevant to modern-day Britain.'

And:

'Not only is Jeremy a political coward who backs terrorists, he is also a self-confessed big girl's blouse.'

And:

'Jeremy's mis-shapen suits, lumpy jumpers and nylon shirts are not exactly what the well-dressed radical is wearing in 1999... Claudia should be aware her ex is irredeemably, unforgivably, annoyingly stupid.'

Given the no-holds-barred nature of the smear, it is amazing that The Sun made no mention at all of Corbyn's vile anti-semitism, viewed as his most obvious and dangerous defect now.

The reason is that, as this shows, not even his worst enemies viewed him as an anti-semite. The extreme Tory press aside, the accepted view of Corbyn pre-2015 is indicated by a long, admiring piece in which Jewish journalist Deborah Ross, whose family members were murdered in Polish pogroms even before the Nazi Holocaust was unleashed, interviewed him for the Independent in 2005. Ross commented:

'He is also, it is generally agreed, an exemplary constituency MP. Even my friend Rebecca, who recently sought his help on a local issue, and never usually has a nice word to say about anybody, which is why I like her, describes him as a "totally genuine mensch".'

Ross added:

'As The Sun would have it, Mr Corbyn is a "beardy Bolshevik" and "loathsome lefty" but he does not come across as either. He has strong opinions but does not demand you listen to them, if you don't want to.

'He is scandal free, unless you count the hoo-ha a few years back when it was revealed that Jeremy's oldest son would be attending a grammar school outside the borough.'

Joseph Finlay is a former Deputy Editor of the Jewish Quarterly, who co-founded a range of grassroots Jewish organisations such as Moishe House London, Wandering Jews, Jewdas and The Open Talmud Project. On 2 March 2018, Finlay wrote in his blog under the title, 'Jeremy Corbyn is an anti-racist, not an anti-Semite':

'Firstly we need to restore some perspective. The Labour party has thousands of Jewish members, many Jewish councillors, a number of prominent Jewish MPs and several Jewish members of its ruling council. Many people at the heart of the Corbyn team, such as Jon Lansman, James Schneider and Rhea Wolfson are also Jewish. Ed Miliband, the previous party leader, was Jewish (and suffered antisemitism at the hands of the press and the Conservatives). I have been a member for five years and, as a Jew, have had only positive experiences.'

Finlay added:

'Jeremy Corbyn has been MP for Islington North since 1983 – a constituency with a significant Jewish population. Given that he has regularly polled over 60% of the vote (73% in 2017) it seems likely that a sizeable number of Jewish constituents voted for him. As a constituency MP he regularly visited synagogues and has appeared at many Jewish religious and cultural events. He is close friends with the leaders of the Jewish Socialist Group, from whom he has gained a rich knowledge of the history of the Jewish Labour Bund, and he has named the defeat of Mosley's Fascists at the Battle of Cable as a key historical moment for him. His 2017 Holocaust Memorial Day statement talked about Shmuel Zygielboym, the Polish Bund leader exiled to London who committed suicide in an attempt to awaken the world to the Nazi genocide. How many British politicians have that level of knowledge of modern Jewish history?'

Israel-based journalist Jonathan Cook notes that a recent Labour Party report 'decisively undercut' the claims of Corbyn's critics 'not only of endemic anti-semitism in Labour, but of any significant problem at all'. Cook summarised:

'Over the previous 10 months, 673 complaints had been filed against Labour members over alleged anti-semitic behaviour, many based on online comments. In a third of those cases, insufficient evidence had been produced.

'The 453 other allegations represented 0.08 percent of the 540,000-strong Labour membership. Hardly "endemic" or "institutional", it seems.'

He added:

'That echoed an earlier report by the Commons home affairs committee, which found there was "no reliable, empirical evidence" that Labour had more of an anti-semitism problem than any other British political party.'

In 'Antisemitism in contemporary Great Britain: A study of attitudes towards Jews and Israel' by the Jewish Institute for Policy Research, L. Daniel Staetsky found:

'Levels of antisemitism among those on the left-wing of the political spectrum, including the far-left, are indistinguishable from those found in the general population. Yet, all parts of those on the left of the political spectrum – including the "slightly left-of-centre," the "fairly left-wing" and the "very left-wing" – exhibit higher levels of anti-Israelism than average. The most antisemitic group on the political spectrum consists of those who identify as very right-wing: the presence of antisemitic attitudes in this group is 2 to 4 times higher compared to the general population.'

The report notes that 'the prevalence of antisemitism on the far right is considerably higher than on the left and in the political centre'.

Noam Chomsky has commented:

'The charges of anti-Semitism against Corbyn are without merit, an underhanded contribution to the disgraceful efforts to fend off the threat that a political party might emerge that is led by an admirable and decent human being, a party that is actually committed to the interests and just demands of its popular constituency and the great majority of the population generally, while also authentically concerned with the rights of suffering and oppressed people throughout the world. Plainly an intolerable threat to order.' (Noam Chomsky, email to Media Lens, 9 September 2018)

 

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