Jeremy Corbyn and anti-Semitism

Jeremy_CorbynI was spurred to write this mostly by observations over the last week of three people I respect very much and who are intelligent and politically minded folks outright describing Corbyn as an anti-semite (an accusation even the right-wing media have stopped short of making). There has also been a lot of commentary that Corbyn has refused to respond to these allegations, which is mostly untrue.

I’d like to preface this by saying that I am not a journalist. I have researched everything in this post but there is always the possibility that I have missed something or misinterpreted something – and please do tell me if you think that I have so that I may work it into the post. This post is not intended to be an authoritative proof on anything but rather an illustration that he is clearly not an anti-semite, that the accusations against him seem to be overblown and that the issues at hand are very complex.

A few days ago, the Jewish Chronicle posted an article demanding Corbyn answer 7 allegations that appear to paint him as an anti-semite. Upon scrutiny of these accusations, my general finding is that this is lazy, poorly researched journalism with misleading and factually incorrect statements based on often third-hand sources. To start with, the JC fail to provide any sources (warning sign number 1), and appear to get a lot of the content from the Daily Mail (warning sign number 2). I will approach each allegation separately.

1. “Did you donate, as alleged by its founder, to Deir Yassin Remembered (DYR), a group that publishes open antisemitism, run by Holocaust denier Paul Eisen — an organisation so extreme that even the Palestine Solidarity Campaign refuses to associate with it?”

This was unfortunately the most complex question to approach, because DYR is such a small organisation that there is scant information on it online and it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page. In fact, at first glance there appears to be not one but two such named groups. The JC doesn’t make clear which one they refer to, but the DM and the Guardian article they cite seem to think it’s the first one. However the DM mention a specifically annual ‘commemoration’ which only the second group appear to run. I am fairly convinced that they are two separate websites for the same group at different points in time.

So what is the group? Well, it seeks to commemorate the Deir Yassin Massacre, an attack on a village of Palestinian Arabs in 1948 by Zionist paramilitaries. 107 villagers were slaughtered in the attack. The group holds regular meetings, events and commemorations. This is evidently not a bad cause. It certainly isn’t something you would criticise Corbyn for attending. I have searched their website and have noted the following:

  1. I cannot find any anti-semitism – in fact the site’s mission statement acknowledges and laments the suffering that Jews have had to face. I will concede that I have not scoured the site comprehensively enough to rule out any anti-semitism, but the overall tone certainly does not suggest that it is an anti-semitic organisation.
  2. Paul Eisen does not seem to be listed anywhere as its founder or leader, but is listed as being on the board of directors.
  3. The leadership is described as consisting of “Palestinians, Jews, and others”. In fact Eisen himself is a Jew – although I realise that doesn’t necessarily preclude him from being anti-semitic.
  4. I cannot find anything at all related to Jeremy Corbyn on the site.

Now I haven’t read every thing they have ever published so I can’t rule out that they have published anti-semitic articles in the past. What seems clear though is that if there is any anti-semitism there then we can’t assume it’s salient enough that Corbyn would know about it if and when he donated. When did he supposedly donate, by the way? Was it when Eisen was on the board? Did he know Eisen was on the board? Did he know Eisen is a holocaust denier? Do you know the personal beliefs of the board members of the charities you donate to? The fact that DYR is legally a charity in the US would seem to bolster its credentials.

Whether he actually donated or not has not been answered (and if he did, I’ve yet to see anything that would be wrong with that), but he has publicly denied any links to Eisen and indeed the extent of Eisen’s claims is that “Jeremy always said hello” – not exactly a damning indictment.

Finally, the claim that the Palestine Solidarity Campaign refuses to associate with it is factually incorrect. Two members merely proposed a motion to disassociate themselves, and the motion failed.

2. “Have you, as Mr Eisen claims, regularly attended DYR’s annual conference?”

This is a bit of a sneakily worded question, as it makes it sound like Corbyn is a part of the group itself. Eisen actually suggested that Corbyn attends the commemoration, not some ‘conference’. I think I covered what Corbyn attending a commemoration for 107 slaughtered villagers means in the previous question.

3. “Why have you accepted an invitation to appear at a conference on August 22 alongside Carlos Latuff, the notorious anti-Semitic cartoonist?”

Corbyn has already refuted this claim. Even so, to describe Latuff as a ‘notorious anti-semitic’ is disingenuous as even a glance at his Wikipedia page shows that there is considerable debate over that claim. He is defended even by Jewish Organisations. Most importantly, I am not sure that being a panelist at an event promoting Palestinian and Latin American solidarity, at which one of the ‘many more’ than 18 other guests happens to be Latuff, would even be worrying if it were true.

4. “Why did you write to the Church of England authorities to defend Rev Stephen Sizer, a vicar banned from social media because of his habit of posting anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, telling them that Rev Sizer was “under attack” because he had “dared to speak out over Zionism”?”

Again I had never heard of Sizer before but this seems to be a particularly pernicious accusation, as rather than a ‘habit’ of ‘anti-semitic’ conspiracy theories, this refers to a single incident where he linked from his blog to a conspiracy video that suggested that the Israeli government was complicit in 9/11. Is this dumb? Yes. Is it habitual or anti-semitic? No. Sizer takes anti-Zionist views and unfortunately this JC article seems to have a trend of conflating anti-Zionism with anti-semitism; a deplorable tactic which disappointingly is often used by many people to discredit people who oppose Israeli foreign policy. A weird irony here is that the Chairman of the Board of the JC actually defended Sizer on this matter.

Incidentally, the ‘ban’ from social media was done by the CofE (rather than Facebook), of which he is still a clergyman and was not otherwise punished.

Corbyn’s full quote: “[people are] intent on discrediting the excellent work that Stephen does in highlighting the injustices of the Palestinian Israeli situation… part of a wider pattern of demonising those who dare to stand up and speak out against Zionism.”.

5. “Why do you associate with Hamas and Hezbollah and refer to them as your “friends”?”

This is just poor journalism, as the JC themselves reported on Corbyn’s response to this criticism a month earlier. Corbyn explained that he used the term ‘friends’ in a ‘collective way’, does not support what either organisation does, and that it is clear that if there is going to be a peace process in the middle east, Hamas and Hezbollah need to be at the table. Anyone who has any knowledge of the Israel/Palestine situation should see the truth in this; the tactics the groups may use are deplorable but they are the dominant Arab force in the Israel/Arab conflict. Hamas are literally the closest thing to a government that there is in Gaza.

6. “Why have you failed to condemn the anti-Semitic posters and banners that dominate the annual Al-Quds Day rally, sponsored by the Stop The War Coalition, which you chair?”

This is a little misleading as it makes it sound like he’s the leader of the coalition whereas in fact he is the chair of the ‘Officers’ committee. There are 18 Officers, 9 Vice Presidents and 1 President (currently vacant). I have tried to find any actual sponsorship by the coalition of the rally and failed, although they do provide information to their readers about the event.

As for the rally itself, it is a pro-Palestine rally, which I suppose very possibly sees the occasional anti-semitic banner – although I have failed to find evidence of any. I have found pictures of anti-Zionist and anti-Israel (some very anti-Israel) posters, but no anti-semitic ones. Clearly they do not ‘dominate’ the rally.

This is however rather beside the point, because Corbyn has not failed to condemn anti-semitic posters.

Frankly, to attack someone as anti-semitic for being part of an organisation that provides information on a huge anti-war march that critics of Israel attend just smacks of desperation.

7. “Why did you describe Raead Salah, a man convicted of the blood libel, as an ‘honoured citizen’?”

Raed Salah was not convicted of the blood libel. He additionally has always denied the allegations and in fact in the speech in which Corbyn described him as an ‘honoured citizen’, he qualified this with the fact that Salah denied the allegation.

To conclude

The allegations appear to be a weaselly, muckraking attempt to discredit someone they feel threatened by. The article repeatedly confuses anti-Zionism with anti-semitism and is very sneakily worded. It’s little surprise that Corbyn hasn’t bothered to respond to it directly, although most of it’s accusations have indeed been refuted by his camp.

Being pro-Palestine there are inevitably people who will brand you as anti-semitic when you criticise Israel. It’s a dishonest and opportunistic tactic and it’s a shame people listen.

This article was reproduced from Corbyn Gloss.

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