The Anti-Semitism Row Shows Us What a Disaster Corbyn Would Be as PM

The Evening Standard (London, England), August 2, 2018 | Go to article overview

The Anti-Semitism Row Shows Us What a Disaster Corbyn Would Be as PM


Byline: Matthew d'Ancona

WE NEVER make mistakes": so says an unnamed Soviet security investigator when asked about the fate of an arrested individual in Alexander Solzhenitsyn's novella An Incident at Krechetovka Station.

For months, a similar principle governed the Labour Party's official response to the anti-Semitism scandal coursing through its ranks. No matter how great the concerns of the Jewish community; no matter how many instances of anti-Semitic behaviour by party members were disclosed; no matter how wanting Labour's new code on anti-Semitism was found by those it is meant to protect: the response stayed the same.

Jeremy Corbyn is a lifelong champion of the oppressed and an anti-racist campaigner. Ergo, it is axiomatically impossible for him to be anti-Semitic, or to lead a party in which anti-Semitism is a structural problem. As he finally conceded in March, there may be "pockets'' of anti-Jewish prejudice in the party but no more. How could there be? We never make mistakes.

That position was never remotely tenable and now it is crumbling in the most ignominious fashion.

The latest humiliation visited upon Corbyn is the revelation that, at a rally in 2010, he compared Israel's actions in Gaza to those of Nazi Germany at Leningrad and Stalingrad. On Monday he was forced to apologise after it was disclosed that he had hosted an event at the House of Commons on Holocaust Memorial Day in 2010 at which the Israeli government was compared to the Nazis. "Views were expressed at the meeting which I do not accept or condone," the Labour leader said.

If that is so, one has to ask: why did Labour, when drawing up its new code, conspicuously omit the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's specific reference to "drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis" as a standard example of anti-Semitic behaviour? Why is Corbyn now denouncing views expressed in 2010 which his party has legitimised in 2018? Meanwhile, Peter Willsman, a member of Labour's ruling National Executive Committee, has also issued an apology for an extraordinary outburst at an NEC meeting in which he attacked Jewish "Trump fanatics" and vehemently questioned the claims of "the 70 rabbis" about anti-Semitism in the party.

The party's general secretary, Jennie Formby, has ruled that no inquiry into Willsman's behaviour is required. Contrast this with the treatment meted out to the Labour MPs, Dame Margaret Hodge and Ian Austin, both of whom face disciplinary action for criticising the leadership over anti-Semitism.

As Corbyn flails, some of his most senior colleagues are trying to salvage some of Labour's dignity. Tom Watson, Labour's deputy leader, tweeted: "For the avoidance of doubt: Peter Willsman is and always has been a loud-mouthed bully. He disgusts me."

More alarmingly for Corbyn, John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, has let it be known that he is deeply unhappy with the manner in which his boss has handled this deplorable mess, telling The Independent that he is "cut to the core". …

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