4 reasons the “anti-Semitism” attacks on Jeremy Corbyn are dishonest
Jeremy Corbyn leading a July 2014 demonstration against the Israeli war on Gaza. Corbyn’s long record of support for Palestinian human rights has led the Israel lobby to slander him as an anti-Semite.
And these policies are proving so popular that he has surprised everyone by emerging as the front-runner in the election. Voting began this week and the results will be known on 12 September.
As the right-wing of the Labour Party, exemplified by Tony Blair, comes to terms with the reality that they may have lost control of the party, the attacks against Corbyn have become ever more shrill.
Some accusers are trying to paint Corbyn as anti-Semitic. These dishonest attacks are not driven by any legitimate concern for rooting out anti-Jewish bigotry, but are due to Corbyn’s strong record of Palestine solidarity work.
It’s not hard to understand why: a key feature of the party under Blair was nearly unconditional support for Israel. As my colleague David Cronin put it, Blair “is still spoken of in reverential tones” at Labour Friends of Israel events, and Corbyn coming to power is “something of a nightmarish scenario.”
1. Paul Eisen is an obscure figure
The most shocking accusation, originating with The Daily Mail, is that Corbyn has “long standing links” with Paul Eisen, a “notorious” Holocaust denier involved in the group Deir Yassin Remembered.
Eisen certainly expresses disgusting views, denying the Nazi Holocaust took place and frequently expressing other anti-Semitic opinions on his blog.
However, his only real notoriety is for his attempts to infiltrate the Palestine solidarity movement.
Once it became clear what his views were, he was widely condemned and shunned by a movement which is fundamentally anti-racist in its basic principles. Indeed, even in the blog post which the Mail relied onas the source for its smear, Eisen admits that the movement has long “despised me.”
The only real link between the two men (as the Mail conveniently omitted) is that Eisen happens to live in Corbyn’s Islington parliamentary constituency in North London.
Eisen claims to have met him in that capacity – as Corbyn is his member of parliament. It is nonetheless odd that the Mail would be so keen to take the word of a Holocaust denier when it comes to his relationship with Corbyn.
A photograph has been produced of a memorial event which the Mail claims was run by Eisen. However, as this 2013 email sent out by the Palestinian Authority’s UK Mission shows, there was nothing in the advertising about the Holocaust and nothing naming Eisen. There were certainly no links to his blog.
The page misleadingly includes several people as advisors who resigned after some of the the group’s troubling associations became clear.
The site of an infamous historical massacre of Palestinian civilians, Deir Yassin was a Palestinian village invaded and destroyed by Zionist militias before the establishment of Israel.
Corbyn was therefore not the only person misled by Deir Yassin Remembered, as detailed in recent blog posts by long standing Palestine Solidarity Campaign(PSC) activists Diane Langford and Tony Greenstein.
The Jewish Socialist journalist Charlie Pottins recounts on his blog the real story of Paul Eisen’s transformation. As he puts it: “if Jeremy Corbyn attended annual events commemorating the Deir Yassin massacre, where is the evidence that he or anybody else at these events thought they were there to support Holocaust denial?”
Finally, it’s worth noting that, as Greenstein recounts, Corbyn was present, as PSC patron, at the 2012 PSC conference where a Holocaust denier was expelled by a massive majority.
2. Raed Salah is a legitimate Palestinian leader
Another line of attack has been Corbyn’s support for Palestinian political and religious leader Raed Salah, who came to Britain in 2011 for a speaking tour.
He was promptly detained by police at his hotel and subjected to deportation proceedings, which he challenged in court.
The Daily Mail claims Salah is a “Muslim hate preacher.” In fact, Salah is one of the most popular leaders among Palestinian citizens of Israel.
On Channel 4 News Monday night, Cathy Newman aggressively grilled Corbyn on Eisen and Salah. (Newman was caught out in a lie in February after security camera footage proved she had not been “ushered out” of a London mosque as she had claimed. Newman apparently concocted the story in an attempt to portray South London Islamic Centre as misogynistic – the center received death threats as a result.)
It was instigated by pro-Israel lobby groups, which worked in concert with the UK and Israeli governments.
“He and I represent different political organizations and traditions,” Zoabi said. “The British authorities have fallen into an Israeli trap. Instead of supporting our leaders and their campaign for freedom and democracy, they are supporting Israeli persecution of the Palestinian citizens of Israel.”
Salah was ultimately vindicated. In April 2012 a judge ruled in his favor “on all grounds.”
Home Secretary Theresa May’s decision to deport Salah was “entirely unnecessary” and she had been “misled” on the facts, the judge said.
One of the accusations leveled at Salah was that he had invoked the anti-Semitic blood libel in a 2007 speech during a Palestinian demonstration against Israeli occupation in Jerusalem.
But the version of the speech reported in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz (and relied on during the UK Home Office’s court case against Salah) inserted the word “Jewish” into its version of the speech.
Salah argued that the mention of “holy bread” was actually a reference to the the Spanish inquisition spilling the blood of children and using religion as a cover for its crimes.
In a Guardian article published after he was vindicated, Salah clarified that “I don’t believe in the ‘blood libel’ against Jews and I reject it in its entirety” (but a Guardian editor admitted in the comments section that she had removed this key paragraph from the published opinion piece).
The following year an Israeli court found Salah had not used the blood libel and acquitted him of incitement to racism. But the court jailed him for “incitement” over the protest, which the Israeli government – typically – characterized as a “riot.”
Last year, another Israeli court overturned the acquittal – siding again with the state. On Tuesday, Salah’s lawyer told Middle East Eye that he had appealed the case in the Israeli high court and a ruling is expected in the coming months.
Israel’s long campaign against Salah may even have gone as far as assassination attempts. In 2010, secret video footage showed that the Shin Bet, Israel’s secret police, had attempted to persuade Chaim Pearlman, a known extremist Jewish settler, to assassinate Salah.
At the vanguard of the 2011-12 media campaign against Salah was the Community Security Trust, a registered UK charity which is supposedly an apolitical organization to monitor and combat anti-Semitism. May’s home office relied in large part on the CST for its information.
While CST may do some work combating anti-Jewish hatred, it also systemically conflates valid criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism.
In 2013, for instance, I revealed that the CST secretly played a leading role in establishing a campaign group to tackle the Palestinian movement to boycott Israel.
3. The Israel lobby habitually smears all critics as “anti-Semites”
In the smear campaign against Corbyn, the media are taking their lead from Israel lobby groups, which routinely slander all critics of Israel as anti-Jewish.
Alan Johnson, a Labour Party member, and leading figure in the Israel lobby group BICOM, blogged atLeft Foot Forward in June that “Raed Salah is a deal-breaker” and he could therefore not support Corbyn (Labour blog Left Futures called Johnson’s article “reactionary and dishonest”).
Tellingly, the paper’s Marcus Dysch engages in some disgraceful denial of history of his own when hewrites that Deir Yassin was only an “alleged killing.”
Deir Yassin is probably the most well known and well attested historical massacre of Palestinian civilians. More than 100 Palestinians, including babies, were killed by Zionist militias on 9 April 1948.
The terror generated by this massacre and other attacks helped precipitate the flight of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their villages in the months before Israel was established, fearing their fate would be the same.
The attacks by Cathy Newman and (to a lesser extent) The Daily Mail picked up on the Chronicle’sdishonest smears against Corbyn. Corbyn hit back that the attacks were “ludicrous and wrong.”
The CST too, has led attacks on Corbyn.
But fewer people seem to be buying the line that Israel is an embattled democracy that yearns only for peace and that all its critics are just bigots.
On Tuesday, a long list of prominent Jewish left-wing activists (including the beloved children’s poetMichael Rosen) slammed the Chronicle for its “dishonest” and anti-Palestinian attacks on Corbyn: “We do not accept that you speak on behalf of progressive Jews in this country. You speak only for Jews who support Israel, right or wrong.”
4. Not even the Israel lobby directly claims Corbyn is an anti-Semite
The Telegraph splashed on its front page Saturday the headline claim that a Labour lawmaker had accused Corbyn of “anti-Semitic rhetoric.”
Problem: this was a straight-up lie; there was no such claim.
This is carefully worded to associate Corbyn with anti-Semitism, while falling short of actually libeling him as an anti-Semite.
But even this narrow claim by Lewis, a former vice-chair of Labour Friends of Israel, does not stand up to scrutiny.
In 2009, when Lewis was named foreign office minister for the Middle East, The Independent noted that his appointment “raised eyebrows in the Foreign Office” as he had been “one of the most outspoken political supporters of Israel’s [2008-2009] military assault on Gaza. Critics can’t help but wonder how objective Lewis is likely to be in his new post.”
Lewis was later tasked by Labour leaders with attempting to get trade unions to reverse their decision to campaign for the boycott of Israel. He failed.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews too, seems sensitive to libeling Corbyn and would only say in its statement to the Daily Mail that “Paul Eisen is a notorious Holocaust denier and if Jeremy Corbyn does have links with him this would be very alarming” (emphasis added).
Ultimately the only thing these attacks prove is that organized supporters of Israel will stop at nothing in their attempt to throw enough mud at a politician who has promised to end the UK’s military support for Israel.