Europa Europa: Bad Joke

Jeremy Corbyn: Adoption of official antisemitism definition undermined by a caveat

After a long, hot northern summer of political stasis, Scotland Yard announced that it has stepped in to investigate 45 members of the British Labour Party who have been accused of incidents of antisemitism. Of these, according to the officer in charge, 17 could fall into the criminal category of race hatred. 

At the time of writing, it is not known whether they include Jeremy Corbyn, the extreme neo-Marxist Labour leader himself, who has hailed leaders of Hamas and Hezbollah as “friends”, laid a wreath at the graves of those who masterminded the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, and was, most recently, shown at a 2013 meeting telling the Palestinian ambassador that “Zionists” (read: Jews) had not learned the lessons of history and, no matter whether they had been born and raised in Britain, did not understand “English irony” (as, of course, did the Palestinian ambassador).

Cressida Dick, the head of Scotland Yard, said her force would investigate the dossier. “Hate crime is something we take very, very seriously,” she told the London-based radio station LBC. “I, of course, will pass this to my experts to deal with. The law is quite complicated, the bar is actually quite high. It’s not just because I’m offended or you’re insulted; it’s got to be threatening. But it is quite a high bar because freedom of speech is highly valued in this country. But absolutely, if somebody hands us a dossier, we’ll look at it, we’ll scope it, we’ll see if a crime has been committed.”

The problem that has kept the issue simmering has been Corbyn’s refusal to adopt the universally recognised definition of antisemitism, which was drawn up by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. Most problematic for Labour were four examples, most relating to the right of the Jewish people to a state and Israel’s right to exist. While the document specifically permits criticism of Israeli government policy, it labelled as antisemitic the claim that the existence of the State of Israel was “a racist endeavour”.

Why has Corbyn, leader of the Israel-hate movement, been so intransigent on the issue? Because, quite simply, he knew that by embracing the definition in full he would be labelling himself as an antisemite. Indeed, one of his own parliamentarians, frustrated at his obduracy, confronted him in Parliament with a simple, if rather unparliamentary, observation: “You’re a f—— antisemite and racist!”

When, eventually, the Labour Party last month adopted the antisemitism resolution in full, it could not refrain from adding a caveat, declaring oxymoronically that, “This does not in any way undermine the freedom of expression on Israel and the rights of Palestinians”.

Corbyn is no riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. He is a caricature straight out of the far-left playbook, wrapped in 1960s counter-culture rhetoric, inside an Israel-hating obsession. He is, in short, the ageing (69-year-old) hippie from central casting. 

He is staunchly pro-Third World and anti-Western. He wants Britain to unilaterally disarm and withdraw from NATO (because he loathes America only slightly less than Israel and would like to break the transatlantic alliance). And he wants to redistribute wealth. 

To Corbyn and his far-left disciples, inspiration for thousands of trolls threatening to rape and decapitate Jewish women and wishing cancer on anyone else who appears to oppose them, Jews exercise unlimited powers. Their diabolical fingers manipulate international finance and they use their resultant wealth and power to control the media. Most of all, they represent the kulaks of the 21st century; the class-enemy of those who, with Corbyn, carry the red banner of the far left. 

Antisemitism had always been at the heart of the far-right. With a twist here and a turn there, it has become the junction where the far-right and the far-left find common cause. 

Corbyn has not had it all his own way. Frank Field, one of the most respected parliamentarians in his ranks, resigned the Labour whip last month, while Corbyn’s deputy, Tom Watson, warned that the Labour Party faced the prospect of disappearing “into a vortex of eternal shame and embarrassment.”

Last month, Stephen Harper, former Prime Minister of Canada, and David Trimble, former First Minister of Northern Ireland (and Nobel Peace laureate) were sufficiently moved to write a joint article for London’s Daily Telegraph: “Today’s anti-Semitism all too often manifests itself in the singling out of Israel, depicted as a uniquely horrific place, responsible for all the ills of the Middle East, if not the world,” they wrote. 

“A fair examination would show that nothing could be further from the truth. Israel grapples with some of the most acute challenges the West faces in defending ourselves against jihadist aggression while maintaining modern, open societies. Israel carries this burden admirably, sustained by a democratic polity and a civil judiciary that, in some instances, surpass our own practices. It does this despite having been repeatedly tested under fire in ways our own citizens would simply not tolerate.”

Jeremy Corbyn, a 35-year obscure backbencher with well-known maverick tendencies, was elected Labour leader as a joke. Bad joke. No one is laughing now.