“Jeremy Corbyn urges an extraordinary level of care over the analysis of chemical weapons suspected of being used by Russia or Syria, but is always first to denounce Israeli military action”
There are many good reasons to be cautious when it comes to attributing blame in a case like that of the nerve agent attack last month in Salisbury. Unfortunately none of them applies in the case of Jeremy Corbyn. In the aftermath of that outrage the Leader of the Opposition attempted to portray himself as a wise and cautious statesman facing down a government of Dr Strangeloves. But such caution is only ever expressed in one direction.
While he urges an extraordinary — indeed apparently unattainable — level of care when it comes to the analysing of chemical weapons suspected of being used by the governments of Russia or Syria, a wholly different standard of evidence applies if Israel engages in a defensive war. Even when Israel is not involved in any military action in Gaza or anywhere else, Corbyn is always the first to the soap box and the microphone, accusing Israel of human rights violations, war crimes and worse. Why might that be?
One explanation is suggested by the latest revelations about Corbyn’s personal contentment with anti-Semitism. Last month an investigative report into a secret Facebook group called Palestine Live was published by the researcher David Collier. The group was packed with anti-Semites and Holocaust-deniers and repeatedly expressed anti-Semitic sentiments. Stories of Labour Party anti-Semitism no longer get much coverage because people are clearly slightly bored with them. That and the fact that the bar of what is unacceptable continues to rise and rise.
So it was with the muted reaction to this latest disgrace, and the sly response. At first the Labour Party claimed that Corbyn had never been an active member of the group. When given another chance to survey the evidence they admitted that he had been but said that he had left the group once he became Labour leader. And so on. Less attention was paid to the fact that Corbyn’s son Seb (who is also John McDonnell’s chief of staff ) joined the group just last year.
If Theresa May had recently been exposed as being a member of some far-right chat-group with David Duke, and people close to her had also been in the forum, one suspects that the matter would not have died within hours. The Toby Young comparison returns to mind. The British press spent an infinitely greater amount of time focussing on the Twitter history of a journalist recommended as a member of a 15-member quango than it did to the latest exposure of facts about a man who could well be the next Prime Minister.
There is a famous Chinese saying about the feeling that can come from sitting by a river watching the bodies of your enemies float past. It is an instinct I am nervous to celebrate because of a fear of hubris. But after observing last month the difficulties experienced by Tariq Ramadan, now in French custody on rape charges, I cannot avoid mentioning another body that just floated by.
Unlike Ramadan, Jeremy Newmark was never a figure of much note. But he did find his way up through various Jewish organisations. His rise was always inexplicable, for he had the variety of charm that leaves a slight oil slick in its wake. With no especial talent or expertise he nevertheless became prominent. For some years he was one of a small group of communal leaders who decided they knew best: specifically that the Jewish community should distance itself from — indeed declare war on — any ally seen to be on the political Right. The success of this game plan can be seen everywhere.
Naturally Newmark always hoped to pick up his prize and saw his route to it. While the rest of his community were backing away, Newmark auditioned to give cover to Corbyn. Not only did he become a Labour candidate (unsuccessfully) at the last election, but he was allegedly on a list of peers that Corbyn wanted to put forward. What a perfect figleaf this would have been. Corbyn needed a Jew. Newmark would not have disdained a Labour peerage.
Except that the whole thing has come crashing down. The Jewish Chronicle recently broke the long-rumoured story that Newmark had to leave his previous employment as CEO of the Jewish Leadership Council because of accusations that he had been dishonest with his expenses and cheated the charity of funds. He has now resigned as chair of the Jewish Labour Movement.
The German translation of my latest book has come out under the slightly stronger title Der Selbstmord Europas (“The Suicide of Europe”). Happily it swiftly sold out and had to be reprinted. I took to Twitter to apologise to my German readers that Amazon in their country has already run out of stock. With some assistance and considerable pride I sent out my first Tweet in German. Instantly I got a reply from a German reader, thanking me for my pains but adding, “Appreciate the effort, but don’t worry, Douglas, we all speak English.”