The Corbyn Case
“What has alarmed many people is the revelation that the Labour Party is now led by a man who sees no place for a Jewish state and has no time for British Jews who defend such a state”
It may seem perverse to have as our cover story this month Professor David Abulafia’s searing indictment of Jeremy Corbyn, placing the left-wing anti-Semitism that he now symbolises in its proper historical context. Though has never been partisan, those who are not regular readers may wrongly suspect us of anti-Labour bias. The Corbyn Case, which refused to go away throughout the summer, has now been supplanted by Brexit, a matter of much greater moment to most people.
And yet we make no apology for refusing to play Mr Corbyn’s game by changing the subject. For one thing, a majority of the country evidently finds his equivocations and evasions as repulsive as we do: a poll on the eve of the Labour Conference found that twice as many now dislike the party leader as like him. His undeclared foreign visits, some for sinister purposes connected to his hostility to Israel, are now subject to a parliamentary investigation that could result in the suspension of the Leader of the Opposition — unheard of in the history of the House. It is demonstrably untrue that the country is indifferent to the Labour leader’s venomous world view. But there is more to him than a Rip van Winkle of the Cold War.
Mr Corbyn’s long record of support for nations and organisations that are implacably opposed to the West is unprecedented. Rightly, the public is anxious about what this might portend, were he ever to occupy Downing Street. What has alarmed many people is the revelation that the Labour Party is now led by a man who sees no place for a Jewish state, has no time for British Jews who defend such a state, and makes no apology for consorting with or glorifying those who actively work to destroy it. Mr Corbyn takes cognisance only of those Jews (a vanishingly small minority) who share his loathing of Israel — not unlike the anti-Semitic mayor of Vienna, Karl Lueger, who notoriously quipped: “I’ll decide who is a Jew.”
Mr Corbyn’s role in the rise of left-wing anti-Semitism is a scandal. By alluding to Émile Zola’s great polemic “J’accuse!”, Professor Abulafia has linked this scandal to the Dreyfus Case. We therefore propose to refer to the Labour leader’s scandal as “the Corbyn Case”. Zola framed his accusation in 1898 as an open letter to the French president, published on the front page of a newspaper — the most celebrated modern example of an ancient literary device. He accused the government and the army of a vast cover up and listed all the individuals who had participated in the miscarriage of justice of which Dreyfus was the victim. Zola challenged them to sue him for libel, which some of them did; he was convicted, but fled to England for a year to avoid prison.
The Corbyn Case is also about an injustice: but whereas Colonel Dreyfus was an innocent man who was falsely charged, convicted, imprisoned and deported to Devil’s Island, Jeremy Corbyn is a guilty man who protests his innocence while presiding over a purge of any Labour MP who tells the truth. Even more, though, the Corbyn Case is about infamy: the infamy of a powerful and unscrupulous man, who is not ashamed to summon up demons from the past, to countenance monstrous conspiracy theories and use obfuscation to give cover to the oldest hatred in the world.
And for what purpose? The Corbyn Case is also about politics — electoral politics. In the words of Mehdi Hasan, now political editor of Huffington Post and Al Jazeera presenter, “anti-Semitism isn’t just tolerated in some sections of the British Muslim community; it’s routine and commonplace . . . It’s our dirty little secret.” In the five years since Hasan made his confession, anti-Semitism has become the “dirty little secret” of another community: the Left of the Labour Party. And there is a connection: the Left is targeting Muslim votes. No wonder Mr Corbyn has greeted all accusations of anti-Semitism, as Professor Abulafia says, with indifference or silence. Instead of challenging this vile prejudice and demanding that Muslim community leaders address the canker in their midst, the Labour Party has quietly acquiesced. It tolerates the Corbyn camp’s toadying to anti-Semitic preachers and demagogues. How different the outcome of the Corbyn Case might have been if more Muslims had denounced the Labour leader to demonstrate their revulsion at anti-Semitism. Layla Moran, a Liberal Democrat MP of Christian Palestinian extraction, did exactly that. But Labour is indelibly tainted.
The Dreyfus Case cast a long shadow over French history. Jews do not feel safe in many French cities and thousands have already left for Israel. How long a shadow will the Corbyn Case cast over our island story? Already there is talk of emigration. During the High Holy Days, fear stalked the synagogues: a fear that in modern times British Jews have never known before, a fear which the Prime Minister sought to allay in her speech last month to the United Jewish Israel Appeal dinner. Theresa May said she was “sickened” to be told that Jews feared for their future in Britain. But she did not name the source of the fear: Jeremy Corbyn.
Jews can only be free in a free society. Jews can only have a voice in a democracy that values each individual equally. Jews can only be safe in a land that lives under the rule of law. Britain is such a society. (So is Israel.) It is time for the silent to speak up and sweep away the infamy that now afflicts the Labour Party. Jews have played their part, but they are few and it is now for the non-Jewish majority to do the right thing.