By Jeremy Havardi, author and journalist
Much been written about Jeremy Corbyn’s fondness for extremists. He has cosied up to genocidal, Jew-hating terror groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah (he called them ‘friends’), and called for both an arms boycott against Israel and a Palestinian ‘right of return’. He has described Raed Salah as an ‘honoured citizen’ – despite this hate preacher reportedly advocating the blood libel.
Equally shocking is Corbyn’s support for Stephen Sizer, the cleric banned by the Church of England from using social media after posting anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Furthermore, until a week ago, Corbyn was scheduled to speak at a London conference featuring a vicious cast of Israel haters and anti-Zionist bigots, including Hamas supporter Carlos Latuff. Perhaps only Ken Livingstone and George Galloway have outdone Corbyn in embracing such a discreditable number of bigots.
For a man who wishes to become leader of the opposition, and perhaps lead the nation, this is nothing short of scandalous. Corbyn has whitewashed terror groups and given wholehearted support to individuals with a proven record of racist behaviour.
This is not just misguided; it is a debasement of democracy.
But an even greater scandal is the lack of reaction from Corbyn’s political rivals. Certainly, they have taken apart his economic policies, claiming that they will lead Labour into long term political oblivion. All too understandable, many would argue. But they have barely touched on his foreign policy agenda and all too amicable embrace of terror groups. So why the silence?
Of course, foreign policy issues have rarely been a priority in British political debate. Given the recent convulsions in the global economy, and the deep divisions caused by austerity, it is understandable that domestic questions have taken centre stage.
This naturally mirrors a wider apathy towards foreign policy as a voting issue among the British electorate. Unless a war erupts that sucks in British troops, the political turmoil in the Middle East is often too remote for many to care.
For those not attuned to its complexity, the Middle East might seem rather like the Balkans did in 1914, a mysterious and exotic region from which nothing but trouble can be expected. Corbyn’s dubious associations are therefore not impactful enough to register much comment.
Others might argue that simple questions of demography are to blame. Anglo-Jewish voters are heavily outweighed by their Muslim counterparts. As only the former community will be expressing any deep concern over Corbyn’s attitudes, there appears to be little electoral benefit from making a huge issue of them.
All of this might be true, but it doesn’t point to the core problem.
One must also factor in the labour movement’s troubled attitude towards anti-Semitism. The left is supposed to have a visceral antipathy to all forms of racism, including the world’s oldest hatred. In reality, today’s left opposes one type of anti-Semitism and is either indifferent to or more frequently excuses another. When Jew-hatred comes dressed in swastikas, jackboots and flick knives, and when it is voiced by white, tattooed skinheads and self-confessed Nazis, it is easy to recognise and condemn.
The prejudices of the BNP and Golden Dawn are thus held up as the hatred par excellence that society must confront and destroy.
But what if the same prejudice is mouthed by Muslims, themselves held up as members of a victim group? What if the people who express hostility to Jews also claim that they are oppressed by Zionists, or that they are critics of Israeli militarism and occupation?
Given what many leftists believe about the Jewish state, namely that it is a classic violator of international law and an outpost of colonialism, it becomes still harder to see this form of anti-Semitism for what it truly is, namely a toxic prejudice rather than a reaction to Israeli wrongs.
While some on the left understand all this, and even speak out against all forms of anti-Semitism, others do not. They don’t see how Islamic fascists hate Israel and Zionism because of a pre-existing, deeply seated hatred of Jews, rather than the other way round.
That is why Corbyn feels no problem befriending individuals who dress up their prejudices in an anti-Zionist cloak. And that is why his rivals have been so shamefully silent.