OPINION: We must engage with the Labour Party, but steer clear of Corbynism

OPINION: We must engage with the Labour Party, but steer clear of Corbynism

Philip Carmel
Philip Carmel

by Phil Carmel, Former international relations director, The Conference of European Rabbis

Philip Carmel
Philip Carmel

It’s not easy being a minority – still harder assuming leadership to represent a minority community. So I have respect for those who take up the mantle and I’m always loath to criticise the Jewish communal leadership of any country, let alone one in which I no longer live. But I remain a proud British Jew and, for what it’s worth, proud of a political philosophy I continue to hold and which owes everything to the British Labour Party.

As Jewish leaders or activists, we tend firstly to examine political developments through a clear prism, honed to a simplistic though very necessary standard over the centuries.

Simply put, it’s the perennial question: Is it good or bad for the Jews? Today, these issues are even harder. Is it good or bad for Jews, or for Zionism or for the asstate of Israel? It’s not always the same answer.

This leads us to define those who are good and bad sometimes only from a very restrictive standpoint. Fine, that goes with the job. But it must be founded on a wider picture and a greater responsibility to all British society.

This good or bad definition certainly works when applied to Jews, and most particularly to those whose anti-Semitism is almost defined by their Judaism or by their very rejection of it. Into this category, we can easily pigeon-hole the Gilad Atzmons, the Miri Barlevs and many of the noisier common or garden self-haters.

It also works for some of the non-Jews who are often none too friendly either. George Galloway, for instance. While he is obviously also a product of his Scottish Stalinist and sectarian political roots, he is more than just a gut hard-leftist caught up in Palestinian nationalism. He is a pan-Arabist. His family links, charity and organisational work and now his religion and politics all make his anti-Zionism integral to his political persona.

For Jeremy Corbyn though, Israel, Zionism and Jews are things that just fall into place within an overall political philosophy which is almost religious in its simplistic generalisations into good and evil. This is a man who sees the West as bad by definition, and anything it associates with as equally off-limits. Conversely, anything anti-West is by definition good in his world view. Corbyn is a product of the classic anti-imperialist mindset of the 60s and 70s, those who could never see the faults of Pol Pot, Castro or the Soviet Union, who could turn ideological somersaults and believe the Falklands was better off in the hands of a fascist junta than a post-imperial Britain.

This is key to understanding him – as indeed it is to all those on the far-left of his own post-Stalin generation who swapped the “liberation” movements for their forebears’ adoration of Uncle Joe.

When you can close your eyes on a daily basis to the mass murders and general abuse of human rights among your political friends, then their anti-Semitism, homophobia and sexism are just small fry – diversions preventing full solidarity with the struggle, whether one of class or of anti-imperialism. It’s why, by the way, that Corbyn and John McDonnell just don’t even get it that there’s something wrong about a modern party of the left that only appoints men to top positions.

Understand this and you easily understand Corbyn’s patronage of the Ayatollahs’ and Putin’s TV stations, his opposition to protecting Bosnian or Kosovo Muslims, his honouring of IRA terrorists, his defence of Salah and Sizer and the “friends” in Hamas and Hezbollah.

You also understand how that great proponent of women’s and gay rights, Corbyn’s mate Ken Livingstone, can so comfortably swap pleasantries with Sheikh Al-Qaradawi. If you like, it is fundamental to Corbyn’s scientific and dialectic view of the world. Jews, Israel and Zionism are always on the wrong side because they are on the wrong side of everything Jeremy Corbyn believes in. It is why I believe the policy of engagement by Jewish leaders in Britain towards Corbynism is fundamentally wrong and misplaced.

It is why I believe good Labour MPs seeking to serve (or undermine) from the inside are making a major mistake. We are not and never have been all comrades on the left. There have always been two lefts, one democratic, patriotic and tolerant, one dictatorial, fellow-travelling and accepting of human rights abuses. Jews, who know only too well the results of the latter, must not acquiesce in whitewashing their take-over of the former.

The British Jewish community should indeed engage with the Labour Party but never with Corbynism, because to do so is to allow this cancer to take over half the British body politic. It would be the ultimate tragedy for British Jews to aid in any way in providing Jeremy Corbyn’s kosher seal of approval for the 2020 general election.

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