Fair play to Len McCluskey for going no-holds-barred with Jewish News this week, in a wide-ranging interview in which he hardly held back.
A Liverpudlian union bruiser who’s been around the block, Len is nevertheless a power-broker in British politics. While he is more often to be heard haranguing ministers about working conditions, employment rights, housing and industry, his understanding of the issues affecting Jews and Israel was evident. In a world of black and white, he showed he sees shades.
On an eventual peace deal, for instance, he recognises that the borders will need to be redrawn from the Green Line that most other unionists hold to so dearly. While to Jews and Israelis that has long seemed like a no-brainer, to Len’s constituency the idea of handing over acres of Palestinian land – perhaps with Palestinian private property – to Israeli sovereignty is anathema. If the time ever comes to do a deal, his understanding of nuance could help win debates.
Likewise, he knows that boycotts aren’t simply wrong and right, and acknowledges the problems with boycotting individuals like scientists or academics or dancers just because they were born in Israel. Again, to Jewish News readers that will seem self-evident, but to those who listen to Len, it’s revolutionary.
In other areas he sounded a little naive, such as by not recognising the Jewish community’s knocked confidence over Corbyn’s obvious leaning towards the Palestinians, or his ‘friends’ in Hamas.
His use of the word “weaponising” in reference to anti-Semitism is also deeply concerning from someone so close to the leader, while his comments on the IHRA definition also reveals a profound lack of understanding about what it actually outlaws.
However, it is a step forward that McCluskey agreed to our interview. Now we say to Jeremy: your turn next…