Praise for Jeremy Corbyn is hard to come by in the Jewish community, but here goes. By all accounts the frontrunner for the Labour leadership is the epitome of a conviction politician who says what he means and means what he says.
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True, such convictions when it comes to the Middle East are the opposite of those held by many in our community. But in a world in which politicians are often seen as lacking the trust of those they represent, even critics of the Islington North MP acknowledge his sincerity.
So when Jewish News received an email from Mr Corbyn on Wednesday, vowing to “work with Jewish organisations to combat anti-Semitism” if elected leader, it should have been welcomed without question.
In a message promisingly entitled ‘Corbyn pledge to the Jewish community’, he expresses “pride” about his parents standing against fascists in Cable Street and his own efforts fighting the National Front and BNP.
None of this is in question: Corbyn does indeed have an impressive record in this area. We don’t believe for a moment he is an anti-Semite. But there is no getting away from the fact this sincere pledge jars with the views of far too many of those he has been willing to invite, defend or share platforms with over the years – and indeed with some of the explanations he has offered for doing so.
Saying – as he has in regard to two undesirables he’s been linked to – that they didn’t voice anti-Semitic sentiment in front of him is simply not good enough when details of previously offensive comments can be readily found by anyone with internet access. Arguing he used the words “honoured citizen” in reference to Raed Salah as a “term of diplomacy” doesn’t detract from the fact he publicly spoke up for a man accused of invoking the blood libel.
It’s irrelevant that he wasn’t endorsing this particular comment. Using such terminology – as with the word “friends” – is seen as an endorsement.
The fact he has been a magnet for so many undesirables has left Anglo-Jewry wondering what might be revealed next. Corbyn simply must acknowledge this understandable concern, rather than dismiss it as part of a smear campaign as some of his supporters have.
One also hopes a leader of the opposition would not associate with those holding vile views to avoid excusing such connections in future. It’s the least we’d expect of a sincere politician.