Is Jeremy Corbyn a ‘threat’ to British Jews?

Corbyn’s opponents cannot defeat his political programme so they attack his character with spurious allegations.

Jeremy Corbyn
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks during a news conference in London on December 6, 2019 [Yves Herman/Reuters]

Since the election of Jeremy Corbyn as its leader in 2015, Britain’s Labour Party has been the target of a sustained campaign to portray it as rife with anti-Semitism. Alongside unfounded accusations that Corbyn himself and his closest allies are “anti-Semites“, it has widely been claimed that under the direction of someone who has spent a lifetime fighting racism, the party has become “institutionally anti-Semitic”. Furthermore, it has even been claimed that a Corbyn government would pose an “existential threat” to Jewish life in this country. 

Racism and anti-Semitism, unfortunately, still exist in modern Britain. Therefore, it is impossible to claim that any mainstream national political organisation in the United Kingdom, be it Labour, the Conservative Party or the Liberal Democrats, is 100 percent free of members who hold racist or anti-Semitic views. Corbyn acknowledged this, accepting that even “one [incident of anti-Semitism in the party] is one too many” and explained that to him “driving anti-Semitism out of the party for good is a priority”. However, this never was about anti-Semitism which is why nothing he said or did proved enough to convince his detractors.

He is promising to take the privatised utilities and the rail companies back into public ownership and tax multinational companies like Google and Amazon which currently pay virtually no tax in the UK. Moreover, he is promising to stop arms sales to Israel and Saudi Arabia and to educate Britain’s youth about their country’s colonial history.

Rather than challenging the Labour leader’s policies on fighting poverty and ending Britain’s continuing support for oppressive regimes across the globe, his rivals and critics are focusing their energy on doubling down on their accusations of anti-Semitism.

So is the Labour leader, who has an impressive track record of supporting Britain’s Jewish community and standing against anti-Semitism, really an anti-Semite who purposefully filled Britain’s main opposition party with “fellow racists”, or is something else happening here?

What we are witnessing today is clearly not an honest expression of concern for Britain’s Jews, but a smear campaign born out of the British establishment’s desire to stop an anti-establishment and anti-Zionist leader from moving in to Number 10 Downing Street.  

Politicians on the right, as well as the Blairites who are still part of the Labour Party, accuse Corbyn of anti-Semitism because they know that this line of attack makes them appear more morally righteous than they would otherwise appear if they defended measures that increase poverty and inequality. They find it easier to wave around accusations of anti-Semitism than justifying cutting taxes for the rich and benefits for the poor.

Meanwhile, Zionists around the world are working hard to convince British society that the Labour leader is anti-Semitic, because they do not want one day to face a British administration that is willing to hold Israel to account for its occupation of Palestine and oppression of the Palestinian people. 

After the 2017 general election, in which Corbyn’s Labour caused a major upset by not only winning 30 extra seats but gaining the biggest swing (9.6 percent) to Labour since 1945, Britain’s establishment and its Zionist allies across the world doubled down on their efforts to brand the Labour leader as an anti-Semite and prevent him from expanding his support base further. 

The Zionist right’s use of accusations of anti-Semitism as a way to eliminate rivals and disqualify their opposing views and criticisms, however, did not start with Corbyn’s rise to power. 

In the past decade, in response to the growing support for the Palestinian cause in the UK and beyond, Israel embarked on a quest to convince the world that any criticism of itself and its policies is an act of anti-Semitism. To achieve this, it used its powerful lobbies both in the United States and the UK, as documented in Al Jazeera’s four-part investigative documentary series – The Lobby. 

At first, in Britain, these unfounded allegations of anti-Semitism were used primarily by pro-Israel campaigners against anyone who tried to express support for Palestine and Palestinians. Following Corbyn’s election as Labour leader, however, these efforts swiftly focused on him and his party. Unnerved by the success of an anti-Zionist, anti-racist and unapologetically left-wing politician who openly wants to bring down the political order that is the source of their power and privilege, Britain’s political establishment and media swiftly jumped on the bandwagon. 

Their sustained campaign to brand Corbyn and his supporters as anti-Semites had a profound effect on the British public in general and Britain’s Jewish community in particular.  

A November poll by the Jewish Chronicle showed that 87 percent of British Jews consider Corbyn to be an anti-Semite and 47 percent would “seriously consider” emigrating if he wins on December 12. Some may assume given that such an overwhelming majority of British Jews believe Corbyn to be an anti-Semite, he must be. This, however, is not the case. 

As revealed by Greg Philo, Mike Berry, Justin Schlosberg, Antony Lerman and David Miller’s recently published book “Bad News for Labour: Antisemitism, the Party and Public Belief”, between Corbyn’s election in June 2015 and March 2019 there had been 5,497 stories on the subject of Corbyn, anti-Semitism and the Labour Party across Britain’s eight most popular national newspapers. Most of these reports were hostile to the Labour leader.

Moreover, Jewish publications like the Jewish Chronicle, Jewish News and the Jewish Telegraph also repeatedly filled their pages with reports accusing the Jewish leader and the supporters of his party of being anti-Semitic. Furthermore, even the UK’s chief rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, who is an ardent Zionist, recently wrote an article for The Times in which he criticised Corbyn for the way he dealt with the accusations of anti-Semitism surrounding the party. He heavily implied that British Jews should not vote for the Labour Party.  

There is just one prominent Zionist who has broken ranks and he is the foremost historian of British Jewry, Geoffrey Alderman, professor of politics at Buckingham University. In May, Alderman wrote a devastating critique of the idea that Corbyn is anti-Semitic, in which he listed a whole series of pro-Jewish initiatives the Labour leader had supported throughout his political career.

While the accusations that Corbyn is an anti-Semite have come with no proof, they successfully convinced many British Jews that the Labour Party under his leadership poses a threat to them.  

This is exactly what Noam Chomsky called “the manufacturing of consent”. The media, with the help of religious leaders and politicians with ulterior motives, established as fact the myth that Corbyn is anti-Semitic and created an environment in which anyone who challenges this claim is seen as mad, clueless or indeed anti-Semitic themselves. This is an effective method of manipulating public opinion. 

It is a repetition of the Salem Witch Trials. Denial of being a witch was held to be proof that you were one! Indeed the only people who were hanged were those who denied being witches.

Corbyn poses no threat to Britain’s Jews. The real threat to British Jewry is coming from the Zionists and right-wing politicians who want to conflate anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism. These attempts to pollute the definition of anti-Semitism are not only trivialising the racism Jews face across the world, but also contributing to the dangerous assumption that all Jews support and therefore are responsible for Israel’s actions

His rivals know that Corbyn’s egalitarian policy proposals could easily resonate with Britons of all races, religions and ethnicities. This is why instead of attacking his ideas and policies, they are attacking him personally. On December 12, we will see if they have been successful.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.