Feinstein unapologetic in his support for Corbyn

JVL Introduction

We recently carried an article about Andrew Feinstein, as an example of  how trolls and reactionary journalists work: ganging up, sneering, distorting and misleading as they twist perfectly reasonable comments they don’t like and wriggle to present them in the worst possible light.

Here the South Africn Jewish Record airs the accusations and Feinstein’s arguments in response.

This article was originally published by South African Jewish Report on Thu 11 Jul 2019. Read the original here.

Feinstein unapologetic in his support for Corbyn

Former African National Congress MP, Andrew Feinstein, has come out guns blazing in reaction to criticism of his Jewish identity in response to his support for Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

“These [often Jewish detractors] are practising a horrible form of deceit, in which they try to turn anyone with different political views into these monsters, and I’m not prepared to let them,” he declared with reference to several attacks he has experienced on social media.

Feinstein, a born and bred Capetonian, served in parliament under then President Nelson Mandela. He called for a thorough investigation into the South African arms deal, and later moved to London. He has since worked as an anti-corruption activist, investigating the global arms trade.

Feinstein says that he came to know Corbyn through his work as chairman of the Stop the War campaign. “I knew he was a backbencher MP, but I knew him more as a remarkable activist and an extraordinary man,” he says.

Corbyn was elected Labour leader in 2015, a political outcome that shocked many due to his ultra-left-wing alignment. His leadership has subsequently been plagued by claims of anti-Semitism.

Yet during this time, Feinstein has tweeted in support of him, refuting persistent claims that the Labour leader is anti-Semitic.

In one tweet on 23 June, Feinstein referenced his Jewish identity, declaring, “I’m Jewish. My mother was a Holocaust survivor who lost 39 members of her family in the camps. I have lectured at Auschwitz on genocide prevention. I experienced anti-Semitism in apartheid South Africa. I can state unequivocally that Jeremy Corbyn is not an anti-Semite!”.

The backlash was personal, “I was asked what kind of Jew I was, and called a self-hating Jew and various other things.”

One rabbi responded by suggesting that the “only reason your [Feinstein’s] mother survived is because she must have collaborated with the Nazis”.

Another person asked him to provide camp records to prove the death of his family members.

At first, he thought he would have to defend his family background, but then took a different angle on the matter. “Who are these people to question me? Who are these people to say Feinstein is not Jewish enough to claim to be Jewish in his support for Jeremy Corbyn?

“There are an enormous amount of Jews who talk about the holocaust when talking about what their Judaism means to them,” Feinstein says. In fact, he sees his ties to the Holocaust as in some way shaping his “hatred of any form of racism”.

He says he has stood by Corbyn because he believes that the claims of anti-Semitism against him are part of a deliberate political campaign to discredit him. People see Corbyn as a threat because he is “very anti-establishment”.

In particular, right-wing groups and internal factions within the Labour party are designing this portrait of Corbyn as negative towards Jews.

“Anti-Semitism has been weaponised to target him because nothing else succeeded … [After his appointment,] there were various smears against him, none of which held, but the one that became the most difficult was a claim of anti-Semitism.

It is a claim which, Feinstein says, “There is no evidence for whatsoever – and believe me, I’ve looked.”

Feinstein says that as a natural cynic, he didn’t trust reports, but conducted his own investigation into the various claims made against Corbyn.

The BBC News website reported last year that under Corbyn, Labour had adopted a new anti-Semitism code that did not adhere in full to that of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. The news site also reported that in the past, Corbyn had described Hamas and Hezbollah representatives with whom he had met as “friends”.

Corbyn was also criticised by former Commonwealth Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks for comments made in a video clip from 2013, in which Corbyn declared that a group of British Zionists had “no sense of English irony”.

Last year, Corbyn was embroiled in controversy once again when it emerged that in 2012, he had sent a Facebook message in support of an artist, whose mural was removed from a wall in East London. The mural depicts amongst other images, swarthy male figures with hook noses counting money. Corbyn later said he regretted the message.

He also came under fire following allegations that he had laid a wreath at a ceremony in Tunisia that included the commemoration of Palestinians who had kidnapped and killed 11 Israeli Olympians in Munich in 1972.

Feinstein says he investigated the latter incident, and found that Corbyn had been at the same cemetery in Tunisia, but not at that specific ceremony.

Previously, Corbyn has been quoted as saying that he had laid a wreath in Tunisia, but at a ceremony for the victims of an Israeli airstrike in 1985.

Says Feinstein, “the reality is that no one can actually say, ‘Here is something anti-Semitic that Jeremy Corbyn actually said’, or ‘Here is something where he called for the death of Israel’.”

Corbyn certainly is openly and highly critical of Israel’s policies, a viewpoint which Feinstein supports. Yet, criticising Israel has incorrectly become conflated with hating Jews, he says.

“I’m sure there probably are anti-Semites who are anti-Zionism. But to say that because there are some anti-Semites who are anti-Zionist, all anti-Zionists are anti-Semites, is absolutely nonsense. It’s an illogical absurdity, you need to look at the political campaign behind this to get rid of Corbyn.”

Feinstein says a further concern is that when “anti-Semitism and anti-racism are being used to fight political battles that have nothing to do with these, it undermines the fight against real anti-Semitism, real Islamophobia, and real racism, which is increasing across this country, across Europe, and across the world”.

In defending Corbyn, he doesn’t aim to get everyone to agree with him. However, the Jewish community, “like every other community”, needs to allow for the reality that within it, there will always be a plurality of voices.

“For the very narrow purposes of trying to get rid of an anti-establishment politician, we should not lose that wonderful tradition. We should remember there are a diversity of Jews, and we should respect each other not just as Jews, but as members of society and humanity.”

Comments (9)

  • Ann Lewis says:

    I fully support all that Andrew Feinstein says here. Also I would like add that Jews in South Africa have a heritage in their part in the anti-apartheid struggle that we should all honour

  • S H says:

    Thank you to our comrade Andrew for his huge courage in staying strong in the face of the right wing onslaught by the bloody Israeli regime lobby and their sick RACIST insults against him, witch hunt yourselves you weirdos. We are so proud to call you are our friend. #JC4PM #WatsonMustGo #JVL

  • Michelle Laufer says:

    Hugely appreciated this article. It really helps to clarify the false and vicious claims against Jeremy Corbyn.

  • Ruth says:

    Thank you Andrew: a voice of sanity!

  • Jennifer says:

    Thank you Andrew for your courage in standing up to the harassment that you have received. I found this article informative and thought provoking.

  • Jessica Leschnikoff says:

    Believe me: IF anyone comes up with anything that firmly pins an anti Semitic remark or action upon Corbyn, as a Jew and a member of JVL, I would be very quick to condemn that – no one is above criticism or the possibility of fault. But so far, allegations, edited contexts, guilt by geographical and social association and a couple of clumsy actions (the mural, and a forward in a book authored by someone with some pretty off colour commentary)… none of it points to someone who hates Jews for being Jews, nor someone who engages in jewish holocaust denial, nor someone who wants to see the destruction of Israel: all of which are really the only credible evidence of Jew hate.

    Our movement is inspired by persons of deeply held principles and integrity. And while it is possible to travel so far past that point that one can become a fanatic and oblivious to one’s own prejudice, I personally do not think this is where Labour members are at, except for a tiny minority whom we all want to extricate from our Party. Certainly Jeremy Corbyn is not one of these.

  • Gina Skelly says:

    Thank you. I am perplexed and dismayed over the accusations of anti semitism which, although targeted at Jeremy Corbyn , are also directed at at those of us who joined the Labour Party to support him and question where these allegations came from. The media including The Guardian which used to be a well respected slightly left leaning publication regularly publishes anti Corbyn articles which feature very prominently on its pages but never offer the same position to anyone disputing the claims. The irony being Corbyn is not even advocating the overthrow of capitalism. He is merely seeking a redistribution of resources and I struggle to see anything that radical in that. Thank you once again.

  • Patricia Wheeler says:

    Well said, Andrew.

  • Paula Shaw says:

    Brilliant!

Comments are now closed.