Don’t defend Sanders by attacking Corbyn

Peter Beinart wrote an incisive defence of Bernie Sanders against claims of antisemitism in The Forward.

The Federalist, The Examiner and Commentary articles consist almost entirely of guilt by association. These guilt by association claims fall into three categories. Category number one consists of obscure Sanders staffers who said anti-Semitic things and either quickly left the campaign or quickly apologized. In 2010 and 2011, for instance, a man named Darius Khalil Gordon, who later became Sanders’ deputy director of constituency organizing, talked on Twitter about wanting to make “Jew money.” When the tweets were revealed, he soon left the campaign.

Regrettably part of his defence was comparing Sanders with an unfairly negative portrayal of Jeremy Corbyn. Mike Cushman wrote to Peter ask for a more balanced view of Corbyn and the Labour Party and not an endorsement of baseless claims.

What’s most striking about The Federalist, Examiner and Commentary articles is what they don’t say. None offers a single example — from Sanders’ almost forty years in elected office — of him ever uttering an even arguably anti-Semitic sentence. That may seem a low bar. But it distinguishes Sanders from Corbyn, who in 2013 said that Zionists, despite “having lived in this country for a very long time, probably all their lives, don’t understand English irony.”

The other thing [the] stories don’t say is that Sanders’ rise has made the Democratic Party unsafe, or even uncomfortable, for Jews. 87% of British Jews, according to one oft-cited poll, consider Corbyn anti-Semitic. In a submission to Britain’s Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Jewish Labour Movement detailed numerous acts of anti-Semitic harassment against Jewish party members and claimed that Corbyn “has made the party a welcoming refuge for anti-Semites.”

 

Peter

I appreciate your spirited defence of Bernie Sanders in today’s Forward. I regret however that a major part of your argument is to repeat falsehoods about Jeremy Corbyn. I have known Jeremy for many years and I know from personal experience that he is not anti-Jew in the slightest.

I am an officer of Jewish Voice for Labour and we have researched many of the most common false allegations against him and published them at www.is.gd/JVLrebuttals You could also read the recent book by Greg Philo and four other media academics Bad News for Labour, Pluto Press (2019) which explores how the media campaign to discredit Corbyn and the Labour Party operated. I hope you will also think about including this text on your reading lists.

You cite the Jewish Labour Movement without reservation. The JLM, as well as having close links with Israel Labor Party, is firmly ensconced on the right-wing of the Labour Party. It is hostile to Corbyn for his long standing support for Palestinian Rights, like Sanders, as well as for his radical domestic programme. You might also wish to look at JVL’s evidence to the EHRC which paints a very different picture of the Labour Party.

Unlike the US Jewish support for labour has been falling rapidly over the last decade. Blair tied himself and the Party to the Israel cause. Jewish support and cash for Labour collapsed not when Corbyn became leader but when our only Jewish Leader, Ed Miliband, was in office; largely it seems because of his criticism of Israel’s assaults on Gaza.

Please continue to defend Sanders against the false allegations against him but also realise that the attacks on Corbyn are similarly unfounded. The slurs were broadcast by a Conservative Party that harbours Antisemites, Islamaphobes and other racists and has been responsible, through the Windrush scandal and the ‘hostile environment’ for the immiseration, distress and even deaths of many Black UK residents. Britain is a society with a grim racist history which, although challenged, persists relentlessly. Part of this history is a pervasive, but mostly low-level, Antisemitism. The Labour Party, as part of British society is not free of Antisemitism, but it is not the major problem the Party faces nor is the Party the main reservoir of Antisemitism.

The question has to be whose interests are served by magnifying this problem beyond all reasonable proportions and what problems inside the Party and elsewhere does this obsession occlude? It is also dangerous to Jews: I hear friends, Black and White, ask me why all this focus on antisemitism? When was the last time someone was pulled over for driving while Jewish? Where are all the incarcerated young Jewish men? These are not antisemitic comments per se but they open the way to Antisemitism. They see the privileging of Jewish concerns over others and ask why – the answers are rarely helpful.

Sadly columns like your latest one make our problems in establishing a balanced discourse more difficult. Contributions from people of ill-will can be defused much more easily than ones from writers of greater integrity.

I always read your columns with interest and will continue to do so, I value your insights in to the crisis of US support for Zionism.

Best wishes

 

Mike

Peter responded quickly,  courteously and expressing interest in what I sent him. He drew my attention to an earlier article of his: Progressives Need To Face The Truth: Jeremy Corbyn’s Record On Anti-Semitism Is Bad. This article deals at length with the disturbing record of Johnson and the Conservative party and double standards. However, it also repeats uncritically many of the most persistent slurs on Corbyn that JVL and others have debunked.

Comments (11)

  • Simon Dewsbury says:

    Sad that this exchange shows how smears and falsehoods, if repeated widely, forcefully and often enough can confuse and be believed even by people of goodwill.
    If Peter Beinart can be fooled by the smears then little wonder that others less politically engaged will also not question them. But an excellent riposte from Mike.

  • TM says:

    Thanks, Mike. I urge Peter Beinart to take your advice and to read the plethora of evidence debunking the slurs on Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party under his Leadership. I consider it a terrible and dangerous flaw not to examine this evidence; it’s easy to find on the JVL site and from many other commentators including those who wrote Bad News for Labour. The Right Wing Coup in the Tory Party depended on the regurgitation of MSM misreporting, to put it mildly. Never has a politician been so wronged. The Establishment depends on distortions and lies to keep its act on the road. Come on, Peter, you can do better than this.

  • Teresa Steele says:

    Thank you for being a shining light on some of the falsehoods Mr Corbyn has had to endure. Truth will prevail.

  • Bob Bran says:

    “Some” Zionists not understanding English irony. I believe he was referring to just two well known hecklers.
    Not even quoting the appalling Guardian properly 🙁

  • Jan Plummer says:

    I agree with this article and with Simon Dewsbury. It is very worrying that people and groups – which should know better – naively and unquestionably accept and repeat the doublespeak promulgated by the right wing media. Thank you JVL for your much needed challenge.

  • Jean Crocker says:

    Thankyou Mike and JVL. I don’t know what the movement would do without you. In Jeremy we could not have had a leader with more integrity.

  • Shaul Usiskin says:

    Defending Sanders is totally justified. Any comparison between him and whatever are his socialist principles and ideology, bear no comparison at all to Corbyn. I’d even suggest that if Sanders had lead the UK Labour Party, they might have had a good chance of electoral success. But they didn’t, thanks to Corbyn and the neo-Stalinist Seamus Milne, recently suggested to have been an agent of a number of intelligence agencies by the sordidly anti-Semitic former Liberal-Democrat peeress Jenny Tonge. I have said repeatedly that the problem with Corbyn is that he doesn’t think he’s an anti-Semite, which has proved to have been too subtle for some, and that he is an Israel-denier, equally too subtle for some. His problem is that he is ignorant of of the reality of anti-Semitism for British Jews and even more ignorant of what the Shoah represents for them.
    Bernie is none of these as I learned in 2009 when I met his senior aide during a J-Street lobby day, and he’s been consistently none of those since. The big issue is also none of these. It is how does Sanders’ appeal to the mass American electorate at a time of deepest polarization, where the merest hint of socialist politics, as witnessed by some of the Republican expressions in the impeachment hearings today, tarnish the Democrats as socialists and leftists, echoing their patron, the obscenity in the WH. Sanders is heroic and I wish him Godspeed.

  • Linda Watson says:

    I agree with all previous comments. Mike and JVL have taken on a full time job addressing and challenging the untruths printed about Jeremy Corbyn. Jeremy has been a revelation. What would we have done without them both?

  • John Webster says:

    Beinart needs to distance himself from Corbyn who is labled a ‘communist’ in the USA coming up to the 2020 presidential election. He is worried of ‘guilt by association’. Here, we need to build on the breakthrough Corbyn made BUT improve enormously, especially in regard to the presentation of policy and relations with the press. A good press strategy will recognise the hostility of mainstream media to Labour, but should aim at neutralising it as much as possible. The Tories want to bring the BBC to heel. This will alienate many who work for the BBC. We should support them and try and educate them.
    We should send a copy of Mad Melanie Phillips’s latest JC article to Peter Beinart to take to pieces explaining that these are the kind of people we have to deal with – acolytes of the most right wing pro-Israel elements that inhabit the planet, and making the point that Jeremy Corbyn’s main failure was not that he was antisemitic, but that he tried to placate those who made groundless accusations against him.

  • Dee Howard says:

    Good letter. However we need to point out that the so called Jewish ‘community’ who feel threatened by antisemitism in the party are in fact a right wing, anti-Palestinian, minority of the whole Jewish population in this country, and that the so called ‘facts’ spouted by the Chief Rabbi do not represent the views of the majority.

  • The most devasating proof that Corbyn is not anti-Semitic is what John Bercow, the only Jewish Speaker of the House of Commons said, viz. that in 22 years knowing him there isn’t a ‘whiff’ of antisemitism about him.

    Likewise the defence of him by Geoffrey Alderman a right-wing Zionist who pointed to his record as supporting many Jewish causes.

    It’s a pity Mike didn’t point out the context of the ‘irony’ quote viz. that Corbyn was comparing a Palestinian speaker who wasn’t born in this country but who had a greater appreciation of British irony than the 2 Zionist louts who were born here.

    Shaul Usiskin calls Corbyn ‘an Israel denier’. Now I’ve heard everything but never this bit of nonsense. In what way does Corbyn deny Israel? Does he deny it is there or has he, in the past, suggested that it might not be the most advanced Western democracy?

    Yes it’s true that Corbyn doesn’t think he is an anti-Semite. Perhaps that’s because he isn’t?!! An anti-Semite is someone who doesn’t like Jews very much. There is no evidence of Corbyn not liking Jews and therefore Shaul’s whole contribution is a sly dig at someone who is a proven anti-racist.

    there is also no comparison between Bernie Sanders and Corbyn. Sanders is seen as radical because of the right-wing nature of US politics and the Democrats who are a pro-capitalist party.

    What people should be concentrating on is why Corbyn was unable to effectively respond to the charges of antisemitism and why he felt he had to conceded the Zionists poisonous ‘antisemitism’ narrative rather than rebutting it from day one.

    People need to face it that the handling of this state driven attack was utterly abysmal and eventually ended up in Corbyn adopting the IHRA (which he originally did without being forced)

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