The escalating arms race to insult Jeremy Corbyn

Jeemy Corbyn as devil. Image: Picbon

JVL Introduction

The Cold War against Corbyn is turning hotter: from Tom Bower’s opportunistic and shallow muckraking, through the former Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks and Archbishop Carey, Deborah Lipstadt and more. Corbyn-bashing is all the rage. Aided and abetted by a compliant media.

The ordinary members of the Labour Party, who know both that it sometimes exists but also know it is rigorously challenged whenever it appears, are the last people anyone thinks of asking…


Insulting Corbyn

Anonymous, Labour Briefing, marginally adapted
2 March 2019

For at least 6 months there has been an escalating arms race in progress. It is as if there were a competition – to see who can make the most outrageous attack on Jeremy Corbyn’s probity and character. Of course that prize has now been awarded to Tom Bower who has scraped the bottom of the barrel for his new book Dangerous Hero. But dishonourable mention should go to the earlier trail-blazers.

For decades Tom Bower has made his living writing unauthorised biographies of notorious characters, many of whom merited the treatment – Robert Maxwell and Conrad Black stand out in a long list. But he is an equal opportunity, one could say opportunistic, muck-raker and Corbyn’s evident probity offers no defence against half-truths and guilt by association from Bower.

But Bower had predecessors in the hyperbole business, with more elevated intellectual and public standing than he has. That means both that their words carry more weight, and that they might therefore be expected to weigh their words with some care. However….

I will start with Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi for 22 years from 1991. In his earlier years he was respected both as a significant intellectual and a progressive force within orthodox Judaism. But in August last year he said that some coments by Corbyn at a public meeting had been ‘divisive’ and ‘hateful’.

Sacks was talking about an off-the-cuff remark by Corbyn about two very upfront pro-Israeli activists who have often disrupted meetings about Palestine. They had given the Palestinian Ambassador a hard time after a speech of his, whose subtlety of argument they had failed to grasp. Corbyn’s comment described them as Zionists, and suggested that they didn’t understand English irony. This had then been twisted as Corbyn having said that all Jews were arguably un-English! For Sacks this was beyond ‘divisive’ and ‘hateful’. It was, he said, “the most offensive statement made by a senior British politician since Enoch Powell’s 1968 “Rivers of Blood” speech”!

There is inter-faith consensus on the question of Jeremy Corbyn. This January Lord Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1991 to 2002, put it more obliquely in an interview for an Israeli network when he said that “his statements can give the impression that he is, deep-down, somebody who doesn’t like Jewish people”. There is a delicacy about this formulation; translated into normal speech he is saying that Corbyn is an antisemite.

Carey’s attack was less than a week after a broadside from Deborah Lipstadt, the US historian who famously brought down David Irving over his holocaust denial. Her take was that “No respectable politician would associate with anyone who used the ‘n’ word. The same should apply to Corbyn over antisemitism.” I think we are supposed to presume that Corbyn has been caught using the ‘z’ word. Or maybe she is saying that Corbyn has associated with people who do that. Either way, we should treat him as having dirty hands.

In fact that was a bumper week for Corbyn-bashing. Between these two denunciations we had Vernon Bogdanor, previously a generally respected emeritus Professor of Politics and Government, and expert on constitutional issues. In his lengthy article for the Jewish Chronicle he trained his fire on the direction in which Corbyn is taking the Labour Party rather than directly at the man himself. But that is a distinction without a real difference.

Bogdanor’s article stokes paranoid fears. A Corbyn government “would undermine their [Jews’] right to equal citizenship. Jews would be subject to further abuse and would be deterred from expressing support for Israel…. A Corbyn government would spread the lesson that Jews are not quite like other citizens, that they are in Britain on sufferance, as it were, to be tolerated as long as they are prepared to suppress their views.” But what evidence does he offer? It is the opinions of those other campaigners against Corbyn: Claire Kober, Margaret Hodge, Ruth Smeeth, Jonathan Sacks. In other words, his opinion piece is based, almost entirely, on the selected opinions of those who agree with him.

To be fair, he did offer one piece of evidence: that back in 2016 the student Labour Club at his old university, Oxford, had been over-run by people who “have some kind of problem with Jews”. Evidently he is quite unaware of the demolition of this whole story, within months, as a scam.

So we have academics who rely on assertion rather than evidence, spiritual leaders who fail to show empathy and generosity of spirit, historians who make wild comparisons. There appears to be little difference between them and the muck-raking journalist who does it to make his living.

But evidently there is a difference. These people, one must assume, are doing it out of conviction. They believe it, even if without evidence. They believe it because versions of  guilt by association, guilt by selective quotation are endlessly recycled. They believe it because of numbers of horrendous but anonymous social media postings by people who say they are Corbyn supporters. They believe it because the media including the authoritative BBC and the sainted Guardian are telling them so. They believe it because everyone they know believes it and they find their prejudices reflected back to them wherever they turn.

But is it true?

Antisemitism is present in the Labour Party because it is present everywhere. There are many people who have a very good grasp of the extent and seriousness of this problem within the Party. They also know that it will be rigorously challenged whenever it appears; and they have every reason not to tolerate it. They are the members. Who listens to them?


Comments (4)

  • dave says:

    It would be nice if we could at least reach accommodation with the right that anonymous and unvalidated posts on social media must be discounted. There are some truly vile antisemitic comments apparently posted on the Spectator’s site – much worse than anything mooted from the left – but I wouldn’t dream of citing them of evidence of anything, other that a human posted them (or programmed a computer to post them).

    The extraordinary utterance of people like Sacks is hard to understand – a lot of us think they are just lying to do down the left, but as this article shows, there may well be conviction that they are right and that can only really come from being taken in by propaganda. That doesn’t sit well with academics so I’ll go with lying.

  • Paul Bright says:

    Sadly the right wing are just looking out for their own corporate pockets and do not want to be reasonable. We need to promote remembrance and education as the truth will set everyone free.

  • Robert Bleeker says:

    At the end of this comment there is the following lament:

    N.B. Although I might easily guess why I could not insert the necessary links to the relevant documentation – in order to underpin my arguments – I nevertheless have to state, that the link-option is most certainly dearly missed in this context.

    If you paste in the urls – http://etcetcetc. they will appear in your posted text. If the web editors have time they will embed them – but even if they don’t they will still appear as raw http links, making your sources available to all

    1. It seems abundantly clear to me, that there is a direct causal connection between the recent steep increase in the wildly accusative, highly apocalyptic anti-Corbyn and anti-Momentum campaign by the ultra-subversive Watson (and his militant Blairite / LFI cabal) and the recently announced appointment of Falconer in the Labour racist-complaints committee.

    2. Watson these days is desperately trying to mystify the absolute necessary separation (iron wall if you want) between the administrative and organisational wing of the Labour party, and the political wing.

    3. The tactic used by Watson et al. of course is trying to artificially attach the (political) responsibility for the handling of the anti-semitism complaints directly to Corbyn.

    4. In this way and manner, the latter can be even more aggressively and effectively “exposed” by his opponents for promulgating “the endemic anti-semitism” within the Labour Party under his leadership.

    5. After all, once Falconer will have been fully established in his scrutinising duty within the complaints committee, the room for negative framing by the right-wing Labour plotters on the subject of alleged antisemitism undoubtedly will be substantially diminished.

    6. A year ago already (in JVL, among other outlets) I did warn sharply against the hopelessly counterproductive tactics of the falsely accused Corbyn and his staff, of being over-apologetic towards his mean-spirited opponents.

    7. The final objective of his opponents is to stop at all cost, the electability of the Labour party, as long as there is even the slightest chance of the pro-BDS Corbyn ever becoming PM of the UK.

    8. So, the more apologetic he will become, the more demanding his opponents – in addition using the tactics of public humiliation of their enemy – will become; there for a robust and assertive publicly approach would be highly recommended, as Williamson (*) rightly advocated this week.

    9. Since we – after the publication of the Thomas Suarez heavily researched and well-documented book (“State of Terror, or how the Israeli State was won”) in 2016 on the very subject – might have become especially aware of the fact, that the use of anti-semitism by the Zionist founding fathers and their political successors as an effective weapon against the critics of the western colonial settler project in Palestine, we might as well dare to suggest that there might very well be a coordinated effort going on, to influence British politics, directly from Tel Aviv.

    10. Foreign intervention, but not just in UK politics however, for I do seriously suggest, that the recent steep upsurge in “anti-semitic incidents” in France, might easily have been choreographed by the very same ME based, operational forces.

    11. The main aim of this sudden steep increase in anti-semitic exposure – do consider in this respect for example the horrendous nazi swastikas pictured on the Simone Veil portraits and do consider the rolling over of the stone from the WOII remembrance statue at the special Parisian synagogue – just at the very moment, that the French parliament is in the legislative process of incorporating the controversial IHRA definition (and its highly toxic appendix of “examples”) of anti-semitism.

    12. Just as the recent increase of (the also Soros targeted) anti-semitism in Hungary seems to have been conclusively assisted by a Jewish-zionist cabal with direct ties to Tel Aviv, since the political spin-doctors Finkelstein (who died in 2017) and his close business companion Birnbaum had once been introduced to Orban by his close ally Netanyahu himself..

    13. (the legacy of) This couple – by simply following the pattern of their devastating “rejectionist voting” tactics – can be held responsible for a. catapulting Orban (ironically having received a one year Oxford education-course thanks to a Soros scholarship) in a prominent political position and for b. systematically driving the Soros institutions out of Hungary by using anti-semitic tropes on posters, as recently as a few months ago.

    14. Netanyahu – notably the son of the secretary of the Iron Fist Zionist Jabotinsky – who had become PM in the first place by the very same political demolition works by Finkelstein against his then electoral opponent Shimon Peres, just the way, as White-supremacists Nixon and Trump had been parachuted in the White House.

    (*) Do by all means observe the strong parallels between Williamson trying to expose the concerted effort of the pro-Eretz-Israel Zionist-Jews and ditto Zionist-Christians against pro-BDS / pro-Palestinian Labour activists, by organizing an informative meeting in the House of Parliament around the alleged controversial movie on the vilification of the Jewish Jacqui Walker (also by extremist Jewish-zionist groups) on the one hand.
    And on the other hand, the much talked about meeting (lecture) organised during the commemoration year of the Balfour Declaration by baroness Tonge in the premises of the House of Lords, in order to give Thomas Suarez (expert on the ruthlessly violent zionist conquest of Palestine and the violence used in that period against Jews by their zionist terror organisations) a platform, to inform members of the UK (secondary) legislative about the real history of modern Israel and its inhabitants.

    P.S. While reading the Sunday papers, I have to admit that part of my arguments surrounding the
    appointment of Falconer – the man, most probably having been the subject of immense negative pressure from the Blairites etc. lately – might have been partly undermined (or supported, depending on the view-point) already by the sudden apparent backtracking, cautioning, supplementary and conditional remarks concerning his supposed supervisory role in the Labour complaints committee, that he made this very day.

    N.B. Although I might easily guess why I could not insert the necessary links to the relevant documentation – in order to underpin my arguments – I nevertheless have to state, that the link-option is most certainly dearly missed in this context.

  • Richard Hayward says:

    “a compliant media”

    … is, I think, too gentle a term. The media ids actively complicit.

    Then the particulars : Jonathan Sacks abandoned entitlement to the terms ‘respected’ and ‘intellectual’ a while ago. I well remember his devious complacency on ‘Thought for the Day’ (a programme where complacency doesn’t surprise) when manage to do a preachy morality bit in the middle of a crisis in Gaza – without reference to it.

    And perhaps of more concern and significance than the lightweight Carey in the pontification stakes was Rowan Williams – a credible candidate for being ‘respected’ and ‘intellectual’ – seemed sucked into the taken-for-granted narrative in a New Statesman article.

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