Since Monday I’ve been working on a three-part response to Louise Mensch’s blog of Saturday night.
- Part 1 deals with Mensch’s distorted and dishonest assertions about Corbyn’s views on ISIS, and questions her claims of his involvement with CEC Australia.
- Part 2 deals with Mensch’s declaration that Corbyn must account for attending commemoration events for Deir Yassin, any and all encounters with his constituent Paul Eisen, and whether an audience member is responsible for researching the political beliefs of a jazz saxophone player who is said by Mensch to be “one of the world’s leading anti-Semites”.
- Part 3 deals with the theological and geopolitical complications of Stephen Sizer’s opposition to the anti-Semitic beliefs of John Hagee, Pat Robertson, and Jerry Falwell, about Israel: Jeremy Corbyn’s defense of Sizer for posting a Facebook link: and briefly with Dyab Abou Jahjah.
Louise Mensch concludes her blog of Saturday 22nd August with the following assertion:
Therefore it is time for the Corbyn campaign to be absolutely open about what Jeremy Corbyn knew of the anti-semitism of:
CEC and La Rouche
Dyab Abou Jahjah
Paul Eisen, Gilad Atzmon, and DYR
and Paul Sizer [Stephen Sizer]
at the times he shared a platform with Eisen and Atzmon, defended Sizer, and provided platforms by his own invitation to Dyab Abou Jahjah and CEC/La Rouche. He should also be asked by mainstream journalists what Jewish groups said to him at the time. Pleading no knowledge of the antisemitism just won’t cut it.”
With regard to “shared a platform with Eisen and Atzmon”, Louise Mensch means that Jeremy Corbyn attended the 2005 Deir Yassin Remembered event, organised by Paul Eisen, in April 2005, at which Gilad Atzmon performed. As is clear if you trouble to read contemporary accounts, 2005 was the year Paul Eisen’s anti-Semitic views were exposed: Jewish Voice for Peace and Jews Sans Frontieres both published articles by their members to say sadly that yes, confirmed: Paul Eisen was expressing openly anti-Semitic views. In June 2005.
I knew before I began that if I were prepared to say definitely of Gilad Atzmon “he is an anti-Semite” that I would win kinder support from Jeremy Duns, for whom I have considerable respect. But I couldn’t say it: I could certainly have cited enough condemnatory writings from critics writing from 2005 onwards who agree that Gilad Atzmon has expressed anti-Semitic views, but I would have had to read more at length in Gilad Atzmon’s writing to find if I agreed with them. And the point of my blogpost was not to condemn or to defend Gilad Atzmon, but to find out if Louise Mensch was fair in her scathing condemnation of Jeremy Corbyn for having listened to Atzmon perform on the saxophone in April 2005.
I would note that people who want to identify Israeli-born Jews as anti-Semitic “self-hating Jews”, aren’t helped by the fact that any Israeli-born Jew who criticises Israeli policy towards the Palestinians will invariably be attacked as a self-hating Jew: Amira Hass and Gideon Levy, who write regularly for Haaretz, are routinely denounced:
One great locus of Israeli self-haters is its most prestigious daily newspaper, Haaretz. The long list of Israeli self–haters is headed by Gideon Levi and Amira Hass. Their identification with Israel’s enemies is total, and they have been known to invent and distort facts, do anything and everything possible, to absolve the Arabs and blame Israel in disputed incidents. – Israel National News, 9th February 2005, Shalom Freedman
Tuvia Tenenbom uses the expression “self-hating Jews” to describe Jews like Gideon Levy, but I think that’s misleading. They don’t hate themselves — they see themselves as better than the others, the ones that have all the ‘Jewish’ characteristics that they hate (religious belief, for one). They identify with their enemies that want to kill them, even to the point of adopting their anti-Jewish beliefs, because they subconsciously think it will protect them. – “The delegitimization industry”, 10th April 2015, Vic Rosenthal
With regard to Jeremy Corbyn’s support for Deir Yassin Remembered, Louise Mensch asserts over and over again that any group which is associated with a memorial for the Palestinian Arab village destroyed in 1948, makes it an “anti-Semitic group”. Including, specifically, the Glasgow memorial: Mensch asserts that anyone who has attended a memorial event at the plaque in Kelvingrove Park, is doing so as part of an anti-Semitic group.
Whereas the response of many who knew both Jeremy Corbyn and Paul Eisen, to the original Daily Mail smear story which Louise Mensch is essentially recycling, was to assert:
The allegation that Corbyn supports or associates with Holocaust deniers is malicious and unfounded. It is based on an article in the Daily Mail, which was dependent on the word of a self-confessed Holocaust denier, Paul Eisen. The Jewish Chronicle reports him as saying that Corbyn donated to Deir Yassin Remembered. So did many people, before DYR was taken over by antisemites and Holocaust deniers. The Jewish Chronicle’s efforts to paint Corbyn as a closet antisemite can only help legitimise those who are antisemitic.
With regard to defending Stephen Sizer: ten people, including Jeremy Corbyn, wrote to the Bishop of Guildford to defend Sizer against the charge of having knowingly posted a link to his Facebook page that went to a website that included anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. Sizer himself says he hadn’t looked at anything else on the site except for the article he’d posted the link to and apologises for the delay in removing it: Facebook doesn’t make it easy to clean up a person’s past timeline, and Sizer was so used to being vilified as an anti-Semite for the articles he posted that were critical of Israel, that it took him some time to realise that the attacks on him for linking to this website were actually justified.
With regard to “provided a platform by his own invitation” to CEC Australia: More accurately, CEC Australia provided a “platform” – a video interview – to politicians Jeremy Corbyn, Michael Meacher, and Robert Oulds. All three were interviewed by CEC Australia for a video panel at their conference in March earlier this year.
With regard to Dyab Abou Jahjah: Jeremy Corbyn is known to have spoken at the same Stop The War rally as Dyab Abou Jahjah in 2009, and – a day earlier – to have organised a panel discussion at the Houses of Parliament at which Dyab Abou Jahjah and Hussein Haj Hassan were both speakers. Six years later, Corbyn couldn’t remember Dyab Abou Jahjah at all and had to be reminded by his staff that yes, Corbyn had met him. Mensch’s attempt to make this into a major relationship is almost as extraordinary as her assertion that a jazz performer is “one of the world’s leading anti-Semites”.
Louise Mensch began her search for “anti-Semites for Corbyn” by presuming that anyone on Twitter posting anti-Semitic remarks and anyone on Twitter making misogynistic attacks on Liz Kendall must be a Corbyn supporter.
Unsurprisingly, she found data confirming her theory.
The difficulty for Louise Mensch and others trying to weave anti-Semitic smears around Jeremy Corbyn, is that their “evidence” is tenuous and patchy: he’s found to have been responsive to a constituent desoite the constituent being a known anti-Semite: he’s gone to an event where a jazz player later accused of anti-Semitism performed: he’s invited to a debate a Lebanese-Belgian activist who has published some awfully offensive cartoons.
The UK’s present political stance on Israel is to support Israel over Palestine: to refuse, officially, any debate with Hamas or Hezbollah.
Jeremy Corbyn is accused of inviting Hamas and Hezbollah representatives to debates: of wanting to move forward along the political process towards peace.
Peter Oborne wrote yesterday in Middle East Eye:
Let’s now examine Jeremy Corbyn’s own record. He opposed the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He argued for talks with the IRA long before this became official policy. He has been ridiculed for talking to Hamas and Hezbollah. By one of the deeper ironies of modern history Tony Blair is now (as Middle East Eye recently revealed) in discussion with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, in which enterprise he has the backing of David Cameron.
Most people would agree that on the most intractable foreign policy issues of our time Corbyn has tended to be right and the British establishment has tended to be wrong. What Corbyn does or thinks today is likely to be vindicated a few years later. Hard though it is for the British establishment to stomach, Corbyn’s foreign policy ideas have generally been more balanced and far-sighted than those of his opponents.
Mensch asks us to believe that she was purely inspired by her discovery that Jeremy Corbyn has anti-Semitic supporters to oppose Corbyn. She’s claimed in an article she wrote this week for the Jewish Chronicle that
For Tories like me, Jeremy Corbyn is a dream leader, politically. But I don’t want to win elections if the price is a rise in antisemitic sentiment. Hence I have done my best to expose that sentiment to Labour voters.
[Update, 8pm: The ever-reliable Tim Fenton notes that Louise Mensch’s article in the Jewish Chronicle would appear to include at least two libelous smears: the people targeted, Alison Chabloz and S G Kinsman, are considering legal action. Jeremy Duns, who praised Louise Mensch’s article, has quit Twitter today, pleading a 90,000-word novel to write.]
Let’s consider why Louise Mensch might fear Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party.
Gideon Levy writes of the need for a radical change of direction: that if the Opposition Party is only saying what the Government is saying, why should anyone elect the opposition party? He’s writing about the situation in Israel and the Occupied Territories, but it’s as true for the UK and the benefits war on the poor.
This week the DWP were finally required to publish the statistics of people who had died on incapacity benefit – including those who had died after being told they were “fit for work” and had their benefits withdrawn.
Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, and Liz Kendall have all three decided that the best course for the Labour Party is not to noisily oppose the Conservative attacks on benefit claimants, but to go along to get along: maybe get a few concessions, maybe say mildly that the Tories have gone too far: but never say outright: this is wrong. They want to be popular: they think following public opinion is how leaders win elections.
Not even in the face of so many deaths:
What the statistics today revealed is that, near-enough, ninety-two thousand people claiming Incapacity Benefits died in the space of a little over two years leading up to February 2014. Across the three years from January 2011 to February 2014, the overall death-rate was about ninety-nine per day. But it was just thirty-two per day in the first year. Overall, the acceleration in the two subsequent years means an increased death-rate of two hundred per cent. That is only people claiming Incapacity Benefits, please note, not people who had been on benefits of any other description; we are yet to learn how many of them have died of impoverishment by other means. Even more alarming is that over four thousand have died within just six weeks of being classified as ‘fit-to-work’, making a very bleak joke of the Work-Capability Assessments. (Four thousand, please note, is roughly the number of Britons who died at the Battle Of Marston Moor, and as that battle is always presented as one of the most important chapters in our nation’s history, it seems reasonable to suggest that today’s discoveries should be treated with similar gravity.)
Far from the concilatory positions of the other Labour leadership candidates, Jeremy Corbyn called on Iain Duncan Smith to resign, and said he should never have been appointed the Work and Pensions Secretary:
“I think he should never have been appointed actually.
“So yes actually he should resign because these figures are so frightening and so disgusting.
“It’s not new, it’s come out before, the number of people that have taken their own lives as a result of being declared fit for work when they clearly are not.
“I’ve had people with mental health difficulties as well as physical disabilities in my advice bureaus who are absolutely in despair.
“They’ve been declared fit for work when they absolutely are not and I’ve had to talk people down on this.”
This attitude, this outspoken condemnation of Conservative policies to target the poorest and most vulnerable, is said to be so unpopular with British voters that a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour Party will go down to an even worse defeat in 2020.
But it’s notable that no one on the right of British politics cares to find out if that’s true.