As the UK Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn tries to grapple without much success with charges that he personally and his party generally are at least tolerant of anti-Semitism if not wholly anti-Semitic, you would have thought that he would welcome any new friends he could get.
Well, no actually.
Corbyn, the most left-wing Labour Leader since the bumbling and ill-fated Michael Foot in the early 1980s, has a prominent new fan – Nick Griffin, the former Leader of the far-right British National Party (BNP), who posted on social media that for the first time he would vote Labour at the next election on the condition that Corbyn “sticks to his guns” and refuses to blame the bloody Syrian dictator Assad for the latest chemical attack in the Syrian conflict. That attack, which left dozens dead in the rebel held suburb of Douma east of Damascus , has been blamed by the USA, the European Union, UK, France and other countries on Assad and his Russian allies.
Griffin has been openly anti-Semitic for years. He is the author of a book called “Who Are The Mind Benders” which “explained” that most people didn’t support the BNP because their thoughts were being secretly controlled by a secret conspiracy of evil Jews in the media. He once gave an interview in which he denied the Holocaust and dismissed as “nonsense” all of the evidence about gas chambers and concentration camps.
Corbyn has hardly made any headway in his increasingly desperate attempts to downplay or deny anti-Semitism in sections of the Labour Party and Griffin’s public endorsement of him could not have come at a worse time.
On March 28, “The (UK) Jewish News” published a long interview with Corbyn. Its front page summed up their assessment of his answers: “As British Jews have said ‘Enough is enough’ on Labour and anti-Semitism, we gave Jeremy Corbyn a chance to finally repair the damage. But his answers were simply ... NOT GOOD ENOUGH” (their own headline capitals).
In 2011, the Israeli Arab leader Sheikh Rael Salah came to the UK, as an Israeli citizen, on a speaking tour. He and his Islamic Movement, which is closely aligned to the terrorist group Hamas, have publicly mourned the death of Osama Bin Laden calling him a “martyr” and his killers “Satanic” and he has opposed a two-State solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Before he was arrested and deported by British authorities, Salah was invited to the House of Commons for tea by Corbyn who praised him as an “honoured citizen”. Corbyn was asked in that interview if he understood that calling Salah an “honoured citizen” would be extremely offensive especially to Jews. His weasel word reply: “It was inclusive, polite language I used which I now recognise of course can be easily misinterpreted”.
That rates lower than the excuse, “The dog ate my homework” but it is very typical of Corbyn’s explanations of embarrassing disclosures.
When asked why he had called the terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah “friends”, Corbyn confessed that he had used that word but tried to excuse himself by saying, “I obviously realise that this can be misinterpreted and indeed has been.” When asked why he had marched repeatedly in demonstrations which featured the Hezbollah flag which has a gun on it, Corbyn’s absurd reply was that he didn’t regret being on the march but he would have preferred if that flag hadn’t.
Apart from many on the left of the British Labour Party sympathising with anti-Semites politically and philosophically, there is another powerful argument to do so – the force of numbers. There are an estimated 270,000 Jews in the UK and an estimated 4.2 million Arabs. The Muslim population of the UK has been estimated by the US Pew Research Centre to grow to 13 million by 2050 and that is one hell of a lot of votes.
In 2016, an official Labour Party report admitted that the party’s perceived anti-Semitism was “occasionally toxic” and recommended some remedial action. Little, if anything, was done.
According to the BBC last March, “Since then many Labour MPs feel that an almost continuous flow of allegations have emerged, including Mr Corbyn’s own unwitting participation in some online debates, with the party leadership accused of being slow and reluctant to take a strong stance, and the Labour machine crawling, rather than racing, to close down the problem.”
Also in March, the head of the party’s disputes panel Christine Shawcroft was forced to quit when it emerged that she had opposed the suspension of a Labour local council candidate Alan Bull who had posted to his Facebook page an article suggesting that the Holocaust was a “hoax”. It was, he admitted, a “bad mistake”.
Ms Shawcroft, who had only been appointed head of the disputes committee in January, had originally said that Mr Bull’s Facebook post had been “taken completely out of context and alleged to show anti-Semitism” and that Mr Bull was being pursued by some of his local party members for “political reasons”.
Later, she was contrite and apologetic actually saying that she hadn’t even seen the candidate’s Facebook post before she defended him. This convenient blindness is very typical of far too many on Labour’s left.
But Ms Shawcroft is very well protected and has easily rebuffed suggestions that she stand down from the party’s ruling National Executive Committee – she is a director of the pro-Corbyn Momentum Group, the internal militant wing that engineered Corbyn’s election as Leader.
In the wash-up from his disaster, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor (Treasurer) John McDonnell told the BBC that measures to deal with anti-Semitism in the Labour Party should have been put in place “ages ago” although he couldn’t say why they hadn’t. Labor MP and Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Committee on anti-Semitism, John Mann, said Corbyn should “show some real leadership” and suspend Ms Shawcroft from the party. He was ignored.
Corbyn has made quite a lucrative career from appearing on the virulently anti-Israel and anti-Jewish Iran State-owned “Press TV” and has admitted receiving $AU36,500 for doing so. Last year he claimed that he hadn’t been on the show for a “long time” although his own Parliamentary records showed his last appearance was in 2012. It depends, I suppose, on whether or not five years is a long time. And why did he stop appearing on the show? Was it because it had been drawn to his attention that the show was a nonstop tirade against all things Jewish and Israeli? Well no, “I ceased to do any programs when they treated the green movement the way that they did,” he told the BBC. One has to have priorities after all.
In 2012, local authorities in London removed a wall mural by American artist Mear One. The mural depicted anti-Semitic caricatures playing monopoly on a board held up on the backs of the poor. It was the sort of obscene cartoon that Julius Streicher, the notorious Nazi publisher of the German newspaper Der Sturmer would have been proud to publish. Streicher, who was executed after the war for crimes against humanity, was Nazi Germany’s most fanatical anti-Semite which was quite some achievement in those days.
Corbyn publicly sympathised with the artist and when the media uncovered the post only last March, he bungled the response. Initially the Labour Party said, “Jeremy was responding to concerns about the removal of public art on the grounds of free speech” although a subsequent statement issued by his own office said the problem was that “he did not look more closely at the image he was commenting on.”
All of this – and more – prompted Israel’s Labor Party to sever its historic relations with Corbyn’s Labour Party in early April. In a publicly released letter to Corbyn, the Israeli leader Avi Gabbay accused him of allowing “hostility” to the Jewish community and of having a “very public hatred of the policies of the government and State of Israel”. All Corbyn did was to complain that Gabbay should have spoken with him before sending and releasing the letter.
But at least he still has his new chum Nick Griffin to support him so all is not lost, is it?