Jewish Chronicle Columnist Geoffrey Alderman Nails the Lie that Corbyn is an anti-Semite
Jewish Chronicle Columnist Geoffrey Alderman Nails the Lie that Corbyn is an anti-Semite
The Goebbels/Pollard Technique of Repeating a Falsehood Does Not Make it True
Every week without fail there is another story in the Jewish Chronicle campaign to ‘prove’ that Jeremy Corbyn’s is anti-Semitic. Its editor, Stephen Pollard, is a former editor of the Daily Express and a member of the cold war Henry Jackson Society, a virulently Islamaphobic organisation whoseAssociate Director is the racist Douglas Murray.
Geoffrey Alderman is a right-wing eccentric and Zionist. He has been a columnist at the Jewish Chronicle since 2002. He is also an academic at the private University of Buckingham. He was rightly condemned when he wrote that ‘Few events… have caused me greater pleasure in recent weeks than news of the death of the Italian so-called “peace activist” Vittorio Arrigoni.’ Vittorio’ was a member of the International Solidarity Movement who was murdered in Gaza.
He was once a member of the Board of Deputies but left to the sound of booing and hissing and was called a‘communal gadfly’ a title that he has somewhat taken to heart since he has compiled an anthology of his writings based on this description.
Alderman’s primary claim to fame is as a Jewish historian. His book The Jewish Community in British Politics was the subject of a concerted effort by the Board of Deputies to persuade him to excise certain parts concerning racism in the Jewish community and in particular that nearly 2% of Hackney Jews had voted for the neo-Nazi National Front.
When the Anti-Nazi League, a mass anti-fascist group, was created in 1977 to meet the challenge of a growing National Front, which had attracted over 100,000 votes in the GLC elections and large votes in local elections in cities such as Leicester and Bradford, the Board of Deputies attacked it, with what Maurice Ludmer, editor of Searchlight Anti-fascist Magazine described as
‘all the fervour of Kamikaze pilots… It was as though they were watching a time capsule rerun of the 1930’s, in the form of a flickering old movie, with a grim determination to repeat every mistake of that era.’ [Searchlight 41, November 1978]
Alderman was one of the few prominent British Jews who criticised the Board of Deputies for attacking the ANL rather than the fascists.
What is remarkable about the current wave of anti-Semitism hysteria is the almost complete unanimity of the Zionists about Labour’s non-existent ‘anti-Semitism’ and in particular Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘anti-Semitism’.
The lynch mob has been led by Stephen Pollard. Writing in 2019 in the Daily Mail he stated that ‘It took me a long time before I felt it appropriate to describe Jeremy Corbyn as an anti-Semite.’ This is such a blatant lie that it is a wonder that Pollard’s nose hasn’t already grown to twice its size!
Even before Corbyn was elected as Labour leader the Jewish Chronicle was accusing him of consorting with holocaust deniers, such as Paul Eisen.
Last July, in their United We Stand editorials, the 3 major Zionist papers in Britain accused Corbyn of posing an ‘existential threat to Jewish life in this country’. Who else but an anti-Semite could do this?
The Foreign Editor of the Jewish News, Stephen Oryszczukheavily criticised the joint editorial in an interview withCanary saying that
Oryszczuk was immediately put on ‘sick leave’ and has I understand been forced out.
Alderman has never been one to pull his punches. In the Spectator he has written a devastating critique of the idea that Corbyn is anti-Semitic.
Alderman first takes issue with Danny Finkelstein, The Times Associate Editor and Tory Peer, who was a Board Member of the Gatestone Institute. The GI promotes Tommy Robinson, Geert Wilders and a whole host of racists, fascists and Islamaphobes. The Gatestone Institute, which is funded by American billionaire Nina Rosenwald, the “sugar mama of anti-Muslim hate”, described Robinson as ‘a British free-speech activist and Islam critic.’ I hate to think what they might have called Hitler. A Jew critic?
Finkelstein criticised Corbyn for not having condemned the anti-Semitism of John Hobson when Corbyn reviewed his book, ‘Imperialism: A Study’ 8 years ago. Alderman is absolutely right when he writes that ‘There was absolutely no need for Corbyn to have drawn attention to them in his foreward.’ It was as he points out 10 lines in a 400 page book.
Alderman demolishes the Chair of Labour Friends of Israel, Joan Ryan MP’s fatuous assertion that
‘Over the past three years… the Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn has become infected with the scourge of anti-Jewish racism. This problem simply did not exist in the party before his election as leader.’
Alderman points out that ‘leading socialist activists – for instance Sidney and Beatrice Webb’ were ‘unashamed exponents’ of anti-Semitism. Sydney Webb described the European continental parties as ‘Jew ridden’ but fortunately this wasn’t true in the British Labour Party because ‘there’s no money in it.’ Alderman was clear:
‘The fact of the matter is that Corbyn has an impressive record of supporting Jewish communal initiatives’
and then proceeds to reel off a whole long list of examples of where Corbyn has supported local Jewish initiatives such as saving the cemetery of the West London synagogue from the developers. Writing that
‘I could fill this entire article with a list of philo-Semitic EDMs that Corbyn has signed since he was first elected as Labour MP for Islington North in 1983.’
Alderman ‘deliberately omitted from this discussion any consideration of Corbyn’s attitude to Zionism and whether anti-Zionism is inherently anti-Semitic.’ and he concludes that ‘the grounds for labelling him an anti-Semite simply do not exist.’
Which is a pretty damning indictment of the fallacious and dishonest campaign mounted by people like Pollard, who is the Joseph Goebbels of the British Jewish community. Pollard has turned the JC into a Zionist propaganda rag and its circulation has dropped like a stone to less than 20,000, many of them given away. Which is why the JC is facingsevere financial problems.
‘instead of adopting the definition as agreed by all these bodies, Labour has excised the parts which relate to Israel and how criticism of Israel can be antisemitic.’
As we always said the ‘anti-Semitism’ campaign was about Israel not anti-Semitism. This has always been Pollard and the Board of Deputies’s only concern. If Corbyn had been genuinely anti-Semitic but pro-Zionist then Pollard would have raised no objection to Corbyn.
In just the same way, the execrable Margaret Hodge has become a hero to the Jewish Chronicle. This is the same Hodge of whom Pollard wrote in the Daily Express that ‘it’s difficult to imagine a more blatant, shameful and utterly contemptible piece of two-faced hypocrisy than the behaviour of Margaret Hodge. ” Except that he wasn’t describing her attack on Jeremy Corbyn as a ‘fucking anti-Semite.’
Of course Pollard’s description of Hodge could not be bettered when it comes to his own behaviour and his selective attitude to anti-Semitism.
Jonathan Freedland, who was then more vocal about genuine anti-Semitism wrote that ‘there was a time when no self-respecting British politician would have gone anywhere near such people’. He described how Michal Kaminski, the Chairman of the ECR,
began his career in the National Rebirth of Poland movement, inspired by a 1930s fascist ideology that dreamed of a racially pure nation. Even today, the PiS slogan is “Poland for Poles”, understood to be a door slammed in the face of non-Catholics. In 2001 he upbraided the president for daring to apologise for a 1941 pogrom in the town of Jedwabne which left hundreds of Jews dead. Kaminski said there was nothing to apologise for – at least not until Jews apologised for what he alleged was the role Jewish partisans and Jewish communists had played alongside the Red Army in Poland.’
Freedland also pointed out that members of the Latvian LNNK party ‘have played a leading part in the annual parade honouring veterans of the Latvian Legion of the Waffen-SS. Lest we forget, the SS were the crack troops of Nazi genocide; the Latvian Legion included conscripts, but at least a third were volunteers, among them men with the blood of tens of thousands of Jews on their hands. It is in honour of those killers that Cameron’s new buddies march through the streets of Riga.’
Pollard you might think would have lambasted the Tories, such is his concern about anti-Semitism. Not a bit of it. The same man who damns Corbyn wrote a response defending Kaminski. Kaminski was
‘one of the greatest friends to the Jews in a town where antisemitism and a visceral loathing of Israel are rife.’
Because Kaminski was a strong supporter of Israel he had to be supported. And this is the dilemma of Zionism. Most anti-Semites love Israel. The neo-Nazi founder of America’s alt Right, Richard Spencer, even describes himself as aWhite Zionist and Tommy Robinson described himself as aproud Zionist. So did Norway’s mass killer Anders Breivik. There is nothing incompatible about loving Zionism and Israel and hating Jews. Most of today’s far-Right do. Indeed if you are a genuine anti-Semite then you will also be a sincere anti-Semite.
The only ‘anti-Semites’ that Pollard and co. are opposed to are anti-Zionists. However there are still some, a diminishing number, of Zionists, who see through their own lies. One of them is Geoffrey Alderman.
Is Jeremy Corbyn an anti-Semite? I began researching the answer to this question well before Danny Finkelstein’s recent revelation in the Times that eight years ago Corbyn had written a glowing foreward to a new edition ofImperialism: A Study, written by the radical economist John Atkinson Hobson, first published in 1902.
Context is paramount. That’s why I feel obliged to censure Finkelstein’s exposé. We all know what Hobson thought of Jews and capitalism. But to conclude – as Finkelstein does – that in writing the foreward Corbyn had praised a ‘deeply anti-Semitic book’ is to give a totally false impression of what this influential study is actually about. In a text running to almost 400 pages there are merely a dozen or so lines which we would call anti-Semitic. There was absolutely no need for Corbyn to have drawn attention to them in his foreward.
It’s quite true that the Labour Party that Corbyn leads has been dogged in recent years with incidents in which a significant number of its members, after being publicly pilloried as anti-Semites, have been expelled from the party. Worse than that, earlier this year a group of MPs resigned from the party, citing rampant anti-Semitism and a failure to deal with it as one of the reasons for their departure.
The group included the Jewish MP Luciana Berger, and also the non-Jewish MP Joan Ryan, formerly chair of Labour Friends of Israel.In her resignation speech, Ryan suggested that the ‘huge shame’ of anti-Semitism did not exist until Corbyn became party leader. Criticising Corbyn for ‘presiding over a culture of anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel,’ Ryan insisted that ‘Over the past three years… the Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn has become infected with the scourge of anti-Jewish racism. This problem simply did not exist in the party before his election as leader.’
Really? After all, hasn’t anti-Jewish racism existed in the party since its creation, over a century ago? In the late 19thcentury, wasn’t the trade-union movement (out of ‘the bowels’ of which the party emerged, as Ernie Bevin once graphically observed) positively riddled with such prejudice? Weren’t leading socialist activists – for instance Sidney and Beatrice Webb – unashamed exponents of it? To point to these irrefutable facts is neither to excuse such racism nor to imply that it wasn’t present in other political parties. Indeed it was and still is.
But my present concern is with Jeremy Corbyn, by which I mean Corbyn the person. For whilst it’s one thing to accuse him of being ‘soft’ on anti-Semitism, tolerating it and even befriending some of its exponents, it’s quite another to level the charge against him personally. What truth – if any – could there possibly be in such an accusation?
The fact of the matter is that Corbyn has an impressive record of supporting Jewish communal initiatives. For instance he was recently supportive of Jewish efforts to facilitate the speedy issue of death certificates by the north London coroner. In 2015 he took part in a ceremony in his Islington constituency to commemorate the founding of the North London Synagogue. In 2010 he put his name to an Early Day Motion (tabled by Diane Abbott) calling on the UK government to facilitate the settlement of Yemeni Jews in Britain. Indeed I could fill this entire article with a list of philo-Semitic EDMs that Corbyn has signed since he was first elected as Labour MP for Islington North in 1983.
In 1987 the West London Synagogue approached Islington Council with a startling proposal: to sell its original cemetery to property developers, destroying the gravestones and digging-up and reburying the bodies lying under them. This cemetery (dating from 1843) was not merely of great historic and architectural interest – in the view of orthodox Jews, the deliberate destruction of a cemetery is sacrilegious. So when Islington Council granted the planning application, a Jewish-led and ultimately successful campaign was launched to have the decision reversed. I was part of that campaign. So was Jeremy Corbyn. Meanwhile, the then-leader of Islington Council (1982-92), whose decision to permit the destruction of the cemetery was eventually overturned, was none other than Margaret Hodge (though it is unclear whether she personally was in favour of the proposal).
I have deliberately omitted from this discussion any consideration of Corbyn’s attitude to Zionism and whether anti-Zionism is inherently anti-Semitic. All I will say here – as a proud Zionist – is that in my view context is, again, paramount.
I will agree that from time to time, as backbench MP and party leader, Corbyn has acted unwisely. But the grounds for labelling him an anti-Semite simply do not exist.
Geoffrey Alderman is Professor of Politics, University of Buckingham.