OK, Corbyn, let's have an inquiry

By Geoffrey Alderman, May 3, 2012

In the wake of the Raed Salah fiasco a member of the British parliament made an outrageous intervention, about which every British Jew ought to feel thoroughly alarmed.

Salah was accused by the Home Secretary of being an antisemitic, Israeli Arab rabble-rouser who used his oratorical powers to defame both the Jewish state and the Jewish people. Last June, he journeyed to the UK but was arrested and threatened with deportation. However, last month, the deportation order was quashed when his appeal succeeded on all grounds.

The senior judges of the upper tribunal concluded that the Home Secretary had been "misled", had "acted under a misapprehension of the facts", and had shown "disproportionate interference" when deciding to ban him. He is now back in Israel, whose Arab citizens gave him a hero's welcome.

My present purpose is neither to evaluate Salah's particular brand of anti-Jewish prejudice (which is in fact commonplace among Islamists and their British supporters) nor to pass judgment on the unsatisfactory manner in which the British government dealt with his case - though I must place on record my opinion that if, over the years, the Israeli authorities had dealt with him in a much more robust manner it is just possible that the UK judiciary might have taken a less charitable view of Salah.

I want rather to focus on Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour MP for Islington North. Following Salah's legal victory over the Home Secretary, and the quashing of the deportation order, Corbyn appeared at a news conference held to celebrate this. Salah's lawyer was present, and used the occasion to suggest that the Public Inquiries Act of 2005 should be invoked in order to facilitate an investigation into (and I quote) "the government's relationship to the pro-Israel lobby" and in particular, the Prime Minister's "relationship to pro-Israel lobbying groups".

What about the influence of the Arab lobby on UK politics?

The lawyer, Tayyab Ali, went on to name Poju Zabludowicz, who he insisted was not merely a Conservative party funder (which is true) but was also "a trustee" both of the Board of Deputies and of the Community Security Trust. He is in fact neither. But this did not prevent Corbyn from identifying himself with and warmly supporting the proposal. And it is that support that I find outrageous.

If an inquiry were launched in the terms outlined by Ali and endorsed by Corbyn, it would of course amount to nothing less than an investigation of Jewish influence on the Conservative party and on the Conservative side of the coalition government.

Now you might argue that that itself is no reason why such an inquiry should not be launched. And you might remind me that, some 30 years ago, I published a monograph entitled The Jewish Community in British Politics, in which I devoted significant amounts of space to the very subject matter of Ali's proposal. So I did. But my monograph also dealt with the Jewish influence on the Liberal party, Labour, the Communist party, Plaid Cymru, the SNP and even the National Front.

Clearly, that is not the sort of balance that Ali and Corbyn have in mind. What they have in mind is a very public, officially sanctioned witch-hunt against British citizens of the Jewish persuasion. But I want to hold out an olive branch. I would support - in principle - a public inquiry into the matters that trouble them if (and only if) that same inquiry inquired into matters such as the Muslim dimension to the politics of the Labour party - in fact of all political parties - and the influence of the Arab lobby on UK politics.

Indeed if we are minded to investigate the impact of religious and ethnic minorities on the British polity let us do so by all means, but in a comprehensive, non-partisan way.

While Corbyn and Ali ponder my offer, let me point to another aspect of this sorry affair that must give cause for concern - that Corbyn, an MP taking the Labour whip, endorsed the call for an inquiry into Jewish influence on government but was not reprimanded in any way by the Labour leadership. I can only speculate as to why. Could it be the case because the Labour front bench did not want to alienate Muslim voters, who are more numerous than Jewish voters? Or that Ed Miliband is fearful of the anti-Zionist left and its present sway over the party he leads? As things stand, Miliband's silence on the Ali-Corbyn initiative speaks volumes.

Last updated: 6:32pm, May 3 2012