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Corbyn: it isn't just the Jews that should be worried

Unable to see the problems within his own party, let alone the content of pictures he comments on, Jeremy Corbyn is the Mr Magoo of British politics

    Problems do not generally disappear when ignored. In such situations, they instead tend to grow larger.

    Tonight, hundreds, if not thousands, of members of the British Jewish community will do something unprecedented.

    They will stand outside Parliament, and protest what they see as the tolerant attitude to antisemitism shown by the leader of the opposition.

    The Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council – the two groups who have called for the protest - are not known for making hasty decisions.

    Their general modus operandi is to try to talk rather than shout, to build bridges rather than burn them. So when they call for a protest outside Parliament, to “tell Jeremy Corbyn that enough is enough”, you can be sure that they have reached the end of their tether.

    By calling for such a protest, they are, in effect, saying that all other forms of dialogue have failed.

    It is a peculiar thing, Mr Corbyn’s patented blend of forceful ambiguity. The more statements he puts out – and, after the resurfacing of a story we published in November 2015 about his protesting the removal of an antisemitic mural, he put out three in as many days – the less clear he seems.

    There is not the slightest indication from him that any of this might be his fault, that his past behaviour has helped embolden those in the Labour party who previously muttered at its fringes. With regard to antisemitism, he is the Mr Magoo of British politics, displaying extreme near-sightedness coupled with a stubborn refusal to admit his own role in the problem.

    When Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour party in 2015, the mainstream Jewish community was nervous. It was not felt that Mr Corbyn himself was an antisemite, but rather that, time and again, he had associated with unsavoury individuals who were. And if you associate with such people on a regular basis, it seems entirely fair to wonder where your sympathies lie.

    Two and a half years on, the temperature of the relationship between Mr Corbyn and the Jewish community has plummeted from frosty to glacial.

    In part, this is because Mr Corbyn’s attempts to reach out to those who had reason to distrust him have been little short of pathetic. Early on in his leadership, the JC managed to secure an interview with Mr Corbyn. However, the Labour leader pulled out after hearing that Oliver Kamm, of the Times, would be conducting the interview. Since then, there has been nothing. It is not that Mr Corbyn has not given interviews since, it’s just that he has apparently not found time in the last two and a half years to squeeze a Jewish newspaper into his busy schedule.

    His attempt to launch an inquiry into antisemitism “and all other forms of racism” was a disaster. At the publication event, Mr Corbyn stood by while a far-left activist slandered a Jewish MP, who left the room in tears. The report itself left many Jews puzzled by its vagueness. That puzzlement turned to rage when, just a couple of months later, the author of that report was recommended for a peerage by Mr Corbyn, in what immediately became viewed as a “whitewash-for-peerages’ scandal.

    There are, I am sure, many people outside our community who do not particularly care about this issue. After all, contrary to what some appear to believe, the Jewish population of this country is small – under 0.5%. Many beyond our community may feel it has nothing to do with them.

    I could argue that hatred against Jews has traditionally been the canary in the coal-mine in terms of rising bigotry.

    But the truth is, voters of all persuasions should be worried – because the attitude of the leader of the opposition to antisemitism is the same as his attitude to any subject which he finds awkward.

    Like Brexit. The ambiguity – best shown in his extremely muted campaigning for Remain, and his lack of clarity, in the aftermath, about what sort of departure from the EU he wants – is the same.

    I have heard Mr Corbyn speak, both on television and in person, and it is extremely clear when he is speaking about a subject he cares for.

    When he talks about the terrible nature of poverty and injustice, his voice rises, his tone becomes impassioned. Conversely, when discussing other topics, his delivery is bland. Antisemitism falls into this latter category, as does Brexit and almost any discussion about how to actually fix the problems of poverty and injustice. Mr Corbyn is a talker, not a doer.

    It would be nice to believe that tonight’s event will lead to some sort of change from Mr Corbyn. But there is no real indication that it will – and little to suggest any action will be taken if he does nothing. Moderate Labour MPs will demonstrate their distaste at the situation, and speak stridently of ‘solidarity’ with the Jewish community. But other than leave the party – an action which most if not all have made clear they will not take – there is nothing they can do. It is Mr Corbyn’s party now – not theirs.

    But if tonight’s protest is ignored, if no major change happens, the one thing I do know is that this issue will not disappear. It will continue to grow. And the anger of our community will grow along with it.

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