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The JC Comment Blog

The JC Comment Blog No.7 - How Jeremy Corbyn has let me down

Ben Weich explains why it's a tough time to be a Jewish Corbynista

    Jeremy Corbyn has let me down.

    Much to the exasperation of my long-suffering colleagues, for the last year I have supported Jeremy Corbyn. I gave him the benefit of the doubt, and plenty of it. After last year’s general election, I even wrote a piece in the JC on why our readers should have voted for him.

    But this is a tipping point. How could I canvass for Labour now? How can I extol the virtues of Mr Corbyn’s revolution to my friends in the pub?

    “But Ben, you’re Jewish,” has become the reply.

    I would explain Labour’s antisemitism crisis in the following way.

    In their letter, which they delivered to the Parliamentary Labour Party, the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) and the Board of Deputies wrote: “We conclude that (Mr Corbyn) cannot seriously contemplate antisemitism, because he is so ideologically fixed within a far left worldview that is instinctively hostile to mainstream Jewish communities.

    “At best, this derives from the far left’s obsessive hatred of Zionism, Zionists and Israel. At worst, it suggests a conspiratorial worldview in which mainstream Jewish communities are believed to be a hostile entity, a class enemy.”

    Yes, Mr Corbyn and the far left are naturally opposed to these “mainstream Jewish communities”. He is a vocal critic of the Israeli government, as is his right.

    Plus, while Jews do have a historical tradition of radicalism, the British community has generally drifted to the centre and to the right.

    This has seen far left activists and Jews opposed on a number of issues, especially as today’s foreign cause célèbre is Palestine.

    The key, though, is that some of these left-wingers have used Jewishness as a stick to beat their opponents with, and Mr Corbyn has remained silent.

    It is more galling given the knowledge that, when he was posting messages to his supporters on Facebook groups like Palestine Live, the History of Palestine and the Labour Party Supporter, he would have scrolled past reams of Holocaust denial and vile antisemitic conspiracy theories.

    This is not, as Jewish Voice suggested, a smear against anyone who stands up against the right wing and neo-liberal agenda. I, a lifelong socialist, think exposing Labour antisemitism is one of the most important aspects of my job.

    I must confess: on first glance I did not see the mural, Mear One’s Freedom for Humanity, as antisemitic. Now, after examining the faces of the men sat around the Monopoly board, it clearly is reminiscent of Jewish caricatures in Nazi-era propaganda. It is deeply hateful.

    But it’s perhaps telling of my own worldview that I initially saw it as a comment on the inequalities of our economic system and the disproportionate control of resources exercised by an entrenched bourgeoisie. This, after all, is a social theory originally proposed and perpetuated by Jewish men and women. I suspect this is what the Labour leader saw, too.

    His failure to jump into action when the mural story broke, either back when the JC first reported it in 2015 or last week, was the real crime.

    It was entirely consistent with his conduct towards the Jewish community since becoming his party’s leader, and it suggests he either doesn’t care or doesn’t recognise the problem.

    There is a pervading complacency among those on the left that our position does not share a moral equivalence with the right wing. We, after all, are the champions of the oppressed, and the right is self-interested at best and racist at worst.

    This is bunkum. The far left can be every bit as bad.

    First Mr Corbyn made us, his allies in the community, look foolish. Now we are beginning to feel unwelcome in his movement. 

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