According to Jeremy Corbyn himself, Margaret Hodge was right to call him antisemitic

The Labour leader believes 'If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.' Daniel Sugarman argues that he has done exactly that.

July 18, 2018 15:04

In the feverish political climate of 2018 Britain, it is rare to experience shock anymore, far less experience a sort of savage pleasure.

But I will admit to feeling that last night, when I heard that Dame Margaret Hodge, the Jewish Labour MP for Barking, had confronted Jeremy Corbyn in Westminster and called him a “f***ing antisemitic racist.”

When asked whether the original report of the incident was correct, Dame Margaret said no – she hadn’t used the word “f***ing.”

Margaret Hodge has known Jeremy Corbyn far longer than most. She was head of Islington Council when he became an MP in the area, in 1983. One might be forgiven for asking: “if you feel this way, what took you so long to speak out?”

But it is worth remembering that according to Jeremy Corbyn himself, Margaret Hodge is absolutely right. His actions yesterday proved it.

In January 2017, in response to Theresa May visiting Washington and refusing to comment on Donald Trump’s immigrant ban, the Labour leader tweeted: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

Yesterday afternoon, as the JC reported, as Labour’s National Executive Committee debated whether or not to adopt the full IHRA definition of antisemitism, an NEC member called Pete Willsman spoke.

He dismissed the letter which 68 Rabbis had signed, warning the Labour party about their fears over failure to adopt the full IHRA definition, as “false”.

He continued, saying “In 50 years I have never seen any antisemitism in the Labour Party. I met an Auschwitz survivor who said the same.”

Maybe this unnamed survivor is one of the mysterious Jews Ken Livingstone claims are constantly coming up to him to tell him he’s right.

But Mr Willsman also said something else: “Some of the people in the Jewish community are Trump fanatics – I’ll take no lectures from them.”

Can we imagine what Mr Corbyn’s response would have been if a Labour NEC member, in front of him, in response to communal fears about Islamophobia, had said something to the effect of “Some of the people in the Muslim community support terror – I’ll take no lectures from them.” There is no doubt whatsoever that Mr Corbyn would have immediately spoken up, correctly identifying the comment as Islamophobic in the extreme.

What did Mr Corbyn do here? The exact same thing he did when he was hosting a show on Press TV, the Iranian state television channel, and someone called in to rant about Jews. The exact same thing he did at the publication launch of the Chakrabarti Inquiry, when a Jewish Labour MP was verbally abused right in front of him. He was silent. He remained “neutral”. He “chose the side of the oppressor.”

But having identified Mr Corbyn as an antisemite, one has to ask the question: how can Margaret Hodge remain in a party led by such a person. Indeed, how can any Jewish person?

I have previously argued that for the JLM to leave the Labour party would be disastrous. But time and time again, the Labour leadership have displayed a complete disinterest in listening to the JLM on Jewish issues, preventing them from attending meetings on the subject of antisemitism, and even claiming that they supported the Labour party’s own muddled definition of antisemitism (JLM rapidly made it clear they did not.) At what point exactly does one acknowledge that one is being used? That you are campaigning for a party and a leadership which has denied you the right to define your own oppression? Which has decided that if fellow members accuse you of having dual loyalties, they aren’t being antisemitic?

“We stay, we stand, we fight” is the JLM slogan. But it now sounds less like an impassioned battle cry, and more like the exhausted mumble of a mountaineer halfway up a perilous cliff face who, tired beyond all endurance, nonetheless refuses to go back, because having put all this effort in, how can they turn around now?

Even after the events of yesterday, I understand the choice of some members to stay. But I respect the decision of those who opt to leave.

July 18, 2018 15:04

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