Joan Ryan MP

Jeremy Corbyn appals me - and his behaviour will get no better

The chair of LFI says her party's leader is not interested in Middle East peace - just in meeting terrorists with blood on their hands

August 21, 2018 14:43

The Labour Party should have spent this summer highlighting the government’s multiple failures and failings.

Instead, the last four weeks have been dominated by stories about our leader attending ceremonies at the graves of those behind the Munich massacre, presiding over Holocaust Memorial Day meetings where Israel was compared to Nazi Germany, and casting doubt on the guilt of Hamas terrorists.

Consider the past week’s revelations alone.

Jeremy Corbyn was photographed next to the leader of the PFLP, a month before they claimed responsibility for the 2014 axe murder of seven rabbis in a Jerusalem synagogue. He spoke at a conference in Doha in 2012 alongside Hamas terrorists and called their speeches “fascinating and electrifying”. And he enjoyed a takeaway dinner in 2010 with Hamas leader Khaled Mashal, who is on Britain’s terror sanctions list.

But the issue here is not wasted opportunities. It is the moral crisis which the Labour Party now faces.

I am shocked by the revelations of the past month, ashamed of my party’s response, and appalled at Jeremy Corbyn’s unwillingness to confront his own part in it.

Jeremy Corbyn claims that his only interest is in peace and that he will talk to anyone who wishes to bring that about.

But I am afraid this assertion is undermined by his repeated failure to engage with Israelis. Since becoming Labour leader he has repeatedly refused to accept invitations to travel to Israel, even to visit Yad Vashem.

Over many years, he has instead met repeatedly with those who seek Israel’s destruction and who have the blood of hundreds of its citizens on their hands. He has lent them the respectability of meeting a member of the British parliament. They have given nothing in return. This is not at all how peace is achieved.

His behaviour – together with his incomprehensible unwillingness to, for instance, apologise to the widows of those whose husbands were murdered at Munich for his actions – has thus done nothing to lead Israelis to believe that, as Prime Minister, he could play a part in any future peace process.

In many respects, the place where Labour now finds itself is the inevitable result of its failure to heed the warnings issued by the JC in the summer of 2015 about Jeremy Corbyn’s past associations with “Holocaust deniers, terrorists and some outright anti-Semites”.

At the same time, however, the party has had multiple opportunities since to tackle the scourge of antisemitism.

It has missed every one of them: from the Chakrabarti report of 2016 to the terrible decision not to adopt IHRA in full last month.

Even after all that has happened over the past four weeks, the leadership appears to be desperately trying to wriggle out of accepting IHRA. Instead it seems determined to protect the rights of those who wish to call the Jewish people’s right to self-determination a “racist endeavour”.

That some have decided to put this right over the express wishes of Britain’s Jews is beyond arrogant and insensitive. IHRA needs no additions, deletions or qualifications.

Nor should we pretend that even full acceptance of IHRA ends the battle against antisemitism in the Labour Party.  

In recent days, we have seen outrageous attacks by Len McCluskey on the communal leadership and a totally dismissive attitude towards Jews’ legitimate fears and concerns. You do not assuage anxieties by abusing those who have raised them but by listening, empathising and responding. We have also seen John McDonnell attempting to impugn the motives of Labour MPs who have fought hard over the past three years to do just that.

None of this gives me any confidence that Labour’s leadership understands or is prepared to commence the huge task of erasing the shame which has befallen our party.

Rt Hon Joan Ryan MP is chair of Labour Friends of Israel


August 21, 2018 14:43

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