Let's get behind moderates

November 24, 2016 23:19

I go to churches, I go to mosques, I go to synagogues. I find the power of faith very interesting." So said the new leader of the Labour Party. And of course he does. Of course Jeremy Corbyn believes in the power of faith, because, after all, he is a man of faith.

As his rise to the Labour leadership is a political earthquake with profound implications for the Jewish community, I think it is worth probing what exactly his faith is.

I do not believe Jeremy Corbyn has a lack of respect for Jews. And I don't believe he is an antisemite. I think the very basis of his politics is a dislike of prejudice. His rise has, I am afraid, dragged antisemites into the Labour Party but he doesn't share their racism. However, his opposition to racism is more complicated than this. It leads him to oppose what he regards as colonial intervention by Western liberal powers. And to see colonial intervention in everything.

Jeremy Corbyn is not a pacifist. He does not - as is commonly misunderstood, and as he wishes it to be misunderstood - talk to armed groups to win peace. He actively sympathises with what he regards as movements for liberation when they take up arms against the West.

He regrets and is dismayed by deaths caused by terrorism. But he regards these as not really the terrorists' fault. They result from resistance to colonial repression. Jeremy Corbyn's "peace" work is to attempt to remove the root cause of terrorism by ending colonial oppression. And this explains his attitude to Hamas and Hizbollah.

Corbyn sees colonial intervention in everything

Mr Corbyn did not meet representatives of these organisations in parliament in order to persuade them to be peaceable. Nor did he call them friends because he was employing diplomatic language. He met them out of solidarity and called them friends in a collegiate spirit. Watch the footage of him doing it. It does not admit of an alternative explanation.

His anti-colonial ideas lead him to regard the crimes of Hamas as originating in the intervention of the West. Israel, to him, is a colonial power sustained by the West and Hamas is a liberation movement for all its flaws. He can see these flaws, but they are secondary. Because they would not exist were it not for the West's behaviour.

This is worth laying out in detail because it explains the challenge we now face. The main opposition party is now led by someone who sees the Jewish homeland as a foreign conquering power. The main alternative prime minister sees support for Israel by Britain and the US as imperialism. No one should underestimate the threat to British support for Israel that this poses.

It has been made clear to Mr Corbyn by figures like Lord Falconer, Pat McFadden and Hilary Benn, that issues like membership of the EU, Trident, and support for NATO are non-negotiable for them. They must remain part of Labour's policy or they will walk. And so far this has proven very powerful. They have made the new leader moderate his position.

We must now insist that moderate Labour members include Israel and its security on its list. They must demand that support for a Jewish state as part of a two-state solution remains Labour policy. They must insist that Mr Corbyn does not lend his authority to extremists who murder and to antisemites.

They should make accepting the egregious Jenny Tonge as a member of the party a resigning issue. The strategy of joining Mr Corbyn's team in order to constrain him works only if the moderates are willing to do just that. If they leave Israel off the list of things on which they will insist, they needn't think the rest of us will easily forgive.

November 24, 2016 23:19

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