Jeremy Corbyn must not back down on Palestine

Jeremy Corbyn is in danger of a dangerous climbdown on Palestine. (Chatham House)

Since his election as Labour leader in 2015, Jeremy Corbyn has faced an unprecedented campaign of vitriol from the combined forces of the Jewish Labour Movement, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, right-wing Labour MPs, and pro-Israel newspapers with mainstream press and broadcast media all too happy to jump on the bandwagon.

In response there has been an impressive show of solidarity from his supporters. Following days of manufactured outrage over comments made by Peter Willsman – Labour veteran and Corbyn ally – the hashtag #WeAreCorbyn trended at number one in the UK and number three worldwide. (Willsman’s crime: to demand evidence from those denouncing Corbyn for anti-Semitism.)

This reflexive defense of Corbyn shows the level of respect for his hitherto unwavering commitment to social justice and fighting racism. The invective against him has, however, also prevented any real examination of Corbyn’s positions on Palestine -– positions that are far less radical than often presumed.

More urgently at the present juncture, save for a few dissenting voices (such as The Electronic Intifada’s Asa Winstanley), he has also escaped opprobrium for manifestly failing to push back against the smear of anti-Semitism and for becoming increasingly apologetic for past solidarity with Palestine.

This can no longer be allowed to stand. The stakes are much too high.

Reports suggest Corbyn has capitulated to the demand that Labour incorporate into its Code of Conduct all four of the thus-far resisted “examples” of anti-Semitism devised by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). This is despite Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) voting against this in mid-July.

Ostensibly, a Labour NEC working group is still “consulting” on the issue. However, Corbyn has preempted the final outcome. He has unilaterally announced Labour now has an issue with only “half of one [IHRA] example.” Worryingly, reports suggest Corbyn will seek adoption of the IHRA examples as early as 4 September, conveniently before the Labour Party Conference at the end of the same month.

These developments reveal the need for an urgent refocusing away from defending Corbyn to the real task at hand: exposing the manufactured anti-Semitism crisis and the IHRA’s assault on the right to criticize Israel.

Tragically, the fight over the IHRA now looks to have also become a fight against Corbyn.

Inadequate critique of Zionism

It is a matter of fact that no MP has done more to champion the Palestinian cause than Jeremy Corbyn. Such stalwart solidarity does however run alongside some far from radical political positions on Israel.

After Kate Osamor, Labour’s shadow development secretary, tweeted her support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement for Palestinian rights last year, Corbyn’s office felt compelled to declare this was not Labour policy and “Jeremy is not in favor of a comprehensive or blanket boycott” of Israel.

Not only does he oppose this most important lever of international pressure on Israel, he insists a Labour government would breathe life into the entirely fictive peace process in support of an equally fictive two state solution. Objectively speaking, these positions are dangerous and retrograde; a recipe for continued annexations and the very destruction of Palestine.

Worse, in his recent Guardian newspaper mea culpa on Labour’s “anti-Semitism problem,” Corbyn spoke of the historic contribution of Zionists and anti-Zionists to Labour as equally “honorable.” He attacked the left for its belief “in the 1970s” that “Zionism is racism.” This was just as wrong, he claimed, as asserting today that “anti-Zionism is racism.”

Such equivalences could be dismissed as unseemly pragmatism. However, when one takes Corbyn’s positions as a whole, his critique of Zionism is evidently far from internally consistent or rigorous.

A compromise too far

This may go some way to explaining why he genuinely seems to believe – despite all evidence to the contrary – that a compromise can somehow be reached over the IHRA examples. “Our actual differences are in fact very small,” he maintains. This is completely delusional. Worse, it misrepresents the constellation of forces waging war on Labour and the Palestine solidarity movement as acting in good faith.

The attempt to impose all IHRA examples is, by definition, an attempt to impose a single narrative over the entire Labour membership to eliminate the anti-Zionist tradition in the party altogether. The IHRA’s proscriptions simply do not permit recognition of Israel as an exceptional state, i.e. a structurally racist colonial-settler project wedded to the superiority of one ethnic group over another.

Those that seek to impose them aim to normalize and detoxify Israel while undermining Palestinian solidarity within the party.

A chilling vision of this can be seen in Corbyn’s most recent remarks on resolving the IHRA issue. He insists he is working on a formula to permit discussion of “relations between Israel and Palestine, the future of the peace process and, yes, criticisms of the actions of the Israeli government in the bombing of Gaza and other places.”

In other words, legitimate criticism of Israel will be criticism of this or that particular policy or action.

Illegitimate criticism will be questioning the foundational nature of Zionism, its historic and continued attempts to de-Arabize the land and “redeem” Palestine exclusively for the Jewish people.

Incredibly, Corbyn seems to have conceded the Jewish Labour Movement’s arrogant and chauvinist right to police the discursive boundaries of the conflict.

All four IHRA examples must be fought

This might seem unfair given Corbyn is still holding out on “half of one [IHRA] example” – calling Israel “a racist endeavor.” However, this phrase cannot so easily be cut from the whole. This first part maintains it is anti-Semitic to “deny the Jewish people the right to self-determination.” In other words, to contest the right of Israel to exist. This is far from innocuous given Israel is not a state of all its citizens.

Indeed, Israel’s new nation-state law is explicit: the right of self-determination in Israel belongs exclusively to Jews.

So whether we chop the statement in half or not we arrive at the same place – legitimization of Israeli racism and the second-class status of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship. By extension, this example, in part or whole, affirms Israel’s right to shore up its Jewish character through immigration and naturalization policy while denying the right of return to Palestinian refugees.

Further, a perverse sleight-of-hand is at work when this example meets another seemingly conceded by Corbyn. The IHRA insist Jews have an unassailable right to be regarded as a national group (for the purpose of self-determination) – while at the same time insisting it is anti-Semitic to suggest Jews (outside Israel) are more loyal to Israel than “their own country.”

Adopting these two examples together severely constricts free speech. One is compelled to accept Israel as an extra-territorial state, belonging to Jews everywhere, while prevented from criticizing an Israel lobby for acting as an agent of a foreign state.

Corbyn also appears willing to accept it is anti-Semitic to make demands of Israel “not expected of other democratic nations.” This is the most absurd of the IHRA examples. At what point will the threshold of excessive demand be reached?

Incorporating this example will render questionable the motives of all those who commit themselves to the Palestinian struggle but who do not demonstrate equal zeal elsewhere. The boycott, divestment and sanctions movement will surely be called into question as it selectively targets Israel for the very reason Israel is not like “other democratic nations.”

“One Nation, One State”

Lastly, Corbyn now seems to agree it is inherently anti-Semitic to “make comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.” This is fallacious, as shown by the frequency of such comparisons inside Israel itself.

In 2016, official celebrations marking Israel’s 68th year used the slogan “Am Ehad, Medina Ahat” (One Nation, One State). Its anti-Arab subtext and echo of “Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Fuhrer” was widely noted. Days before, the Israeli army’s deputy chief of staff outraged the Israeli right by condemning “revolting” similarities between Israeli society and 1930s Germany.

In a speech for Holocaust Remembrance Day no less.

The Jewish Labour Movement’s objection to the Nazi analogy is certainly not on grounds of taste and decency. Witness Margaret Hodge MP’s outrageous claim that on receiving a disciplinary letter – for calling Corbyn a “fucking anti-Semite and racist” – she felt “the same fear” her father experienced when fleeing Hitler’s Germany.

Rather, banishing the analogy is a mechanism to sanitize discussion of Israel.

It’s not over yet

There is little time left to hold Corbyn’s feet to the fire.

The fight against the IHRA must be taken up as matter of urgency by all constituency Labour parties, in demonstrations and on social media. In terms of the latter, the principled and resolute Labour MP Chris Williamson and Jewish Voice for Labour showed the way, by backing a “Twitterstorm” on 20 August to retain Labour’s Code on Conduct.

Momentum members must isolate and denounce leader and NEC member Jon Lansman for lobbying for full incorporation of the IHRA examples. Floods of letters must be sent to the NEC and Corbyn himself.

Most importantly, Labour’s NEC must hear Palestinian voices. These have been thus far absent from its deliberations, and even its concerns, which have been entirely about Jewish and Zionist sensitivities.

Faced with this show of strength Corbyn may yet pull back from the brink and choose the right side.

Steven Garside is a member of the UK Labour Party and Palestine Solidarity Campaign. This article is written in a personal capacity.

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Anti-Zionism is anti-racism, because Zionist is a racist colonial project akin to the genocide of native peoples in the Americas, Australia and New Zealand, etc. So the British are basically at it again, in the 21st century, with their unambiguous support of the Apartheid theocracy of Israel. Jews are the followers of a religion. You can join that religion - and will have to if you wish to marry a Jews in Israel - and you can also leave it. There are Chinese Jews, Ethiopian Jews and everything in between. The idea of the Jewish race may actually have begun as Nazi propaganda and been picked up by the Zionists (or vice-versa), but it certainly doesn't seem to date back very far.

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This is a very good article but for one phrase:
'Tragically, the fight over the IHRA now looks to have also become a fight against Corbyn.'

No we are not fighting against Corbyn but we will disagree with him when he backslides. That is very important. The whole of the false antisemitism campaign has one purpose in mind - removing Jeremy Corbyn. We must be very clear that we defend Jeremy's position even if he is unable to do so.

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It is not about Corbyn, nobody cares about Corbyn.
It is about demonising ANY criticism of Israel and - or Zionism.
Everyone who has any audience, following or influence MUST toe the Zionist line or be destroyed.
Thousands of people are paid thousands of Pounds - Dollars or Euros to attack and get rid of all Zionist foes.
Corbyn's only defence is to stand and say 'I am Right, what is happening is immoral and unlawful and all decent people will oppose the Zionist regime.'
He will find a) that a large number of people support him, and b) eventually, as with Galloway, they will leave him alone.
Trump tried for about a week, and then caved in.

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In terms of this specific phrase I meant that if Corbyn is now in favour of adopting the IHRA examples in full (however reluctantly) then objectively speaking all those against the IHRA will be on a different side to him on this issue. So, yes, that means the Palestine solidarity movement WILL have a fight with Corbyn whether we like it or not. It's not a fight we have chosen - or anticipated. But the right to campaign vigorously and openly against Israel and Zionism is what is at stake and far more important than Corbyn. That is not to say there should be any attempt to unseat him - which would clearly be a victory for the Jewish Labour Movement and the Labour right.

However, with absolutely no sign Corbyn is going to push back against the Zionists in the party it is only right he is subject to open criticism. Especially as there is a real danger Corbyn's 'pro-Palestine credentials' will effectively help the NEC 'sell' the IHRA examples to the membership. He will doubtless insist on the insertion of some caveats e.g. 'guaranteeing' the right of members to criticise Israeli actions without being subject to disciplinary action. However, as the article argues, the IHRA examples are obviously incompatible with a more systematic critique of Zionism as foundationally racist - and so any concession on the four examples will have a chilling effect regardless of such caveats.

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So, it is a fight against the position he has taken on this issue, with the intention of changing his mind. That is not quite the same as a fight with him. But neither is it just about defending him in spite of his failure to defend himself, which Tony appears to argue. We defend him, while fighting against his position which is itself an attack on Palestinians and the solidarity movement. And it's not just Corbyn. It is also Len McCluskey and Dave Prentis who, on the most generous reading, have not realised the consequence of their actions.

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Yes it is a fight against the position that Corbyn has taken on Zionism and Palestine, but the reason we do that is that his passive acceptance of what has been thrown at him is making it all the more likely that what I call the second coup will be successful. We unconditionally support Corbyn's leadership. That is the reason for the 'antisemitism' attacks. It is the reason why right-wingers who don't care about Zionism or Palestine, e.g. Frank Field MP, have latched onto the issue.

In other words we defend Corbyn despite himself. McLuskey is different from Prentis who is a right-winger who supports the Zionists and IHRA. He commiserated with Adam Langleben when he persuaded his electors in West Hendon that he was representing an antisemitic party and thus convinced them not to vote for him!

At the end of the day the problem is Corbyn's failure to understand the nature of the state. In other words a lack of any Marxist analysis.

Because of one thing I am convinced. This campaign is state driven and not only the Israeli state. I suspect the fingerprints of US intelligence agencies are all over it

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It has been a terrible spectacle in a democratic country, watching a small minority attack a national party leader over and over with slanders and accusations without proof.

It is all quite shameless but heavily supported by the British press, especially The Guardian, one of the most biased and, really, dishonest large newspapers we have.

I have been very concerned about the situation, especially since we have so few fair-minded and decent leaders in major Western countries, and I have commented often.

Here is the link to a search I did on the topic on one of my sites. You may enjoy some of the criticism and analysis:

https://chuckmanwordsincomment...

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Ali

Rereading the sentence again, it appears to me to be very ambiguous but I am convinced my original interpretation is correct. If one takes the phrase I highlighted together with the previous sentence:

'These developments reveal the need for an urgent refocusing away from defending Corbyn to the real task at hand: exposing the manufactured anti-Semitism crisis and the IHRA’s assault on the right to criticize Israel.

Tragically, the fight over the IHRA now looks to have also become a fight against Corbyn.'

Without being talmudic about this (!) Steven says that we need to refocus away from defending Corbyn to the 'real task' of opposing the IHRA. He details how Corbyn has effectively capitulated, which I agree with and then says 'tragically' the fight over the IHRA now looks to have become a fight against Corbyn. If he was simply saying what you interpret it as then there would be no need for the use of the word 'tragic'. We know what the Zionists are about. It is not tragic, but it is tragic if we are now in the position of having to wage a war against Corbyn.

If I am correct then I have to warn strongly that such a strategy would be disastrous. However weak and vacillating Corbyn is, we have to defend him despite himself. But that means of course not defending his position of giving in whenever pressure is applied rather than fighting back.

If we follow Steven's advice then we would become even more isolated. We have to combine defending Palestinian rights and opposing Zionism with a defence of Corbyn.

I should add that one of the effects of the Zionist campaign is to politicise large numbers of people on the inquities of Zionism. It is also in danger of increasing antisemitism especially if 'the Jews' were seen to bring down Corbyn. But of course an increase in genuine antisemitism would not be a problem for our Zionist 'friends'

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Let us not forget that it is not just about Jeremy Corbyn: at least one organisation opposing Corbyn let the cat out of the bag saying that Labour's resistance to adopting all the examples was because they would otherwise have to expel thousand of members.
There are many, and not just those who indignant support Israel, but those opposed to the domestic policies as well, who fear a mass leftward leaning Party.

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It boggles my mind that this 'alliance' is even taken seriously, much less used as a big stick to beat up and subjugate truth-tellers. Have folks in England forgotten George Orwell's prophetic 1984? Where lie is truth and history is re-written according to some bureaucrat's whim?

With activists both inside and outside of Israel, fighting back on his behalf with their FOI requests and the support of his own party, why is he still caving into these brazen prevaricators?

Why does he denigrate the BDS movement - peaceful protest that worked for South Africa?

I will certainly find his coordinates and send him a message of support. Thank you

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recently Norman Finkelstein has written some perceptive articles regarding the equating of Corbyn's attempt at a reasoned and reasonable discussion concerning the misnamed "holy land"with antisemitism, especially as reported in the (deliberately) misleading reports issued by corporate media. and the same manner of reportage is also happening in australia. critisise the israeli government and risk being branded as anti-semetic.
as per Steven's excellent piece, the blogs by Norman receive no coverage, which only perpetuates the plethora of 'fake news' that purportedly describes the situation in Palestine.
http://normanfinkelstein.com/

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