Why Corbyn is unfit for office

Published by The ipaper (6th August, 2018)

Two years ago I had a drink with a friend who runs a family business and is a prominent member of Britain’s Jewish community. As we were putting the world to rights over a couple of beers, talk turned to Jeremy Corbyn, then the newly elected Labour leader – and this man’s words left me utterly shocked. For he told me that like many others he knew, he was making preparations to emigrate and shift assets abroad if the veteran left-winger became prime minister.

I remonstrated with this moderate man, pointing out that the veteran left-winger was an avowed anti-racist and had spent many years hurling himself into human rights causes. I said he might have antiquated views, but surely he was not nasty and a threat to Jews. But the businessman, quietly but insistently, replied that Corbyn left many in his community deeply fearful over his flirting with grotesque anti-Semites. I left our chat understanding a little more about the mounting alarm in his community.

Now this furore has exploded. Three Jewish newspapers echoed those words, joining together to say the leader of a party that was their natural home presents ‘an existential threat’ to their community if he becomes prime minister. Corbyn has been forced to make another apology for ‘the hurt that has been caused to many Jewish people’. Note the careful words, still implying he has done little wrong himself by hanging out with Holocaust deniers, supporting an anti-Semitic mural, targeting Jewish MPs for disciplinary action and rejecting a widely accepted definition of anti-Semitism on the grounds that it supposedly stymies criticism of Israel.

The damage to Labour goes well beyond a small community of 360,000 Britons. And so it should, for this raises profound questions over a man who is close to power. Put aside his appeasement of Brexit, his failure to challenge an inept and divided government, his Ukip-style words on foreign workers, and even his mouldy socialism so fixated on a mythical past with misty-eyed views of British Rail and Aneurin Bevan. These are major problems to my mind, areas of deep political disagreement, but they do not mean he is unfit for office.

This issue is different. First, because it shows stunning political incompetence. Perhaps this is not surprising for a man whose biggest decision was whether to plant artichokes or carrots in his allotment while he spent those long years fighting lost causes as a backbencher. But it is simply incredible that any leader could allow such a toxic issue to rumble on for months and blow up so disastrously, especially on an issue, such as anti-racism, that he sees as close to his heart. Is he trying to make Theresa May, another terrible leader, look strong and stable by comparison?

But the big question is why he failed to defuse a bombshell issue ticking loudly for so long. This comes to the critical second point. For Corbyn’s view on Israel goes to the very core of his political personality, with its view of the world formed against the backdrop of Vietnam and anti-colonial freedom struggles. The Labour leader turned 18 in the year of the Six-Day War, an Israeli military success that sparked deep Arab resentment and fuelled anti-Zionism – and it is always worth digging into political archaeology to understand a politician’s psyche.

This explains his pick-and-mix approach to human rights, his failure to support democrats fighting anti-Western powers and his blinkered attitude towards some of the most repellent rulers on earth. Look at his stance on despotic regimes in Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. Look at his cross-eyed view of Vladimir Putin, echoing the Kremlin’s lies and spin on matters from Ukraine to attacks on British soil.

Look at his reluctance to condemn Assad’s slaughter and use of chemical weapons. Look at how he took cash from Iran to promote its propaganda channel. Look at his sympathy for Sinn Fein when the hands of its leaders dripped with blood. This view of the world is why he ended up calling murderous terror groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah ‘friends’ as they carried out savage attacks on enemies and wiped out internal rivals. This is why he defended a mural so blatantly showing one of the crudest anti-Semitic tropes in history, aided too by his loathing of capitalism. This is why he hosted an event on Holocaust Day at which someone compared Israel to Nazism, then turned on Jewish dissenters.

For someone with Corbyn’s mindset – shared by most aides in his echo-chamber leadership circle – the cause of supporting Palestine is so pure and Israel so vile (and capitalistic) that they must be the virtuous side in any debate. None of this mattered so much when he was an eccentric lefty fuming away on the backbench. By the law of averages, sometimes he ended up on the right side – over Iraq, for instance, and in some Irish and Israeli concerns. But if you stand for freedom, if you fight for human rights, if you say you are anti-racist, then you cannot let tribalism cloud your judgement and influence your causes.

Yes, this is being weaponised by Corbyn’s foes – but he himself handed over the guns and loaded the bullets. Ironically, his attitude and his friends underscore why many Jews believe they need Israel as a refuge from anti-Semitism. It is simply not enough for Corbyn to claim he has fought racism all his life. This anti-Semitism row exposes an ultra-tribal politician with such a warped view of the world he cannot see bigotry when it sits beside him on a platform. Such a man is not fit to lead Labour, let alone enter Downing Street.

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