How much lower will Jeremy Corbyn’s enemies sink in the race to the gutter of British politics?


Source: Middle East Eye

The Labour leader’s opponents don’t care about anti-Semitism. They’ll just do anything to remove Corbyn – smearing, libelling, intimidating.

Every day you log on, you ask yourself how much dirtier the campaign to unseat Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party is going to get, how much lower his enemies are going to sink. And each day they surpass themselves in the race to the gutter of British politics.

Last week, Britain’s three Jewish newspapers, who usually feud with each other, joined forces to post a joint editorial declaring that a Corbyn-led government would pose “an existential threat” to British Jews.

The campaign’s real purpose

On Saturday, the Daily Mail claimed that Corbyn had laid a wreath at the grave of two Palestinians who had allegedly organised the Munich Olympic massacre. Today the mass circulation tabloid, The Sun, ran two pieces in the same edition. One was a “letter’s special” declaring that Boris Johnson was “bang on” when he said that women who wear burqas resemble letter boxes or bank robbers: “Boris must be allowed to speak honestly, he has nothing to apologise for.”

Just imagine what would have happened if Corbyn had mocked the Kippah, overtly and brazenly, in a national newspaper.

The other was an editorial saying that Corbyn was unfit to be Labour leader and “cannot be allowed near government”.  At least – at last- we are arriving at the purpose of this campaign. It is clear now it has nothing to do with the actual and verifiable state of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, or Corbyn turning up at cemeteries in Tunis in 2014 for Palestinian refugees.

It is crystal clear that its purpose is to take out the leader of the opposition by using the tactics of fascists – smearing, libelling, intimidating.

Unable to put up a candidate capable of defeating him by democratic means, at the ballot box, unable to attack him on his polices for which there is majority support in the country, Corbyn’s detractors have methodically and consistently set about the task of character assassination.

And, of course, it works.

Feeding the crocodile

Corbyn is facing the biggest threat to his leadership since the “coup” organised by his parliamentary party. He is also increasingly isolated among his own supporters. John McDonnell, Corbyn’s closest ally, who shuns foreign policy, thinks this is not Labour’s fight. Emily Thornberry, his shadow foreign secretary, has not said a word.

Ed Milliband, the former Labour leader under whose tenure anti-Semitism was historically greater than during Corbyn’s reign, has offered little support. Union leaders are pealing away. Muslim groups do not want to know. Corbyn is alone.

And the result is that Corbyn feels he is left with no option but to back down, apologise, accept the contentious “working examples” of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-semitism one by one, in a slow, painful retreat.

People wear flag of Israel glasses and hold up placards as they gather for a demonstration organised by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism outside the head office of the British opposition Labour Party in central London on 8 April, 2018 (AFP)

This is a disastrous miscalculation. Corbyn’s “apologies” for crimes of which he is innocent, only feed the crocodile. As the Georgians say: “Once you run out of chickens to throw the crocodile, it will have your arm.” Whether Corbyn survives this onslaught or not, everyone who is taking part, either wittingly or unwittingly, in this campaign should beware of getting what they want.

Whatever happens to Corbyn, there are three victims of this dirty episode.

The victims

The first is the truth: Almost every time you take a specific allegation and examine it, the evidence crumbles like sand in your hands. Let’s take the latest: that Corbyn laid a wreath at the graves of two Palestinian terrorists. It turns out he didn’t lay a wreath at that grave, which was 15 yards away, but was present when a wreath was laid. The wreath was for everyone at the cemetery: Palestinians who died under bombardment, those who were assassinated, and those who had simply died in exile.

Corbyn honoured the Palestinian dead 22 years after Oslo. Is that a crime?

And who were these two terrorists, anyway? Both were PLO men, the Palestinian faction that went on to negotiate Oslo and recognise Israel. One was Salah Khalaf, who met with the US ambassador in Tunis as part of the dialogue with the PLO authorised by the then US Secretary of State James Baker. Does this make Baker guilty of the same crime Corbyn has just committed?

Khalaf was identified by the Americans as a pragmatist who was shifting PLO policy. The second one was Atef Bseiso, the PLO’s liaison officer with the CIA. Israel accused him of involvement in the Munich massacre, although it is a matter of historical dispute as to how many of those assassinated were directly linked to Munich. French intelligence traced his assassination in Paris to Abu Nidal, and the PLO accused the Mossad.

Khalaf, also known as Abu Iyad, was head of intelligence for the PLO and Arafat’s right hand man. Jack Straw laid a wreath at Arafat’s grave. Should Straw be now outed for doing so? Bseiso and Khalaf hail from the days in the early 1970’s of Black September.

So how far do you want to go back in history? Israel had two prime ministers who were former terrorists from the bombings they helped organise in 1944.

Menachim Begin was a leader of Irgun, an underground Zionist paramilitary group whose aim was to force the British to leave Palestine. Irgun staged a series of bombings in 1944 against British targets, the Immigration Department, the tax offices, a series of police stations. His face appears on a wanted poster issued by the Palestine Police Force.

Yitzak Shamir was a member of Lehi, or the notorious Stern Gang, who assassinated Lord Moyne, the British resident minister in the Middle East. Both Begin and Shamir are celebrated as freedom fighters in Israel.

McCarthyism at work

The second victim of this campaign are the Palestinians.The aim is to terrify all Labour politicians from any contact with Palestinian organisations either in the present or the past. The IHRA’s anti-Semitism definition, which is not legally binding, will be used as a retro-active weapon.

If this sounds like the tactics US Senator Joseph McCarthy used in the early 1950s against suspected communists – “reds under the bed” – at the height of the cold war, it is because it is. From now on, any past contact, any event, any platform shared with Palestinian groups, supporters, activists, and photograph that emerges from the bowels of Israel’s psych-ops servers could be used to destroy a British politician’s reputation as effectively as Corbyn’s has.

It is every British party’s policy to back – the now moribund – two state solution. That means to set up a viable Palestinian State. This campaign effectively paralyses any communication between Palestinian activists and British politicians.

I am addressing this point specifically to Corbyn’s enemies on the right of the party and to the Parliamentary Party. Do you seriously want the same tactics you have used, or colluded with, against Corbyn, to be used against you? Do you really think British democracy is the winner as a result?

If anyone seriously thinks that having taken out Corbyn this campaign will stop there, they are deluding themselves.

Everyone’s fight

The third victim of this campaign is anyone, be they Palestinian or Israeli, Muslim, Christian, or Jewish, who is identified by Israel as a dissenter.

Let’s just record what happened to Jewish American journalist Peter Beinart at Ben Gurion Airport. Beinart, who has publicly expressed his support for boycotting products manufactured in the settlements in the occupied West Bank, was interrogated for an hour about his political writings and activities .

“The session ended when my interrogator asked me, point blank, if I was planning to attend another protest,” Beinart wrote. “I answered truthfully: No. With that I was sent back to the holding room.” Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu immediately rowed back and claimed Beinart’s interrogation had been an “administrative mistake”.

For US Jews and indeed British ones, this is a real canary in the coal mine. This is the path on which Israel is headed, and Israel is dragging the Jewish diaspora along. Speak up now and resist it before it is too late. Corbyn’s fight for his own integrity, reputation and honesty is everyone’s fight.

If you don’t, if you stand aside, if you stay silent, if you grin knowingly and do nothing, you will be next.

– David Hearst is editor-in-chief of Middle East Eye. He was chief foreign leader writer of The Guardian, former Associate Foreign Editor, European Editor, Moscow Bureau Chief, European Correspondent, and Ireland Correspondent. He joined The Guardian from The Scotsman, where he was education correspondent.

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