Here are two responses, from Sarah Brown and Eve Garrard.
Although at first he seemed very much the outsider candidate, it is now being predicted that Jeremy Corbyn may do well in the first round of the Labour leadership elections.
Readers here will probably already be familiar with the reasons not to vote for Corbyn. His support for the Palestinian cause has led him to consider elements of Hamas and Hezbollah his ‘friends’ and welcome Raed Salah, who promotes the blood libel and other hateful views, to tea at Westminster:
“About Salah, Corbyn has said ‘He is far from a dangerous man. He is a very honoured citizen, he represents his people extremely well, and his is a voice that must be heard.’ Corbyn added, ‘I look forward to giving you tea on the terrace because you deserve it!’ “
Although there have been reasoned and eloquent critiques of Corbyn from the left, some other Labour supporters have a blind spot on such issues. This article on Left Futures invokes Realpolitik in order to defend Corbyn’s record and associations.
“Corbyn is socialist and the others are not, Corbyn is secularist and the others are not, Corbyn is a steadfast defender of LGBT rights and the others are certainly not. Corbyn also understands that peace can only be achieved through mutual respect and diplomacy.”
But it is surely possible to have official dealings with objectionable people to further peace and diplomacy without calling them ‘friends’ or inviting them to tea.
It is depressingly difficult to disagree with Nick Cohen here:
“If Corbyn apologized for neo-Nazis with near identical views to Raed Salah, or some kind of Ku Klux Klan-style militia that matched Hezbollah goose step for goose step, the left would excommunicate him. As it is, in Britain, Europe, and by the look of it the States too you can be an admired leftist, while going along with every vile and murderous movement.”
Whereas some indignantly defend Corbyn, others admit a problem but claim it is outweighed by the positives. Here a link to some of his more unsavoury positions is hidden away in a throwaway line in the middle of an otherwise enthusiastic piece.
“He’s not a perfect figure by any means, but you take your breaks as you find them.”
Many Labour members aren’t avid followers of blogs and rely for their information on more mainstream media. It is therefore likely that they are aware of Corbyn’s views on issues such as austerity and the unions, but perhaps know little of his more controversial positions. It’s a pity that this quite informative short piece was run in the Daily Express, a paper most on the left avoid. There’s no mention of Hamas, Hezbollah or Salah in this gushing profile in the Guardian, or in this editorial, also from the Guardian.
This apparent indifference or tolerance towards Corbyn’s less defensible views is well described in this extremely informative recent article on his candidacy by Jake Wallis Simons.
“As one Labour insider put it, “the attitude is, ‘that’s just Jeremy being Jeremy.’”
In some ways the debates echo those we heard when Ken Livingstone was standing for Mayor. Many were torn between a wish to support a Labour candidate and an unwillingness to support someone who, to quote Jonathan Freedland, ‘doesn’t care what hurt he causes Jews.’
If you look up “Jeremy Corbyn” together with “Hamas” in Google most of the top hits are links to right wing sites or sites which regularly cover the topic of antisemitism. It seems likely, thanks to the willingness of some on the left to excuse or gloss over Corbyn’s associations with extremists, that many voting for him as leader won’t be aware of his past form on these issues.
It is sometimes suggested that Jewish left-wingers who refuse to support Corbyn out of concern about his antisemitic friendships are selfishly putting the (putative) interests of Jews ahead of the interests of the poor and the working class, for whom Corbyn speaks. Jews should, it could be said, rise above their narrow sectional concerns, and support the candidate who will work for the down-trodden and impoverished. Leave aside the question of whether Corbyn would, were he to become Leader of the Labour Party, actually improve the lot of the downtrodden any better than the other candidates. Let’s focus on the charge of sectional selfishness levelled at Jews who have doubts about supporting Corbyn. To see its implications, consider the following situation:
A candidate for the leadership emerges whose politics in general are very similar to Corbyn’s, being impeccably left-wing on all issues to do with class and economics. However this candidate has in the past, and is in the present, very supportive of the Ku Klux Klan in America. He regards that organisation as an objectively progressive force, and its leaders as friends – he attends some of their meetings, and is pleased and proud to share a public platform with them when the opportunity arises. Many persons of colour in the Labour Party are horrified at this, and declare their intention to vote for any other candidate in preference to this Corbyn-equivalent, on the grounds that they can’t possibly support a person who has links with some extraordinarily racist forces, whose views about black people are hideously prejudiced, insulting, and oppressive.
In such a situation, would those persons of colour be regarded as acting selfishly? Would they be criticised for putting the interests of black citizens ahead of the general good? Or would they rather be seen as women and men of principle, who refuse to collaborate with bigotry and racism towards themselves and their people, whatever its source on the political spectrum? The questions practically answer themselves.
So too for Jews who feel that they cannot support Corbyn in any circumstances. They too are women and men of principle, an anti-racist principle well worth defending by Jews and non-Jews alike.