Jeremy Corbyn fails at Labour Friends of Israel fringe meeting – David Hirsh

Labour leaders usually address both Labour Friends of Palestine and Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) fringe meetings at Conference.  Corbyn had a particular job to do at LFI: he needed to reassure the Jewish community and antiracists that he understands what it is about his record that is so concerning:

He has presented a show on Press TV, Iran’s propaganda channel.  Iran wants Israel wiped off the map and has a public policy of Holocaust Denial.

Corbyn is a Patron of the “Palestine Solidarity Campaign” whose main business is to fight for a boycott of Israel.  Corbyn has reaffirmed his support for the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel as recently as August 2015.

Corbyn has referred to Hamas and Hezbollah as “friends” and he said that they are dedicated to the good of the Palestinian people and to social and political justice in the Middle East.

Corbyn has jumped to the defence of antisemites, Raed Salah who indulged in medieval blood libel and Stephen Sizer who said that Israel was behind 9/11. He continued to support “Deir Yassin Remembered” even when it was well known that it was run by a Holocaust Denier.  He has said that those who have raised these issues are making personal smears, not political criticism.

Corbyn sometimes says that he is for a two state solution but he also says, in a coded disavowal of such a solution, that the Palestinian right to return was “the key” to a solution.

So what did he say at the LFI meeting?

He refused to utter the word “Israel”.  He refused to say that he was for the right of Israel to exist, even within the ’67 borders.

He said:  “I want us as a party, to be a party for peace and progress in the Middle East in the best way that we can, by linking up with all those groups in the Middle East that want peace and progress.”  But he also said that he wants to “talk to everybody”.  In this way he avoided saying anything about his previous stated support for Hamas and Hezbollah, both antisemitic, both terroristic, both annihilationist of Israel.

Corbyn said that the “situation is dire in many ways”, he talked about the “siege of Gaza”, he talked about the plight of refugees “across the region”.  He veered from talking about Palestine to talking about the region, maybe Syria, maybe Iraq – there was, more than once, a studied ambivalence; some of what he said could be interpreted to relate to Israel and Palestine, or it could be interpreted to relate to anywhere else in the Middle East.

He articulated his clear opposition to Antisemitism.  But:

  1. he couldn’t utter the word without first mentioning all racisms and Islamophobia
  2. he illustrated his opposition to antisemitism only by talking about the threat of the far-right
  3. he failed to concede the existence of antisemitism on the left or in the world of Palestine solidarity; he failed to oppose it.

Corbyn did not show that he understands why the campaign to boycott Israel is so menacing to Jews in the UK; he did not reassure us that he understands the, albeit complex, relationship between campaigning to boycott Israel and antisemitism.

h/t Shlomo Anker for the video


26 Responses to “Jeremy Corbyn fails at Labour Friends of Israel fringe meeting – David Hirsh”

  1. Miss Castello Says:

    Absolutely bloody brilliant! WELL DONE JEREMY!

  2. Gary Fox Says:

    Lets get a few facts into this debate, which some have reduced ato an aburd game of word bingo. I wasnt at the meeting but I understand that he did not use the word Israel. That is NOT. the same as refusing to use the word. Did he use the words “illegal settlements” or “in violation of UN resolutions” or “occupied territory”? Maybe he refused to use them too…..or simply just didnt? Of course there are complex issues to discuss but to reduce the debate to personal invective and the political equivalent of a wordsearch puzzle does no-one any favours. To smear Corbyn as a holocaust deniers because of the views of the people he has associated with is actually a very dangerous game and one that could backfire on LFI given the links with backers such as Robert Maxwell and other more recent miscreants.

    • Richard Gold Says:

      Who called him a holocaust denier?

    • walt kovacs Says:

      he is a denier of the rights of jews to the land of israel. that makes him a jew hater. that he was elected as the head of labour, makes them all jew haters. and this event was a farce

      • Brian Goldfarb Says:

        “makes them all (presumably members of the Labour Party) jew haters.” That is a McArthyite statement: condemning all by association and is a very slippery slope. Given that Tom Watson, the Deputy Leader, is a past Chair(?) of LFI, this hardly makes them “all” anything. And Corbyn faces severe opposition from many areas of the Movement for his desire to scrap Trident.

        Let’s not play the “Progressives” game of refusal to distinguish between groups.

      • Brian Goldfarb Says:

        That doesn’t answer Richard’s question: who called Corbyn a holocaust denier?

        And don’t lump all members of the Labour Party together as “jew haters” – a dangerous McArthyite tendency: guilt by association. The Deputy Leader is a past Chair of LFI – is he thus a “jew hater”? Or all the other MPs who are members of LFI?

        A little discrimination please in not falling into the “progressives” stance of refusing to distinguish shades of opinion and action.

      • Cythera Greece Says:

        Rubbish. Your comment is typical naysaying with no evidence for accusations.

        • Brian Goldfarb Says:

          Cynthia Greece, who is speaking rubbish here, me or Walt Kovacs? Or is it Gary Fox. It would be nice to know which of us is supposed to respond, and, come to that, to what.

        • Brian Goldfarb Says:

          Sorry, that should read, of course, Cypher. And apologies for not getting the classical allusion: who is or was c

        • Brian Goldfarb Says:

          Darn predictive text Cythera is what I actually typed.

  3. Labenal Says:

    Reblogged this on labenal's Blog and commented:
    A thoughtful and in no way alarmist analysis of Jeremy Corbyn’s speech to Labour Friends of Israel yesterday.

  4. Milx Says:

    I don’t understand this guy. Does he personally not believe that Jews should have a State in the Levant under any circumstances, or is he just being extraordinarily careful about not alienating his Jew-hating constituents?

  5. Fred Says:

    Its worth looking at what he said at the other event. Gives a much clearer picture about what he is actually after

  6. Stewart Pearl Says:

    Corbyn is riding on a high horse at the moment and no matter what he does, his followers are blinded by his promise of utopia, that is unattainable. Unfortunately, when the backlash hits, it may be too late.

  7. Arnaud Says:

    Corbyn does not even understand the meaning of the word ‘antisemitism’

    • Cythera Greece Says:

      Do you? It has been so warped and distorted with slinging term at any anyone who critcises Israel that it has lost all any significant meaning. All you extreme defenders of Israel’s crimes are to blame. You should be very careful. You encourage real antisemitism.

      • Brian Goldfarb Says:

        A veritable classical use of the Livingstone Formulation (c. David Hirsh) by Cythera.

      • mightymark Says:

        There are no “extreme defenders of Israel’s crimes” here. There are however many who defend Israel’s right to exist and I’d suggest that it is them that you need to address.

  8. Laoise Says:

    Sounds like Corbin tried to evade any contentious points. But ultimately, what does he care what Jews think? There are only 300,000 of them! And if he concedes any points, those on the left and the anti-Zionists will accuse him of bowing to the Jewish Lobby. You can’t win!

    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      But Corbyn’s not even trying to be the anti-racist to be expected from the duly elected leader of what is (at the moment) the major left/liberal party in the UK. By evading any mention of Israel (and its right, as a fully paid-up member of the UN to exist in peace and security – however he cares to define that), he leaves himself open to the charges that: (a) he doesn’t care whether it exists or not; (b) therefore, he doesn’t care what happens to the inhabitants thereof – and this includes 20% who are either Muslim or Christian – or otherwise non-Jewish – and the overwhelming majority of whom have no wish to live in either Palestine or a bi-national state; and (c) by refusing to mention the term antisemitism without at the same time mentioning all other prejudices, etc, he shows that he cares less about the concerns of the Jews living in this country. And he has already backed the BDS movement publicly in August of this year.

      In this case, how serious is he about protecting the human and other rights of minorities in the UK who might not fit into his cosy definition of who deserves his “anti-racist” attention?

      His crass suggestion of a Ministry for Jews shows just what level of concern he shows. As I note elsewhere, my personal and immediate reaction was to wonder what came next: ghettoes for Jews?

      Sounds like a typical Stalinist/Trotskyite reaction the the “Jewish question”.

      Anyway, his task as leader of the major (for the time being) opposition party in the UK is exactly to raise contentious issues, not just those dear to his little far-left heart. And how does he expect his party to attract “floating” voters in the marginals with his and his buddies hard-left approach to the UK? Those “ashamed” or “secret” or “private” Tories who gave the Tories their majority at the last election won’t be flocking to his manifesto. And Labour needs them if it is gain a majority in 2020.

      Or are you expecting a genuine, blood flowing in the gutters revolution before then, Laoise?

      • David Scheckler Says:

        Brian..Corbyn made no mention of say, Mauritius or Argentina for instance, who are paid up members of the UN as well by the way. Does that mean he does not give a damn about them either, you have inadvertently shown that it is yours and so many other supporters of Israel’s opinion that everyone on planet earth needs to drop everything and recognise Israel every day of their lives because you supporters of Israel demand it.

        Why do you demand it so? You have international recognition at the UN and by governments across the planet, what more do you want?

        If I didn’t know any better I would say that you are all insecure and anxious about the critics, it seems to reason that you feel guilty about your own existence to the point that you must constantly force others on how you want them to view you.

        • Brian Goldfarb Says:

          By their trollness shall ye know them: the conversation here is about Israel, the fact that Corbyn went to a Labour Friends of Israel meeting and managed that feat without mentioning Israel once, that he has also made public statements (and not withdrawn, repudiated or modified them) claiming that he has friends who are in Hamas and Hezbollah, and managed to ignore the fact that an impressive range of western democratic governments have declared these organisations to be terrorist organisations.

          The conversation is not about whether Mauritius or Argentina fall into any particular category – if you want to debate that, go elsewhere – but Corbyn’s attitude(s) towards the Middle East. I have no idea what his views are on Mauritius or Argentina and, given that we’re here at Engage, I don’t, for the moment, give a damn. It’s the mark of a troll to raise totally irrelevant issues to distract us. I, for one, will not be distracted.

          As has been noted more than once, he has such a tin ear that he had the crassness to muse out loud about whether the appointment of a Minister for Jews would reassure British Jews: how Nazi or Stalinist is that. And that’s being polite. This is a person whose main daily paper is the Morning Star (or whatever the former Daily Worker is now called). At best he comes over as one of Nick Cohen’s “progressives” (and if that rings no bells, go and read his “What’s Left?”).

          Your whole comment is an attempt to distract and annoy us. Won’r work. it’s those who can’t cope with attacks n their beloved icons and leaders who are the insecure ones…so far, the response towards Corbyn from all but his acolytes has been less than favourable. Your response to that, David Sheckler, is what?

  9. soupyone Says:

    Future students of history might well wonder if literacy is widespread on the web in the 21st century, or amongst those who dislike __any__ criticism of Jeremy Corbyn, given the above mangling of the arguments.

    1. No one, half way sensible, thinks Corbyn is an antisemite.
    2. However, he has met a fair few and known some.

    3. So the questions for anyone moderately rational are:
    3.1 is that something to be welcomed?
    3.2 why do a few odd modern socialists find themselves in close proximity to really nasty types?
    3.3 is it a good idea to meet such people, or is anyone acceptable if they use the word “anti-Zionist” as a defence?


    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      Soupy, a good friend reminded me of two useful guides when assessing political leaders (although these might also apply to other situations):

      (i) past behaviour is a good guide to future behaviour/actions; and

      (ii) by their friends shall you now them.

      As I have been noting here and on other threads on this site, Corbyn has dubious friends for a genuine and complete anti-racist; he failed to use the word “Israel” when giving a talk at the (the name is a giveaway) Labour Friends of Israel meeting; and he actually had the tin ear to suggest that a “Minister for Jews” might b a good idea to persuade British Jewry that he meant no ill to them.

      Do I think he is an antisemite? If he isn’t, he has a funny way of demonstrating it.

      And even friends of Israel are allowed to criticise the State of Israel, but that usually involves using some or all of the words “the” “State” “of” and “Israel”, to say nothing of “Netanyahu”, “Likud”, “Green Line”, “Occupied Territories” (“Judea and Samaria” are not mandatory here), and there are of course many other such words and phrases.

      Does that help in deciding if at least some of us are literate in the manner to which you allude?

      Perhaps not all of us mangle the arguments. It may be that it’s just that those who think that Corbyn is “a good thing” are the ones mangling the arguments.

      But then there are, and always have been, plenty of those around, just happens more quickly with the internet!

  10. soupyone Says:


    I concede your arguments are more than valid and I would never, consciously, reproach you or the august “regulars” at Engage!

    I was, if memory serves (which it rarely does nowadays), trying to avoid a prolonged detour so beloved by Corbynites and politicos, although upon reflection I probably could have worded it better.

    I had noticed that Corbyn’s fans rarely, ever, engage with his poor judgements, closeness to assorted antisemites and the implications.

    I agree with your arguments about the LFI, but seriously I wonder if the Peter principle applies (“managers rise to the level of their own incompetence.”) ?

    I am getting the impression that Corbyn is fairly stupid on these issues and incapable of basic research (ie. Milne’s appointment, etc), but I am open to other interpretations, as I might be just too charitable 🙂

    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      “I was, if memory serves (which it rarely does nowadays)”…Ouch, that’s a bit close to home for me too, Soupy.

      Of course, I realised that it isn’t the likes of thee & me you were aiming at, it’s just that (given the likes of the David Sheckler comment just above) I felt – as you note yourself – that a more direct approach might have been better. As for your being too charitable, I don’t think so: again, just read the Sheckler comment above.

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