Corbyn to Zionists: Even if you’ve lived here all your life, you don’t get the English

At an event in 2013 to discuss the British legacy in Palestine, Jeremy Corbyn said the following:

David Hirsh

“The other evening we had a meeting in Parliament in which Manuel made an incredibly powerful and passionate and effective speech about the history of Palestine and the rights of the Palestinian people. This was dutifully recorded by the – the thankfully silent Zionists who were in the audience on that occasion and then came up and berated him afterwards for what he had said.  They clearly have two problems: one is they don’t want to study history and secondly having lived in this country for a very long time, probably all their lives, they don’t understand English irony either. Manuel does understand English irony and he uses it very very effectively.”

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6087783/Jeremy-Corbyn-said-British-Zionists-no-sense-English-irony.html

I think he meant that Zionists, even if they’ve lived in this country all their lives, aren’t really properly English. They don’t understand what the Englishers are really like. They don’t understand what they mean when they speak in their sophisticated English way.

It’s a good thing he said ‘Zionists’ and not ‘Jews’ because otherwise he might be accused of antisemitism. [Note. The last sentence was a rather clumsy attempt at irony].

No, you may say, he was talking about people with certain political commitments, he wasn’t talking about Jews as Jews so this cannot be antisemitism. He was only talking about Zionists (in this usage of the word it is understood to mean racists, apologists for human rights abuses, pro-apartheid and Nazis).

But wait.  The charge is one of an inability to understand English irony, in spite of having lived amongst the real Englischers all your life. How is that related to a political identity?

Well, you say, Zionists aren’t really English because they themselves choose loyalty to a foreign nation rather than to Britain. So it is their own choice not to be properly English; not an antisemitic libel at all; but a choice to be disloyal to your own nation and to be loyal to a global and racist nation far away.

But no. Corbyn is enjoying the old sneery English view of Jews, and he’s doing it to humiliate the Jews that he’s talking about. They live among us but they’re not really one of us. This actually isn’t Corbyn’s usual political antisemitism, although it originates in that well: this is a spill-over into ordinary old fashioned English antisemitism. It is as if the political requirement to humiliate the Zionists just finds its words in the antisemitic subconscious of the English middle class man.

Sometimes people say that hostility to Zionists cannot be antisemitic because many Zionists are not Jewish. Imagine if Corbyn had said this about a non-Jewish Zionist; take for example the well known Zionist Tony Blair. What sense would these words possibly have made in that context?  ‘Blair has lived amongst us all his life but he still doesn’t understand English irony.’ Corbyn would never say that because it wouldn’t mean anything. It wouldn’t key into any emotional order; it wouldn’t humiliate Blair, it would just sound weird.

Imagine if a politician had said this about a group of black people or a group of Muslims: that in spite of having lived in this country for all their lives, they were unable to understand English irony.

Incidentally, Corbyn’s word ‘dutifully’ is interesting too. And his ‘thankfully silent’ comment, before the later ‘berating’ of the speaker. Duty to what? Duty to a foreign power, duty to a global Israel lobby. What were they doing?  They were recording a Labour back-bencher making an antisemitic speech. They are the aggressors, Corbyn is the victim. Antisemites are always the victims of Jews. Amazing that these un-Britischers could remain silent for so long; amazing that they had the chutz-pah to criticize (‘berate’) the speaker afterwards; amazing that they had anything to say since they had studied no history.

So, supporter of Jeremy Corbyn.  Do you now think that Corbyn sometimes slips into antisemitism? Or maybe it doesn’t count, because it’s been weaponised by the Daily Mail? Do watch the video on the Mail website.  Feel Corbyn’s angry contempt; the transcript doesn’t do it justice.  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6087783/Jeremy-Corbyn-said-British-Zionists-no-sense-English-irony.html

What are you going to say? You’re going to say that the Fake News are dredging up old comments out of context?  You’re going to say that he was talking about Zionists not Jews. You’re going to say it’s all a smear and a lie. You’re going to say it’s a one off? You’re going to say that you don’t care because Corbyn’s good and I’m bad.

You’re going to resist connecting this incident to Corbyn’s claim that Hamas and Hezbollah are dedicated to peace, social justice and political justice; or Corbyn being paid £20,000 for fronting programmes for the antisemitic Iranian propaganda mouthpiece Press TV.

You won’t connect it to Corbyn’s defence of conspiracist Steven Sizer, saying he was a victim of the Israel lobby.  Oh, incidentally, you can see Sizer on the Daily Mail video just behind Corbyn?  You remember Steven “9/11 Israel did it” Sizer, don’t you?

You won’t connect it to Corbyn’s defence of Raed Salah, blood libler; to Corbyn’s honouring of the planners of the Munich Olympic murders; to Corbyn’s claim that UK Foreign Office is controlled the Israel Lobby… Need I go on?

No, I don’t need to go on.  Because no matter how long I go on, it will make no difference. Jeremy Corbyn, like Donald Trump, cannot be harmed by new revelations. Because his supporters are so emotionally and psychologically invested in his basic goodness that there is literally nothing that could emerge that cannot be explained away.

David Hirsh

Senior Lecturer, Goldsmiths, University of London

Author of ‘Contemporary Left Antisemitism’.

6 Responses to “Corbyn to Zionists: Even if you’ve lived here all your life, you don’t get the English”

  1. Eve Garrard Says:

    Terrific analysis, David, especially the use of the Blair example. The whole quotation is horribly revealing about Corbyn’s attitude to Jews.

  2. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    1. “It’s a good thing he said ‘Jews’ and not ‘Zionists’ because otherwise he might be accused of antisemitism. [Note. The last sentence was a rather clumsy attempt at irony].”

    2. “Because no matter how long I go on, it will make no difference. Jeremy Corbyn, like Donald Trump, cannot be harmed by new revelations. Because his supporters are so emotionally and psychologically invested in his basic goodness that there is literally nothing that could emerge that cannot be explained away.”

    Oh dear, David, I fear that you’ve given the game away: you can’t possibly be Jewish because you show a remarkable understanding of irony in the English language. You’re even worse than a Jew: you’re a Britisher pretending to be Jewish to attack that lovely Jeremy Corbyn and his masterful control of the truth about Israel as a western colonialist enterprise instead of the safe haven for Jews the world over should the likes of JC (shame about the initials, perhaps he has a middle name to mitigate the initials problem: is this another example of the non-Britisher’s failure to understand the use of English in the English language?) come to power everywhere.

    Joking aside (was I really joking?), it’s a good thing for my generation (and those coming immediately after) that Israel exists as the home that is the place that, when you have to go there, they have to let you in. The place that, if I have to die prematurely, it’s where it will be on my feet rather than fooling myself that I could live on my knees.

    And I thought that all that was behind us, especially from the Left.

    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      The penultimate line of the third paragraph should read, of course, “failure to understand the use of irony in the English language”.

      Shows that I’m not really a Britisher at all, despite my parents, all their siblings and their respective offspring being born, brought up and (in several cases) serving in the armed forces in protection of this country…without being conscripted: they volunteered to fight Fascism and Nazism…not that that counts to the likes of JC. And that’s not irony.

  3. Isca Says:

    David, we may disagree on Leave-Remain, but on this you just articulate as I imagine I want to express myself, but just lose my train.
    It’s exhausting and exasperating, but boosting each other is sustaining.
    Double thanks for your response email, it hit the spot.

  4. Lorenzo Cherin Says:

    This is a fine analytical criticism, of a figure so baffling in his ability to ride each and every comment, that shows him in such a lousy and shiny light ,of either prejudice or fanaticism, at worst, silliness and ignorance, at best, it leaves some of us who oppose his type of politics more determined to also oppose him!

  5. Jonathan Says:

    Corbyn was talking about Richard Millett, who was at the meeting where Hassassian made those ‘ironic’ comments. They were far more antisemitic than they were ‘ironic’. Here’s Richard’s comment in the Mail today (25/8): ‘I am English. I have been part of English irony, humour, culture, for the last 50 years. It just seems to be that I am not part of Jeremy Corbyn’s Britain.’
    🇬🇧 and ✡️= #CorbynIsARacist


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