Reproduced from Middle East Eye of 14 and 16 August 2018 with thanks.
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. (Jewish newspapers claim Corbyn poses ‘existential threat’ by Kevin Rawlinson and Pippa Crerar, The Guardian, 26 July 2018)
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. (Corbyn’s wreath at Munich terrorists’ graves by Emine Simnaz, 11 August 2018)
Today the mass circulation tabloid, The Sun, ran two pieces in the same edition. One was a ‘letters special’ declaring that Boris Johnson was “bang on” when he said that women who wear burqas resemble letterboxes or bank robbers: “Boris must be allowed to speak honestly, he has nothing to apologise for.” (14 August 2018)
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 antisemitism 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 antisemitism was historically greater than during Corbyn’s reign, has offered little support. Union leaders are peeling 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 antisemitism one by one, in a slow, painful retreat
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 to 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 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. (Jeremy Corbyn: I was present at wreath-laying but don’t think I was involved by Dan Sabbagh, The Guardian, 14 August 2018)
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. So Corbyn honoured the Palestinian dead 22 years after Oslo.
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. Are we saying that two PLO men who created backchannels that would lead to the Madrid conference and thence to Oslo should now be considered terrorists decades after the state department had got over that hurdle?
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 1970s of Black September. Just how far back in history do Corbyn’s detractors want to go? Why stop at the 1970s?
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 politicians, be they Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, or SNP from having any contact with Palestinian organisations, which could be used to discredit them in the future.
Everyone is now put on guard for what records exist of the contacts and conferences which took place long ago. The IHRA’s antisemitism definition, which is not legally binding, will be used as a retroactive weapon
If this sounds like the tactics US Senator Joseph McCarthy used in the early 1950s against suspected communist – ‘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 any photograph which 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 been.
Whether he survives or not, Corbyn’s international reputation has been tarnished. If you are an aspiring Democrat in the US, would you now meet with him?
It is every British party’s policy to back – the now moribund – two-state solution. Every political party backs the establishment of an independent, viable Palestinian state. For this very reason, this campaign effectively paralyses any communication between Palestinian activists, of whatever hue, 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 thinks that having taken out Corbyn, this campaign will stop there, they are deluding themselves.
The third victim of this campaign is anyone, be they Palestinian or Israeli, muslim, christian, or jewish, who is identified and targeted 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”. (Israel’s Shin Bet detains Peter Beinart at Ben-Gurion airport over political activity by Amir Tibon and Noa Landau, Haaretz, 13 August 2018)
For US jews, and indeed British ones, this is the real canary in the coal mine. This is the path upon which Israel is headed, and the path 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 could be next.