Things must be seen in perspective in order to really understand what’s behind the vicious campaign against Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour party in the United Kingdom. It is very rare for a western politician to survive what seems to be a well-orchestrated and multi-fronted attack. He has been labelled anti-Semitic. Being the leader of the second-largest party in British parliament after the Conservatives, Jeremy Corbyn could possibly become the next prime minister of UK.
Corbyn, a democratic socialist since he entered politics as a trade unionist in 1960s, has always spoken his mind independently from the Labour leadership official line. Since he was first elected as a member of parliament in 1974 and until he became the Labour Party leader in September 2015, he voted more than 550 times against his party’s position in parliament on a variety of issues, particularly in relation to foreign policy.
Corbyn (born in 1949) has been on the fringe of Labour since he entered parliament, frequently voting against the Labour whip, particularly during the leadership of former Labour prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. He has supported the Palestinian cause since the early days of his political life. This writer remembers him occasionally addressing meetings of university student gatherings to protest Israeli occupation as early as the mid-1970s. Since then, Corbyn has broadly supported anti-war campaigns and always called for unilateral disarmament.
Known for his rebellious character and activism, especially during his chairmanship of the Stop the War Coalition between 2011 and 2015, Corbyn has previously called for a radical national policy such as reversing austerity cuts to public services and welfare funding that the previous government had introduced in 2010. This man has the courage and the decency to speak his mind when it comes to hot issues such as Palestine. As a member of the London-based Palestine Solidarity Campaign, he participated in a number of protests against Israel’s wars in Gaza and its apartheid policy at home. Corbyn uniquely stands out among British politicians to have accused Israel of meddling in British politics. He sought in 2012 (and again in 2017) an official investigation into the influence Israeli embassy in London weilds upon some British politicians.
Using its highly connected lobby in the British parliament, media and community at large, Israel and some of Corbyn’s own Labour MPs have been leading a sustained campaign to demolish his leadership. He faces an unprecedented attack by a powerful Jewish lobby.
Called “anti-Semite” and “enemy of the Jewish people”, during recent days, three major Jewish newspapers in Britain even went as far as claiming in a joint editorial that Jewish life in UK is now in “existential danger”. Never ever has Corbyn called for the ‘annihilation’ of Israel or the British Jews. The favourite shortcut Israel uses to attack those who are critical of its policies is to label them as anti-Semite. And Corbyn is not the first British politician to be labelled nor he will be the last. One of prominent Labour politicians, who himself is a Jew and a grandson of Holocaust victims, was once subjected to anti-sematic accusation. The late Gerald Kaufman (1930-2017), former shadow foreign secretary, had once said in a parliamentary statement in 2009 that he had recently been “accused of being a self-hating Jew by a member of the Board of Deputies of British Jews”. Kaufman was fiercely critical of Israel. He went as far as calling for economic boycotts and arms ban against Israel, similar to the measures taken against apartheid South Africa. In 1988, then the shadow foreign secretary, Kaufman started a series of meetings with Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) representatives, culminating in a meeting with PLO leader Yasser Arafat at the latter’s headquarters in Tunisia. In fact, Kaufman was instrumental in facilitating Arafat’s first ever visit to the UK after signing the Oslo Accords in 1993. Kaufman later described Israel as a “pariah state” and called some of its senior politicians “war criminals”.
However, the late Kaufman was never politically dangerous to Israel as Corbyn is now, despite his Jewishness. He was never thought to be in the reckoning for the prime minister’s office as Corbyn currently is. Israel’s lobbyists understand very well that if there is a problem inside Corbyn’s Labour, it’s not over anti-Semitism, but over Israel itself and its apartheid and occupation policies. Therefore this deliberate and somewhat aggressive hate campaign against the leader of the opposition in the UK.
Mustapha Karkouti is a columnist and former president of the Foreign Press Association, London. Twitter: @mustaphatache.