1 August 2018

Why Jeremy Corbyn can’t bring himself to make a real apology


Just when you think Labour’s anti-Semitism problem cannot get any worse, it does.

Yesterday, veteran activist, Corbyn ally and Labour NEC member Peter Willsman was under fire for his batty argument that “Trump fanatics” are responsible for the scandal that has engulfed the party.

Today’s instalment sees Jeremy Corbyn fudge an apology after The Times revealed he’d attended an event in 2010 where speakers compared the Israeli government to the Nazis.

The discussion, entitled “Never Again – For Anyone” and part of a UK tour called “Never Again for Anyone — Auschwitz to Gaza”, featured spurious and offensive comparisons between the Nazis and Israel, a trope that is all too common in certain corners of the hard left and pro-Palestinian activism.

Among the speakers was Hajo Meyer, an anti-Zionist Auschwitz survivor, whose talk was entitled “The Misuse of the Holocaust for Political Purposes”. Palestinian activist Haidar Eid also chipped in, arguing that “the world was absolutely wrong to think that Nazism was defeated in 1945”. “Nazism has won because it has finally managed to Nazify the consciousness of its own victims,” Eid added, just in case anyone had missed the point.

On hearing these remarks, Corbyn naturally stormed out of the meeting in disgust, vowing never to share a platform with any more of these dreadful people. Except, of course, he didn’t.

As ever when it comes to this sort of thing, Corbyn can’t bring himself to offer a proper mea culpa. In his response to The Times story he apologies only for “concerns and anxieties” that were caused by his attendance. He does not apologise for attending the event.

The Labour leader also explained his presence by saying “I have on occasion appeared on platforms with people whose views I completely reject”. This is Corbyn’s go-to argument whenever we learn of yet another ropey speaker he has invited to Parliament or appeared alongside.

And yet, time and again, he proves that he is only ever interested in engaging with those on the same side of the argument as him. There’s precious little evidence of Corbyn engaging in discussions with, say, pro-Israel activists or Unionist politicians in Northern Ireland.

On the other hand he seems relaxed about appearing at rallies alongside extremist group al-Muhajiroun, taking tea with Hamas and hosting Mousa Abu Maria, a member of everyone’s favourite peace activists, Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Curiously, we only seem to find out how much Corbyn disagrees with these people once some intrepid journalist has unearthed evidence of him having met with them.

Sure, Corbyn told the Jewish News earlier this year that “you have to have discussions with people you disagree with within the Israeli-Palestinian community”. But where is the evidence he has actually had such discussions?

In fact, on the rare occasion Corbyn does attend even a drinks reception that has something to do with Israel he looks distinctly uncomfortable. Witness his buttock-clenchingly awkward appearance at a Labour Friends of Israel event in 2015 where he couldn’t bring himself to say the word “Israel”. He went down a bit better at the same reception a year later, though notably could not bring himself to applaud the idea that Hamas are “part of the problem” when it comes to peace in the Middle East.

What are we to make of Corbyn’s claim that he does not accept the views at this particular Israel-are-Nazis event? For a start, it’s not as though Corbyn just wandered in — he delivered the opening remarks at an event explicitly comparing the Israeli government to Hitler. Is he now telling us he doesn’t accept or condone his own contribution?  To make matters worse, he must also have known that it was timed to coincide with Holocaust Memorial Day, presumably to generate maximum offence and controversy.

He is also on record both accepting and condoning Hajo Meyer’s Israel-as-Nazis argument. Here’s a quote from today’s Times article:

“He has spoken out against the dehumanising effects of occupation very forcefully,” Mr Corbyn said. “Sadly for much of this he has been condemned, which I regret.”

For all that Corbyn cultivates the image of a woolly pacifist, the Labour leader has always been curiously comfortable sharing platforms with people who are committed to the bloodiest, most savage form of “peacemaking” imaginable.

His backbench career was a rich tapestry of cosying up to militants and loons.  There’s his well-known description of Hamas and Hezbollah as “friends” — he didn’t mean that either, incidentally — or taking tea in Parliament with controversial cleric and “honoured citizen” Raed Salah, or his defence of a vicar who shared a video claiming Israel orchestrated 9/11. Not to mention his long-time connection with Stop the War, an organisation which quite literally advocated killing British soldiers – another fine example of the subjective morality beloved of a certain type of leftist.

It’s not just on the Middle East that Corbyn is trying to rewrite his own history.

On Northern Ireland, Corbyn and his supporters blithely claim he has spent his parliamentary career simply working for peace. But Corbyn was not a peacemaker, but a partisan. He attended Troops Out demos and invited Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness to Parliament weeks after the Brighton bombing, not because he wanted to bring the two sides together, but because he supported Sinn Fein’s version of peace.

The best we can say of Corbyn is he was not as explicitly pro-violence as his right-hand man John McDonnell, who is on record saying we should “be honouring those people involved in the armed struggle”, whose “bombs and bullets… brought the British to the negotiating table”.

We should, however, give Corbyn his due. There is one group of people so heinous, so utterly beyond the pale that even he will not share a platform with them: Conservative MPs.

Corbyn’s willingness to engage with people whose “views he rejects” simply could not extent to campaigning alongside Conservatives during the EU referendum. Everyone has their limit and this Labour leader — who is happy to appear alongside those who have advocated killing Jews and British troops — draws the line at fellow Parliamentarians.

John Ashmore is Deputy Editor of CapX