Britain’s ruling Conservative Party (or the Tories if you prefer) has been taking some serious PR hits of late because of the chaotic handling of the ongoing Brexit negotiations. But that doesn’t mean that their primary opponents in the far more liberal Labour Party are having an easy time of it. This week a regular complaint about Labour and the Lib Dems reared its head yet again as reports surfaced of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn at a 2010 rally where a guest speaker delivered repeated comments viewed as decidedly antisemitic. How antisemitic, you might ask? Well for starters, he was comparing Israel to the Nazis. (Reuters)
The leader of Britain’s opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, apologized on Wednesday for causing “concern and anxiety” by hosting a 2010 event at which another speaker was reported by a newspaper to have compared Israeli policy to Nazi policies.
Corbyn is wrestling with accusations that his party has been tolerant of anti-Semitism among some of its members. Last month Jewish newspapers said Labour would represent an “existential threat to Jewish life in this country” if they won power.
The Times newspaper reported that Corbyn hosted a Holocaust Memorial Day meeting at which a Jewish survivor of Auschwitz, Hajo Meyer, who died in 2014, repeatedly made comparisons between Israeli policy and Nazism. Before his death, Meyer criticized Israel’s policies toward Palestinians.
There doesn’t appear to be any video of the event (or at least it hasn’t surfaced yet if it exists) but Corbyn isn’t denying it. In addition to offering an apology, he also stated, “views were expressed at the meeting which I do not accept or condone.” If the reports were inaccurate you’d think he would be out there denying them as loudly as possible.
This isn’t the first time the Labour Party has run into this issue by a long shot. The charity Campaign Against Antisemitism rejected Corbyn’s apology and reminded everyone that he’s not only been a staunch fan of the Palestinians but has previously had to apologize for what he called “pockets of antisemitism” in his own party. From the sound of it, those are some pretty big pockets.
Many Americans seem to get the impression that Labour gets a pass for this in the British press, but that’s not really the case. It’s true that much of the BBC is very, very liberal leaning, but I listen to a few of their podcasts every week (such as The News Quiz) and it’s far from one-sided. It’s true that they have great fun making jokes about Theresa May and the Tories, but they also bust the chops of the Lib Dems just as hard. They do many sketches with comedians playing the parts of various political leaders, and Jeremy Corbyn is, if anything, mocked even more than the current Prime Minister. These people know they have a serious antisemitism problem on the left but don’t seem willing to do much about it.
This is something of a mirror to American politics in many ways. Where the Brits have Labour on one side and the Tories on the other, the United States has the Democrats on the left and the GOP on the right. And the pro-Palestinian forces break down along the same lines (showing up among most of the Democrats), while the Republicans generally take Israel’s side. If nothing else, this is a stark reminder that antisemitism is far from vanquished and the problem is far from exclusive to America.