Mr. Corbyn said at the event that assuming that “a Jewish friend or fellow member is wealthy, part of some kind of financial or media conspiracy or takes a particular position on politics in general or on Israel and on Palestine in particular, is wrong.”
He added, “Our Jewish friends are no more responsible for the actions of Israel or the Netanyahu government than our Muslim friends are for those of various self-styled Islamic states or organizations.”Does this sound antisemitic to you? According to the Times, the comments “provoked outrage”. Angry denunciations in Britain and Israel take up several paragraphs, countered only by a cautious clarification from Corbyn’s staff. That’s one point of view; let me offer another.
I’m Jewish by background and highly sensitive to antisemitic remarks and innuendos. I’ve quit organizations in the past because I found their atmosphere demeaning. If antisemitism was the “socialism of fools” a century ago, it is sometimes the anti-imperialism of fools today. But for the life of me, if this remark is correctly quoted, I can’t see why anyone should complain about it.
The Times inserted what it saw as a correction about the “self-styled” reference to states or organizations that claim to act in the name of Islam, but I think I understand where Corbyn is coming from, and where his comment leads.
Various governments, government wannabees and armed sects tell us that they represent Islam, and that any attack on them is an attack on all believers. Well, they can say that: this is what self-styled means. But saying something doesn’t make it true.
And the same holds for Israel. Its government claims to represent and speak for all Jews everywhere; it’s a self-styled Jewish state. But Jews in Britain, the US or anywhere else are not bound by this. They are not Israelis, and they are no more represented by Netanyahu than by Putin, Xi Jinping, or King Salman for that matter. Is disputing Israel’s claim to represent all of the world’s Jews antisemitism? I think Corbyn was indirectly laying down that challenge, and he’s being punished for it.
UPDATE: I changed the title to get the right kind of test.