Jeremy Corbyn. Those two words are enough to set hearts racing across university campuses, not least in Oxford. Students love him, lifelong Labour voters love him, ordinary people love him. In short, very smart people can’t get enough of him.
And I’m sorry if this sounds tried, or if you’ve heard it all before. I’m sorry if you think I’m picking isolated incidents and construing a narrative. Most of all, I’m sorry if you think I’m overreacting. Because it means you don’t get it.
If you proudly announce to me that you voted Labour in the last election, you don’t get it. If you wear a Jeremy Corbyn T-shirt, you don’t get it. If your only analytical engagement with the man is sharing articles detailing how ‘the media simply isn’t giving Jezza a fair shake’, you don’t get it.
I’m a Jew, and the idea of Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister worries me. And if you can’t join with me in that worry, then I’m afraid that’s a problem. You don’t get it.
News has just broken that several years ago Corbyn commented his support on Facebook to an artist who had had a mural of his removed. The mural depicted old Jewish men playing monopoly on the backs of slaves with the illuminati image in the background. It’s a problem because it depicts Jews as obsessed with money. It’s a problem because it depicts Jewish financiers as controlling the world. Most of all, it’s a problem because it’s not the first time Corbyn has been caught out for saying or doing something that can reasonably be construed as anti-Semitic.
Watch the Andrew Marr interview with Tom Watson which details the mural episode. Write down on a piece of paper how appalled you are on a scale of 1 to 10. Then imagine that a politician had given the same message of support to an artist who had painted something clearly racist, or homophobic. Write down how appalled you would be in that situation on the same scale. If there’s a difference between those two numbers, then I can tell you something: you are part of the problem.
During the last election, people I really respect told me that they were voting Labour. Without prompting, many of them followed this with something along the lines of ‘I can understand why you as a Jew might have a problem with that, but I think he’s exactly what this country needs’. But imagine a man saying something similar to a woman who was worried about a politician who had said and done decidedly misogynistic and sexist things. Why is there this double standard?
Aside from mural-gate, it recently emerged that Corbyn was a member of a Facebook group called the ‘Palestine live’ forum, which was regularly home to horrifically anti-Semitic posts. Since this emerged, Labour has suspended several members who were associated with the group, but of course not Corbyn. If that doesn’t concern you, perhaps try contemplating the fact that Corbyn has referred to his ‘friends’ from Hamas and Hezbollah, terrorist organisations who have the stated aim of killing Jews.
Still not convinced? Maybe look to what has happened in the wider party since Corbyn became leader. Ken Livingstone has still not been expelled from the party, despite incurring anger from across the Jewish community for repeating his ‘Hitler was a Zionist’ line. Also not expelled is Jackie Walker, who criticised Holocaust Memorial Day and questioned the need for Jewish schools to have extra security as a safeguard against attacks. Large groups within the party have called for the expulsion of the Jewish Labour Movement for ‘crying wolf’ to the newspapers every time another incident emerges. Fringe speakers at the most recent conference urged the party to open up debate on such questions as whether the Holocaust actually happened. There are more examples than I can count of rife antisemitism within the party.
It is now time for woke Corbyn supporting students and voters to be honest with themselves. If you’re voting for Jeremy Corbyn, if you want him to be the next Prime Minister, if you’re willing to overlook facts because you believe in his policies, then know this: you are actively ignoring the concerns of the Jewish community. You are remaining wilfully ignorant of the concerns of Jewish students. You are treating antisemitism as fundamentally less important than other forms of prejudice.
And that’s not okay.