On December 7, the English novelist Howard Jacobson delivered a speech in favor of the proposition that Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the British Labor party, “is unfit to be prime minister.” Responding to the numerous examples of Corbyn’s hatred for Israel, sympathy for terrorists dedicated to murdering Jews, and frequent associations with Holocaust deniers and other anti-Semites, Jacobson addresses the question of whether Corbyn is himself an anti-Semite. He makes particular reference to the recently resurfaced video of Corbyn, while speaking to a group of Israel-haters, stating that despite “having lived in this country for a very long time, probably all their lives, [British Zionists] don’t understand English irony.”
Something tells me you’re expecting me to call Jeremy Corbyn an anti-Semite. . . . But I’m not going to call him anything. He says he isn’t an anti-Semite, Hamas says he isn’t an anti-Semite, the white supremacist David Duke says he isn’t an anti-Semite, and that’s good enough for me. Am I being ironical? Ladies and gentlemen, I’m incapable of irony.
We know what an anti-Semite looks like. He wears jackboots, a swastika armband, and shouts Juden ’raus; Jeremy Corbyn wears a British Home Stores vest under his shirt and is softly spoken. Anti-Semites accuse Jews of killing Jesus; Corbyn is an atheist and seems not to mind if we did or didn’t. Whether that’s because Jesus was Jewish and killing him meant one less Jew in the world, is not for me to say. . . .
Jeremy claims to be a peacemaker. A peacemaker brings warring parties together. Why then do we only ever see him taking Palestinians to tea? Could it be that he just can’t remember to ask the Israelis? “Oh, bugger, I’ve forgotten to invite the Jews again.” Unless—perish the thought—it isn’t peace he wants after all, but the triumph of those he calls comrades and the destruction of those he doesn’t.
According to his supporters, Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t have a racist bone in his body. Just a question, but what is a racist bone and how do you know whether another person has one? [Besides], anti-Semitism isn’t quite a racism. It’s closer to a superstition: embedded in theology, shrouded in medieval irrationality, updated to suit leftist economics, and exhumed whenever a single explanation for all the evils of the world is sought. To talk of anti-Semitism as racism is a contradiction in terms for Jeremy Corbyn, since in his eyes Jews are neither downtrodden nor exploited but are—as usurers, colonialists, and conspirators—the very source and fount of racism themselves. Once one hold Jews to be racist, and Zionism a racist endeavor, then no anti-Semite can ever be a racist himself. And any definition that says otherwise must be amended.
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