The recent revelations of the UK Labor party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s membership in private, anti-Semitic Facebook groups, together with reports of his defense of an anti-Semitic mural, led to a major protest in London on Monday and a near-unprecedented rebuke from Britain’s organized Jewish community. The latest disclosures come on the heels of numerous signs that Labor has an anti-Semitism problem, and that Corbyn, if not an anti-Semite himself, is quite tolerant of anti-Semitism in others. In response, he has offered a series of denials and non-apologies. Bret Stephens comments:
If you take Jeremy Corbyn at his word, then the leader of Britain’s Labor party is no anti-Semite. It’s just that, like the Wild West preacher who keeps accidentally wandering into Fannie Porter’s house of ill repute, Corbyn has an odd knack for stumbling into the arms of the Hebraically disinclined. . . .
[Is] Corbyn an anti-Semite? Not necessarily. He vehemently denies it. You can never know with certainty what’s in a person’s mind or heart unless he tells it to you straight. Motives can be complex. Self-delusion plays its role.
Then again, what does that matter? Corbyn is sixty-eight and has been a member of Parliament for 35 years. He has risen to the pinnacle of British politics. Until he became leader of the Labor party nearly three years ago, he proudly and defiantly flaunted his association with people whose anti-Semitism is not remotely in doubt. You can stumble upon Fannie Porter’s house once and call it an honest mistake. Corbyn tripped into it a half-dozen times. Inadvertence long ago ceased to be an excuse.
Corbyn is now urgently seeking meetings with Jewish leaders while saying he is “sincerely sorry for the pain which has been caused.” Note the passive voice. Meanwhile, anti-Semitic incidents in Britain hit a record high last year. Corbyn’s rise may not be the cause of it, but it’s unmistakably a symptom. Countries that care about the safety of Jews don’t elevate leaders who have spent their careers being dismissive of it.