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With friends like this...

By Russell Grenning - posted Friday, 13 April 2018


As the UK Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn tries to grapple without much success with charges that he personally and his party generally are at least tolerant of anti-Semitism if not wholly anti-Semitic, you would have thought that he would welcome any new friends he could get.

Well, no actually.

Corbyn, the most left-wing Labour Leader since the bumbling and ill-fated Michael Foot in the early 1980s, has a prominent new fan – Nick Griffin, the former Leader of the far-right British National Party (BNP), who posted on social media that for the first time he would vote Labour at the next election on the condition that Corbyn “sticks to his guns” and refuses to blame the bloody Syrian dictator Assad for the latest chemical attack in the Syrian conflict. That attack, which left dozens dead in the rebel held suburb of Douma east of Damascus , has been blamed by the USA, the European Union,  UK, France and other countries on Assad and his Russian allies.

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Griffin has been openly anti-Semitic for years. He is the author of a book called “Who Are The Mind Benders” which “explained” that most people didn’t support the BNP because their thoughts were being secretly controlled by a secret conspiracy of evil Jews in the media. He once gave an interview in which he denied the Holocaust and dismissed as “nonsense” all of the evidence about gas chambers and concentration camps.

Corbyn has hardly made any headway in his increasingly desperate attempts to downplay or deny anti-Semitism in sections of the Labour Party and Griffin’s public endorsement of him could not have come at a worse time.

On March 28, “The (UK) Jewish News” published a long interview with Corbyn. Its front page summed up their assessment of his answers: “As British Jews have said ‘Enough is enough’ on Labour and anti-Semitism, we gave Jeremy Corbyn a chance to finally repair the damage. But his answers were simply ... NOT GOOD ENOUGH” (their own headline capitals).

In 2011, the Israeli Arab leader Sheikh Rael Salah came to the UK, as an Israeli citizen, on a speaking tour. He and his Islamic Movement, which is closely aligned to the terrorist group Hamas, have publicly mourned the death of Osama Bin Laden calling him a “martyr” and his killers “Satanic” and he has opposed a two-State solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Before he was arrested and deported by British authorities, Salah was invited to the House of Commons for tea by Corbyn who praised him as an “honoured citizen”.  Corbyn was asked in that interview if he understood that calling Salah an “honoured citizen” would be extremely offensive especially to Jews. His weasel word reply: “It was inclusive, polite language I used which I now recognise of course can be easily misinterpreted”.

That rates lower than the excuse, “The dog ate my homework” but it is very typical of Corbyn’s explanations of embarrassing disclosures.

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When asked why he had called the terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah “friends”, Corbyn confessed that he had used that word but tried to excuse himself by saying, “I obviously realise that this can be misinterpreted and indeed has been.” When asked why he had marched repeatedly in demonstrations which featured the Hezbollah flag which has a gun on it, Corbyn’s absurd reply was that he didn’t regret being on the march but he would have preferred if that flag hadn’t.

Apart from many on the left of the British Labour Party sympathising with anti-Semites politically and philosophically, there is another powerful argument to do so – the force of numbers. There are an estimated 270,000 Jews in the UK and an estimated 4.2 million Arabs. The Muslim population of the UK has been estimated by the US Pew Research Centre to grow to 13 million by 2050 and that is one hell of a lot of votes.

In 2016, an official Labour Party report admitted that the party’s perceived anti-Semitism was “occasionally toxic” and recommended some remedial action. Little, if anything, was done.

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About the Author

Russell Grenning is a retired political adviser and journalist who began his career at the ABC in 1968 and subsequently worked for the then Brisbane afternoon daily, The Telegraph and later as a columnist for The Courier Mail and The Australian.

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