[During a speech Jeremy Corbyn gave in 2013,w]hile bemoaning the activities of a group of Zionists, he identified two problems. “One is that they don’t want to study history, and secondly, having lived in this country for a very long time, probably all their lives, they don’t understand English irony either,” he said. “I think they need two lessons, which we can help them with.”
There’s been some debate over whether he was berating just that particular group of Zionists or Zionists in general. Mr. Corbyn, in a limp effort at explaining himself, has stated that he “described those pro-Israel activists as Zionists in the accurate political sense, not as a euphemism for the Jewish people.”
This is, to put it in British, utter tosh.
This was classic anti-Semitism. Here were a group of Jews with whom Mr. Corbyn has a political disagreement. And he smeared them not on the basis of that disagreement but on the basis of their ethnicity. He accused them of failing to assimilate English values, of not fitting in, of still being a bit foreign. Had they been Christian Zionists, he could not have insulted them in this way.
The video was a watershed for many. Daniel Finkelstein, a Tory peer and columnist for The Times of London, called the revelation “qualitatively different from anything that has come before.” Ben Judah, a Labour-voting author, said that “the nasty comment from Mr. Corbyn on ‘Zionists’ not getting ‘English irony’ has finally snapped the benefit of the doubt extended by many Jewish progressives.”
A writer for The Guardian, Simon Hattenstone, who has repeatedly defended Jeremy Corbyn against charges of anti-Semitism, called his speech “unquestionably anti-Semitic.” And it wasn’t just the Jews. George Monbiot, a giant of the British left, described the comments as “anti-Semitic and unacceptable.” [Continue reading…]