Jeremy Corbyn’s Warped Worldview
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- This is the summer Jeremy Corbyn’s issues with Jews finally caught up with him.
Recent stories in the British press highlight a pattern in the recent past of the leader of Britain’s Labour Party. Here he is in 2012 defending a mural that caricatures Jews as money-grubbing and racist. Here he is in 2013 complaining about the failure of British Zionists to understand irony at a conference promoted by Hamas. Here he is in 2014 laying a wreath at the Tunisian memorial to one of the terrorists responsible for the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
All of the U.K.’s Jewish newspapers, not to mention the Israeli prime minister, have denounced Corbyn as these stories have emerged. Meanwhile, he has flubbed efforts within his own party to be more forceful against anti-Semitism. As my colleague Therese Raphael has observed, Corbyn has managed to make the Conservative Party, divided and frazzled by Brexit, “seem unified and sane by comparison.”
All decent people should stand athwart Labour’s drift into darkness. At the same time, to focus on Corbyn’s anti-Semitism is to miss the wider context of his worldview. He embraces not only the rogues, fanatics and terrorists that despise Israel. He likes the ones that despise America and the U.K., too.
Call it geopolitical masochism. Corbyn may present himself as anti-war, but he’s really just on the other side.
It’s easy to miss. Corbyn is unfailingly polite. He lives modestly. As Andrew Sullivan observes, Corbyn can be kind. He asks for leftovers at a dinner party so he can give them to the homeless. He campaigns in earnest for “the many, not the few.” He says he’s a big fan of peace and tolerance.
But he does not demand adherence to these values in his erstwhile allies. Corbyn has appeared dozens of times, for example, on RT, the Kremlin propaganda network, and in 2011 tweeted an endorsement of it. Corbyn was also paid about $27,000 between 2009 and 2012 to host a call-in show on Iran’s state propaganda network, PressTV, a network that has featured the forced confessions of Iranian dissidents.
Since becoming the leader of his party, Corbyn’s excuse-making has become more subtle. After Prime Minister Theresa May expelled Russian diplomats in response to the poisoning in March of a former Russian spy with a Soviet-era nerve agent, Corbyn was careful to say no one in his party supported Putin. Nonetheless, he urged caution and warned of a rush to judgment, despite his own government’s view that Russia was behind the attack. In 2017, following the terror attack at a rock concert in Manchester, Corbyn made sure to say the attackers should “forever be reviled” — while simultaneously asserting that government experts had linked such attacks in Britain to the country’s wars abroad.
Corbyn was not always this subtle. Daniel Finkelstein, a Conservative member of the House of Lords and columnist for the Times of London, has unearthed some of Corbyn’s more revealing views. For example, in 1989 Corbyn praised the Soviet Union for aiding socialist revolutions in the third world. Writing just four years ago in the Morning Star, the U.K.’s self-described socialist newspaper, Corbyn criticized NATO for its “colonial adventures” in the Middle East and called it “essentially a redundant force.”
Politicians like Corbyn are rare in mainstream American politics, but not in the U.K. In 2005 George Galloway, a member of Parliament who was eventually banished from the Labour Party, gave an infamous speech at Damascus University praising Syria’s dictator and rejoicing in the defeat of the U.S. army in Iraq. Ken Livingstone, the former mayor of London, earned the nickname “Red Ken” for his apologetics for Britain’s foes. He quit the Labour Party this year after he was suspended in 2016 for saying Adolf Hitler supported Zionism, a conspiracy theory popular in the Middle East.
And this brings us back to Israel. For years Galloway and Livingstone were on the fringe of the Labour Party. Labour remained the party of Clement Attlee, who knew the difference between open and closed societies, between free nations and police states.
Today, that party is led by a foolish socialist who can’t seem to tell the difference. Is it any wonder that Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters have succumbed to the socialism of fools?
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.
Eli Lake is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering national security and foreign policy. He was the senior national security correspondent for the Daily Beast and covered national security and intelligence for the Washington Times, the New York Sun and UPI.
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