Two important issues were raised in last night’s interview: Corbyn’s alleged dealings with Paul Eisen and his words of praise for Raed Salah. It’s difficult to adjudicate between the different versions of their relationship given by Eisen and Corbyn, and I certainly wouldn’t want to assume Eisen’s was the more accurate. Sticking to what seem to be undisputed facts, there is still evidence that Corbyn has been systematically uncurious about the views and links of those he comes across through his pro-Palestinian activism.
Corbyn explained that he did attend a number of events organised by Deir Yassin Remembered, Eisen’s group, and may have made a donation at one of those. When Cathy Newman pressed him about a private meeting fifteen years ago he said he had no recollection of getting out his cheque book (as Eisen claims), but neither denied nor confirmed that such a meeting took place. With reference to a casual donation at a remembrance service he said ‘it’s a long time ago’, although it has been reported that he attended such an event in 2013. The problems with Eisen were well known before 2013. Jeremy Corbyn is very involved with the PSC, so really should be familiar with the charged debates concerning antisemitism in pro-Palestinian networks, and be on his guard against such problems.
Corbyn’s answers to questions about Raed Salah were particularly unsatisfactory. Despite generic impassioned assertions of the need to be vigilant against racism, when faced with a specific example of antisemitic discourse (the blood libel) the best he could come up with was ‘he did not at any stage utter any antisemitic remarks to me whatsoever during that conversation.’ He refused to engage directly with the accusations against Salah, resorting instead to deflection. Would he, or his allies, accept such an answer in relation to, say, the recent debates about platform-sharing with Paul Weston?