Labour Party

Letters to the Guardian about Corbyn and Deir Yassin Remembered

Several letters have recently been published in the Guardian criticising those who raise concerns about Corbyn’s links with individuals and organisations viewed by many as antisemitic.  One twitter used said:

As a Jew who has nothing to do with Israel I’d been obsessing over the Corbyn/anti-semitism stuff. But those letters are pretty persuasive

Was he right to be reassured?  In a letter signed by by Tony Greenstein, Haim Bresheeth, Deborah Fink and others it is asserted:

The allegation that Corbyn supports or associates with Holocaust deniers is malicious and unfounded. It is based on an article in the Daily Mail, which was dependent on the word of a self-confessed Holocaust denier, Paul Eisen. The JC reports him as saying that Corbyn donated to Deir Yassin Remembered. So did many people, before DYR was taken over by antisemites and Holocaust deniers. The JC’s efforts to paint Corbyn as a closet antisemite can only help legitimise those who are antisemitic.

Although there is still some lack of clarity about the precise nature of Corbyn’s links with DYR it does seem reasonably certain that he attended an event back in 2013 whereas the problems with the organisation, by Tony Greenstein’s own account, date back to at least 2007.  Corbyn might well have known nothing about the controversy, even in 2013. But the letter shouldn’t rely on timing/chronology to defend him.

Another interesting letter comes from Ruth Tenne.  She takes a rather different line:

I totally reject the suggestion that Deir Yassin Remembered organisation could be regarded as a group whose membership is largely composed of Holocaust deniers. As an Israeli human rights activist ,whose grandparents perished in the Holocaust, I strongly believe that the massacre in Deir Yassin and the narrative of the Palestinian people should not be wiped out of history. DYR is commemorative body which is supported by members of civil society all over the world. I hope that the public, including the Jewish community, will support the important work and aims of DYR as well as backing Jeremy Corbyn and his vision of a fairer society.

There’s nothing antisemitic in acknowledging either Deir Yassin or Palestinian perspectives on 1948 more generally.  One might think this letter had been written by someone not directly involved in these controversies, an Israeli with liberal views.  However I assume this is the same Ruth Tenne who Tony Greenstein clashed with back in 2012 over the expulsion of Holocaust deniers from the PSC.  He objected to a letter she wrote to the Weekly Worker. This is no longer available but it seems that she was glossing over the serious problems facing the PSC at this time, and that Greenstein saw her thinking on this issue to be worryingly muddled:

Thus Ruth Tenne speaks of “alleged, or imaginary, holocaust deniers”. Yet the position in the Palestine Solidarity Campaign was quite clear. As I wrote in my article, the supporters of Gilad Atzmon and Paul Eisen, who believe that denying the holocaust is the key to unlocking support for Zionism, have caused significant disruption in a number of branches (‘No room for anti-Semites’, January 19).

Tenne confirms her differences with Greenstein (and with his fellow signatories I’d imagine) here, below a post entitled The Vindication of Gilad Atzmon.

There’s much more about Corbyn’s links in the other letters; these  generally fail to differentiate between the crucially different contexts, dynamics and motives behind quite distinct examples of platform-sharing. This was an interesting observation from the Samuels family:

Influential sections of the Jewish community, maybe guided by their Israeli contacts, are frightened that a notable critic of Israel’s policies and actions might attain a position of prominence in British politics.

Some of the questions raised about Corbyn’s links relate to problems which have nothing do with Israel – the blood libel and, of course, Holocaust denial – and you certainly don’t have to be ‘guided’ by ‘Israeli contacts’ to be concerned about such issues.