Addressing Labour Friends of Israel may have been shrewd move by the new Labour leader, but it was largely a dummy gesture to get certain people to be quiet.
A parent gives a dummy to a baby to quieten them down. Instead of giving the infant something more substantial such as milk or food, they are given a piece of plastic to suck on so they can’t cry or talk. The baby is thus calmed, if not satisfied.
Jeremy Corbyn played a clever game in accepting the LFI invitation, placing a dummy firmly in its mouth.
It was a low-key event, after a long leadership campaign and a major conference speech; not exactly in the most prominent event to garner national media coverage.
Indeed, the one headline saw an attendee heckle him for not saying the word ‘Israel.’
What he said (or indeed didn’t say) is perhaps not as important as the fact he was actually there in the first place.
The address didn’t delve into detail. There was, indeed, no mention of Israel, or an endorsement of the two-state-solution. Ultimately, he gave nothing away.
It’s almost as if he simply wanted to cross the box off his long list. There. I did it. I Addressed Labour Friends of Israel. I’m not as bad as you think; now be my friend.
For a Jewish community of all political persuasions, this gesture was certainly a surprise. Many considered his presence unlikely, as he is a patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and until recently chair of the Stop The War Coalition.
It is high risk to say the least, to speak on such a controversial topic during a conference, which has historically been used to crown a successful election.
Any way you look at it, his election was emphatic.
That said, he wouldn’t have agreed to make this address if it would ever have really impacted upon his post-election-aura.
It was carefully managed, under the intense glaring lens of the media at the party’s major conference.The main goal was to ensure that nobody would really notice.
He said nothing of note. Nothing that could be taken out of context. He refused to even say the name of the country.
When you are openly anti-Israel politician, and agree to speak at Labour Friends of Israel, there is anticipation that something will go wrong.
If he had said the wrong thing, a new political wound could have opened, when an old one from his campaign hasn’t even begun to heal yet.
For the pro-Israel community, he made sure he appeared, and didn’t offend anyone.
For the anti-Israel community he wanted to remain passive and neutral. Not endorsing Israel. Not even mentioning it.
He placed a dummy in the mouth of the pro-Israel community, to get everyone to shut up.
He did it. He spoke at the event. What more do you want?