I have reached the stage where every time I even so much as see a picture of the Labour leader, I am obliged hurriedly to turn the page. For me, Jeremy Corbyn has become the equivalent of an extremely treife recipe in a cookery book: Nothing to see here, move on.
And yet, with Holocaust Memorial Day this week, I felt constrained to stop and examine Corbyn’s latest pronouncement, to sieve it for something heartfelt and genuine.
It can’t be the case that throughout his long years in Parliament Jeremy Corbyn has never actually come face-to-face with a Holocaust survivor. And he knows — or his advisers must — that to some extent he is damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t.
He has to make a statement about Holocaust Memorial Day, because that’s what responsible political leaders do.
But oh, Lord, the mealy-mouthedness of it. He tweeted a picture of himself signing the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Book of Commitment. He wrote: “In memory of the millions of Jewish people, and others, who perished in the Holocaust. Let us never allow antisemitism or any other form of racism to disfigure our society.”
“And others”…. “or any other form of racism”. It’s as though he can’t bear to ascribe a uniqueness to the tragedy of the Shoah.
Well, in fact, of course, Corbyn can’t, and that’s because in 2011 he and the man who is now Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, put their names to an Early Day Motion that called for Holocaust Memorial Day to be renamed “Genocide Memorial Day – Never Again For Anyone”. The pair made their suggestion on no less a day than HMD itself.
These days, Corbyn is obliged to give lip-service to condemning antisemitism, but – as with most of his pronouncements – it has a hollow ring.
It is said that fish smells from the head, so we should not be surprised at the week’s other two cynical developments, the actions of Derby MP Chris Williamson and the former Labour MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire North, Jim Sheridan. I can actually feel my lip curling when I consider these two beauties.
Williamson, Corbyn’s standard-bearer for smears, makes an art form of challenging claims of antisemitism. So for him to hype his own signing of the Book of Commitment is the outside of enough.
The Jewish Leadership Council’s Jonathan Goldstein, demonstrating admirable restraint in my view, told Williamson exactly how it is: “No-one in the Jewish community is fooled by those who try to whitewash their own prejudices by using HMD as their smokescreen. You cannot be opposed to antisemitism while simultaneously promoting antisemites”.
And so we come to Jim Sheridan, reinstated to full Labour membership after a complaint against him for declaring his “loss of respect and empathy” for the Jewish community over the ongoing antisemitism furore.
Sheridan not only declared himself “delighted” at his reinstatement, but had the gall to repeat his view that “my accusers were misguided and overreacted to what was intended to highlight my personal frustration and criticism of those intent on undermining our leadership in Scotland and the UK”.
Just in case we had missed the point, he added: “I would also like to reiterate my sincere apologies to the Jewish community whose historic struggle I have supported all my political life.”
You know what, Jim? I don’t want your slimy apologies. And I don’t want creatures such as Williamson and Corbyn wrapping themselves in the flag of HMD to avoid being identified for what they are.
Back under your rocks, boys.
In memory of the millions of Jewish people, and others, who perished in the Holocaust. Let us never allow antisemitism or any other form of racism to disfigure our society.
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) January 26, 2019