Last Thurs­day, Howard Ja­cob­son took part in an ‘In­tel­li­gence Squared’ de­bate on Jeremy Cor­byn’s suit­abil­ity to be Prime Min­is­ter. Here is his speech.

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - HOWARD JA­COB­SON

SOME­THING TELLS me you’re ex­pect­ing me to call Jeremy Cor­byn an an­ti­semite. There’s been a bit about it in the press, and I...well, you know...

But I’m not go­ing to call him any­thing. He says he isn’t an an­ti­semite, Ha­mas says he isn’t an an­ti­semite, the white su­prem­a­cist David Duke says he isn’t an an­ti­semite, and that’s good enough for me.

Am I be­ing iron­i­cal? Ladies and Gen­tle­men, I’m in­ca­pable of irony.

We know what an an­ti­semite looks like. He wears jack­boots, a Swastika arm-band, and shouts ‘Ju­den Raus’; Jeremy Cor­byn wears a Bri­tish Home Stores vest un­der his shirt and is softly spo­ken. An­ti­semites ac­cuse Jews of killing Je­sus; Cor­byn is an athe­ist and seems not to mind if we did or didn’t. Whether that’s be­cause Je­sus was Jewish and killing him meant one less Jew in the world, is not for me to say. And — and — he doesn’t deny the Holocaust...

Mind you, he knows a man who does. In fact he knows a sur­pris­ing num­ber of men who do. That he de­nies ever hav­ing been in their com­pany — un­til pho­to­graphs turn up of him rub­bing noses with them at the grave­sides of mass mur­der­ers, of­fer­ing to show them his be­lief sys­tems if they’ll show him theirs — ‘Gosh, they’re the same size!’ — should come as no sur­prise. You can’t spend your whole life in the com­pany of blood­li­bellers and holocaust-de­niers and ex­pect to re­mem­ber them all by name.

If I may quote from Os­car Wilde’s miss­ing play The Self-Im­por­tance of Be­ing Jeremy: ‘To as­so­ciate with one an­ti­semite you don’t know to be an­tisemitic, Mr Cor­byn, may be re­garded as a mis­for­tune, to as­so­ciate with an­ti­semites on a reg­u­lar ba­sis looks like a predilec­tion.’

Look — when I think of the scoundrels I’ve hung around with, I know how easy it is to get peo­ple wrong, even when they turn up to meet you wear­ing hoods and hold­ing burn­ing crosses. And Jeremy — is it OK if I call him Jeremy? — has never ex­actly been what you’d call ob­ser­vant.

Take that mu­ral he cham­pi­oned, show­ing bankers play­ing Monopoly on the naked backs of the world’s op­pressed. You and I, ladies and gen­tle­men, would look at those greedy, grasp­ing, hooked-nosed, syphilitic, Zion­is­tic fi­nanciers and rec­og­nize them at once as straight out of the Julius Streicher I-SPY Book of Jews. But so in­no­cent of an­tisemitic car­i­ca­ture is Jeremy that he didn’t see any­thing re­motely of­fen­sive. ‘I didn’t look closely,’ he ex­plained later. How many times does he have to say it, for God’s sake! I might have been there but I don’t think I was in­volved. I don’t re­mem­ber. . . I didn’t look closely ....

If this re­minds you of those who lived down­wind of the chim­neys of Ber­gen Belsen claim­ing never to have smelt any­thing out of the or­di­nary, I say you have sus­pi­cious na­tures. Cor­byn is a busy man. Busy men must take emo­tional short­cuts. There’s an im­age of a blood­suck­ing Jew. . . It’s iden­ti­cal to the im­age of the blood­suck­ing Jew I al­ready carry in my head. . . Snap!

Could there, I won­der, be such a

Jeremy has never been what you’d call ob­ser­vant’

thing as an in­ad­ver­tent an­ti­semite? Jeremy claims to be a peace-maker. A peace-maker brings war­ring par­ties to­gether. Why then do we only ever see him tak­ing Pales­tini­ans to tea? Could it be that he just can’t re­mem­ber to ask the Is­raelis? ‘Oh, bug­ger, I’ve for­got­ten to in­vite the Jews again.’

Un­less — per­ish the thought — it isn’t peace he wants af­ter all but the tri­umph of those he calls com­rades and the de­struc­tion of those he doesn’t.

Ac­cord­ing to his sup­port­ers, Jeremy Cor­byn doesn’t have a racist bone in his body. Just a ques­tion, but what is a racist bone and how do you know whether an­other per­son has one? There are 64 bones in the hu­man arm alone. Can one be ab­so­lutely cer­tain that Jeremy doesn’t feel even the tini­est twinge of bone ache, some­where be­tween the scapula and the humerus, when he sees an alien fig­ure such as I am, com­ing to­wards him on Is­ling­ton Green, car­ry­ing the col­lected speeches of Ben­jamin Dis­raeli and hum­ming My Yid­dishe Mama?

And what are we to make — speak­ing of Cor­byn’s un­con­scious — of his in­abil­ity ever to dis­avow an­tisemitism with­out re­mind­ing us of his life­long op­po­si­tion to all forms of racism? Which is like an­swer­ing the ques­tion, ‘Are you a wife-beater?’ with an as­sur­ance that you al­ways buy The Big Is­sue.

Be­cause an­tisemitism isn’t quite a racism. It’s closer to a su­per­sti­tion: em­bed­ded in the­ol­ogy, shrouded in medieval ir­ra­tional­ity, up­dated to suit left­ist eco­nom­ics, and ex­humed when­ever a sin­gle ex­pla­na­tion for all the evils of the world is sought. To talk of an­tisemitism as a racism is a con­tra­dic­tion in terms for Jeremy Cor­byn, since in his eyes Jews are nei­ther down­trod­den nor ex­ploited but are — as usurers, colo­nial­ists and con­spir­a­tors — the very source and fount of racism them­selves. Once you hold Jews to be racist, and Zion­ism a racist en­deav­our, then no an­ti­semite can ever be a racist him­self. And any def­i­ni­tion that says oth­er­wise must be amended.

That’s the psy­chol­ogy: now the sci­ence. Cor­byn’s po­lit­i­cal life has been de­ter­mined by New­ton’s First Law of In­er­tia which states that an ob­ject at rest will stay at rest, for­ever, as long as noth­ing pushes or pulls on it. In physics the some­thing that might push or pull at it is an­other ob­ject in mo­tion; in so­cial­ist pol­i­tics it is a view con­tra­dic­tory to your own. Cor­byn averts his face when­ever he hears the word Jew, and rolls his eyes when­ever he is asked a ques­tion, be­cause he fears the chaos, oth­er­wise known as a change of mind, that might en­sue from ac­cept­ing there’s an­other way of look­ing at the world.

I will spend my re­main­ing time telling you why it mat­ters to ev­ery­one, not just Jews, that a man so spite­ful, sanc­ti­mo­nious and ob­du­rate should never be al­lowed to do to the coun­try what he’s been do­ing to his party.

Those who revere Cor­byn see it as a virtue that he has never changed his views. It is only a virtue to stay faith­ful to one’s vews if those views are worth stay­ing faith­ful to.

To per­sist in a small er­ro­neous­ness is the mark of a fool. To per­sist in a great er­ro­neous­ness is the mark of a dan­ger­ous fool. The ide­ol­ogy in which Cor­byn has been pick­led for half a cen­tury was out­worn by the time it reached him. It over­saw the death of mil­lions. That the ide­olo­gies he op­poses have scarcely done any bet­ter is not an ar­gu­ment for his. You don’t have to love the West to refuse the em­braces of those whose sole am­bi­tion is to blow the West apart . . . es­pe­cially if you want to call your­self a paci­fist.

This should have been a golden sum­mer for Labour. The night­mare that is Brexit, the hell that is Ja­cob Rees-Mogg, the out-of-sea­son pan­tomime that is Boris John­son — from all these Labour ought to have de­liv­ered us.

But Cor­byn did as much as any­one to make Brexit hap­pen with his fee­ble non-sup­port for Re­main­ing — ‘I’m seven, erm, seven-and-a-half per cent in favour.’

That was one to get us to the bar­ri­cades.

The wrong man at the wrong time es­pous­ing the wrong causes.

I am noth­ing if not fair: peo­ple who are lim­ited in ev­ery­thing but the plea­sure they take in them­selves are ten a penny in all po­lit­i­cal par­ties; they haunt the pe­riph­eries, like ghosts-ofthe-Christ­mases-they-don’t-be­lieve-in­past, back­ing los­ing causes, throw­ing tea par­ties for mur­der­ers, and look­ing saintly. Mr Cor­byn’s mis­for­tune was to be lifted from those pe­riph­eries, and dumped hap­lessly in the cen­tre.

Not just for our sake but for his, will some­one please have pity and dump him back.

De­liv­ered July 6 at a de­bate or­ga­nized by In­tel­li­gence Squared.

The wrong man at the wrong time es­pous­ing the wrong causes’


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