Were Corbyn’s comments comparing Israel and ISIL anti-Semitic?

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The Labour Party has been accused of anti-Semitism several times in its history, with the most recent row arising after it was discovered Naz Shah had shared anti-Semitic posts on her Facebook account before being elected as an MP. This was only made worse by Ken Livingstone trying to paint Hitler as a Zionist, while attempting to defend her. Now at Corbyn’s reveal of the report into anti-Semitism, he has come under further criticism for seemingly comparing Israel to the Islamic State.

This is what Corbyn said: ‘Our Jewish friends are no more responsible for the action of Israel or the Netanyahu Government than our Muslim friends are for those various self-styled Islamic States or organisations.’ Is this anti-Semitic? No. Is it misguided, at an event which is meant to mark the beginning of routing out anti-Semitism in the Labour Party? Without question.

The UK’s chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, said ‘The comments made by the leader of the Labour Party, however they were intended, are themselves offensive, and rather than rebuilding trust among the Jewish community are likely to cause even greater concern’. Others have also come out in criticism of him – Jonathon Arkush, President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews branded the comments ‘unacceptable’ while Tory MP Mike Free (who is also Jewish) ‘to compare the democrat state of Israel with IS is a further example of the casual anti-Semitism wishing so much of the Labour movement’. The Leader of the Israeli Labour Party, Issac Herzog, also complained ‘Corbyn’s suggestions of moral equivalence between Israel and IS is outrageous, unacceptable and a betrayal of global Labour values.’

This will definitely not help Corbyn especially in a week in which nearly his entire Shadow Cabinet and Party have turned against him. Corbyn, and his hard left allies, often have put their own beliefs over common sense. Whether it be Corbyn refusing to campaign for Remaining in the EU with David Cameron, or Ken Livingstone not backing down from his infamous Hitler comment. While there is no doubt an element of anti-Semitism is present in the party, Corbyn has never shown any tendencies towards it and his comments are also not discriminatory.

imageDid Corbyn say Israel and the Islamic State were entities of the same variety? No. He is trying to show the similarities in painting all Muslims as terrorists and painting all Jews as pro-Netanyahu. For those who don’t know, Benjamin Netanyahu is the Prime Minister of Israel who assumed current office in 2009. He is a controversial figure in global politics and has done much to flare up the tensions between Palestine and Israel. Back in October he claimed that Adolf Hitler only wanted to expel the Jews from Europe because the Gran Mufti of Jerusalem at the time, Haj Amin al-Husseini, told him to burn them. This is troubling not only due to trying to put the holocaust down to the Palestinians, it also implicitly absolves Hitler of having any personal animosity towards the Jews. In March 2015 he also made a speech in the US Senate, imploring the US to scrap the Nuclear deal with Iran because it would somehow allow Iran to finally develop a nuke. Israel has always made it clear that no Islamic country surrounding them should have nuclear weapons and this was no more apparent than when they conducted an air strike on a Nuclear plant near Baghdad in 1981. The Israeli occupation, which many countries view as illegal, is a huge concern. Areas in Palestine are often deprived of resources: including water, with Israel being one of the biggest exporters of water on the globe. Combine this with the harsh reprisals the Israeli army carry out when Hamas attacks, and you do have a state which is carrying out brutal and often illegal acts. In a similar way to the Islamic State, who also forcibly occupying land.

The fact that Israel is a democracy shouldn’t really play any part in a counter argument to Corbyn. In essence, Iran is a part-democracy and Turkey and Afghanistan are western style democracies. Democracy doesn’t necessarily equate to a moral and just nation and many are corrupt: happily infringing on the freedom of other nations. The Islamic State is clearly the more brutal, fanatical and violent between the pair and is inherently anti-democratic, but that doesn’t mean you can’t compare them. You can compare Putin’s recent takeover of Crimea and parts of Ukraine to what Hitler did in the 1930’s – yet doesn’t mean you are saying Putin is exactly like Hitler. In this new age of extreme political correctness you cannot say anything that could be considered slightly controversial without being smeared. You can criticise the actions of many peadophiles in the Catholic Clergy, and the Churches attempts to cover them up, without demonising all Catholics and the clergy. In a similar way you can criticise Netanyahu and the Israeli Governemnt without condemning all Jews and the Israeli nation as a construct.

Labour have a problem with anti-Semitism and Corbyn should have known not to make this comment at a launch event of his inquiry into this. Although Corbyn should have known better, take these comments without all this background and it is a perfectly reasonable thing to say. He knows his comments are going to be taken wildly out of context by various media outlets and opposition groups. In the same way that he referred to Hamas and Hezbollah as ‘friends’, his latest comment wont be forgotten anytime soon. He really has to learn what he shouldn’t say in a speech, but I have a feeling he knows people will find it controversial and his ego wont let him tone down his rhetoric. Out of all places to compare Israel and IS, he should not have done it at the opening of a report into anti-Semitism.

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Second year History Students-articles focus on international issues and politics.

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