Jeremy Corbyn, Zionist?

Author: 

Sacha Ismail

There are a few on the radical wing of the “absolute anti-Zionist” left who have condemned Jeremy Corbyn’s politics on the Israel-Palestine question as “Zionist”. However the vast majority of Corbyn-supporting “anti-Zionists” have preferred to praise him as a great supporter of Palestinian rights.

There is hypocrisy and incoherence involved here. Many of the same people regularly condemn the positions advocated by Workers’ Liberty on this question as “Zionist”, pro-Israeli government, anti-Palestinian, etc, when in fact they are very similar to Corbyn’s.

What is Corbyn’s position?

In July 2015, the Stop the War Coalition, of all people, published a statement from Corbyn on “Why I support the campaign for Palestinian human rights”, billing him enthusiastically as a “a long-time supporter of the struggle against Israel’s violation of international law and oppression of the Palestinian people”.

In this article Corbyn sets out the following positions:

“Peace: Support a viable peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, based on internationally recognised (1967) borders.”
“I am absolutely committed to a meaningful peace process between Israelis and Palestinians and that has to be one based on the 1967 borders.”
“Palestinian Statehood: Reaffirm the Labour party’s commitment to the recognition of a safe and viable Palestinian State alongside a safe and viable Israel.”
“... recognition [of a Palestinian state alongside Israel] is not only essential for establishing the principle of equality between Israeli and Palestinian, it is also in the long term interests of the sovereignty of Israel that we end the double standards whereby Israeli rights to nationhood and recognized, but Palestinian rights are denied.
“While I support Israel’s right to safeguard its citizens I agree with the views of many Israeli human rights organisations that the route of the Separation Wall is designed to annex Palestinian land and undermine chances for a future peace settlement.”
“Illegal Settlements: Call for a complete freeze on illegal settlement growth in order to save any hope for a viable two state solution...”

All this is very clear. I don’t think we need to comment further on the substantive.

In the same article, Corbyn calls for an “end all trade and investment with illegal Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territory” and an end to arms sales to Israel. He says nothing there about more general boycotts of Israel – but over the last year he has made it clear that he opposes them. “I am not in favour of the academic or cultural boycott of Israel, and I am not in favour of a blanket boycott of Israeli goods”, as he put it during the second leadership campaign.

There main difference between Corbyn and Workers’ Liberty is that he has been less sharp in criticising reactionary anti-Israeli “resistance” movements such as Hamas. For our analysis of why that is, see here. Nonetheless, our actual positions on the conflict and the program we advocate to resolve it are very similar (with the difference that Corbyn poses things mainly in terms of international law, the UN, etc, while we pose them in terms of a program that can unite workers in the region).

Now, no Corbyn supporter is under any obligation to agree with him on any given issue, including this one. Workers’ Liberty has extensive disagreements with Corbyn and has regularly published friendly but sharp criticism of the Labour leader and Labour leadership. But it makes no sense to ignore what Corbyn actually says about Israel-Palestine, and even less to condemn his positions except when they are advocated by him!

The left should debate its differences on Palestine, as an other issues, in an honest, consistent way.

Comments

Indeed no Zionist, but was this really wise?

Jeremy Corbyn appoints two anti-Israel MPs to work with Jewish community

Kate Osamor and Sarah Champion will informally share the role vacated by Dawn Butler last month when she quit her position as Shadow Minister for Minority Ethnic Communities.

Simon Johnson, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, said: "If the Labour Party wants to appoint a Shadow Minister to work with the Jewish community, we will be pleased to work with her, as we did with her predecessor.

"Irrespective of an individual MP’s previous views, Labour Party policy is to oppose any boycotts of Israel and we would hope that any Shadow Minister
would be bound by that policy.”

A senior Jewish communal source said: "Past track-records do not make these two obvious candidates for this sensitive role."

Daniel Randell and Jon Lansman addressing Limud was a really good positive step forward on improving the atmosphere between the UK Jewish community and the Labour Party. As an expression of Corbyn's policy, these appointments could be three steps back.

From the serious Burns unit "An' forward, tho' I canna see, I guess an' fear!"

Sacha's assessment of Corbyn is based on hope, but I do not forsee any change.