With just over a month to go until the British public cast their vote in what is expected to be a close race in the country’s most important General Election in recent history, a pro-Israel Jewish community newspaper with a worrying track record of making libellous allegations has urged the British electorate not to vote for Jeremy Corbyn.
The sensational article published yesterday on the front page of the Jewish Chronicle, warned the British public that a win for the Labour leader in the 12 December election would be interpreted by its mainly Jewish readers as Britain’s resounding endorsement of anti-Semitism and would prompt large-scale emigration of British Jews. According to the JC, 87 per cent of Jews in Britain believe that Corbyn is an anti-Semite. It cited an unreferenced “recent poll” to paint a dark future for British Jews under a Labour government. The same poll is used to suggest that half of British Jews would “seriously consider” emigrating if Corbyn wins next month.
The right-wing community newspaper criticised the Labour leader for befriending members of the Jewish community of which it didn’t approve. After accusing Corbyn of “not listening” and “learning” from groups which the JC described as “mainstream Jewish bodies such as the Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council” and treating their recommendations with alleged “contempt”, it denounced him for giving support to “fringe organisations” within the Jewish community. According to the newspaper, Jewish groups which support Corbyn were “set up solely to deny the existence of Labour anti-Semitism.”
In its appeal to the British public, the article remonstrated against what it believes is a lack of coverage of the anti-Semitism crisis and urged voters to consider it “among the most fundamental of issues” like “Brexit, austerity, the NHS, education”.
The article has stirred a vigorous debate, especially on social media. Corbyn’s opponents have leapt on the sensational claims to suggest that he is not fit to govern Britain. His supporters, meanwhile, have circulated a list of the Jewish Chronicle’s anti-Palestinian and libellous claims.
One victim of the JC’s fake news is Raphael Cohen, a Jewish anti-Zionist within the International Solidarity Movement. The paper was ordered by the high court to pay nearly £30,000 ($38,000) in damages and to apologise to the British peace activist for claiming that he had harboured suicide bombers. Reporting on the case, the Guardian said that, “The Jewish Chronicle apologised for the distress and embarrassment caused and agreed to pay Cohen undisclosed damages and legal costs.”
In another embarrassing episode the newspaper recently paid out £60,000 in damages to Interpal for smearing the British charity. As part of the settlement, the paper agreed to publish an op-ed written by Interpal’s chairman, Ibrahim Hewitt: full disclosure; he is also the senior editor of MEMO.
The Jewish Chronicle has developed a habit of labelling critics of Israel as anti-Semites. In 2014 it was forced to issue a correction for a report published during Israel’s bombardment of Gaza about alleged “anti-Semitism” amongst Palestine solidarity activists. The newspaper misrepresented comments made by the former director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Sarah Colborne, in a piece which attempted to smear the movement as anti-Semitic.
The paper’s libellous claim that Corbyn is anti-Semitic has already been challenged. An article by a pro-Corbyn Jewish group titled “Fifty times Jeremy Corbyn stood with Jewish people” has been making the rounds on social media.
The JC’s front page appeal to the British public follows the withdrawal of support for Corbyn by another pro-Israel British Jewish group known as the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM). The JLM is believed by many to be a somewhat controversial organisation, having been exposed as a “proxy for the Israeli Embassy”. It has claimed that “a culture of anti-Semitism has been allowed to emerge and fester in the [Labour] Party at all levels” since Jeremy Corbyn was elected party leader in 2015.
The defection of the JLM and the Jewish Chronicle’s sensational article comes at a critical time with Britain heading into what many believe is the most important election in recent history. As well as smaller parties, voters have a choice between the most right-wing Conservative Party ever seen in this country and the progressive socialist agenda of the Labour Party.
Given that Corbyn has faced an onslaught of allegations and smears ever since becoming party leader, nobody expects the supposedly free press to let up during the election campaign. Indeed, it seems that such a campaign has already started.
On the same day that the Jewish Chronicle published its anti-Corbyn article, social media was covering the fact that a former Labour MP had been given almost endless airtime on television and radio to encourage voters to back Boris Johnson’s Conservatives. As author and poet Michael Rosen put it on Twitter, “Spot the difference: Ian Austin, backbencher, not a member of any party, announces his intention to vote Tory – on every channel and media outlet in the UK. Ken Clarke – ex-Chancellor, [Tory] party grandee. Announces he may not vote Tory. Media silence.”
It almost goes without saying that Ian Austin is an enthusiastic supporter of the state of Israel. The anti-Palestinian tone of the “debate” is already very clear, with almost five weeks to go until polling day.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.