The campaign to disgrace Jeremy Corbyn as an anti-Semite took a desperate turn this week following his positive display in Tuesday’s election debate against Conservative leader Boris Johnson.
Corbyn, who has been dogged by accusations of anti-Semitism since becoming Labour leader in 2015 was subjected to fresh allegations of racism. Some of his most vocal critics accused the veteran PM of being an anti-Semite for the way he pronounced the name of convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein and for suggesting that he would gift Johnson a classic English novel “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens.
Epstein was mentioned by Corbyn when the two leaders were quizzed about the royal family and Prince Andrew’s relationship with the billionaire. “Before we discuss Prince Andrew, I think we should discuss the victims that are there because of what Epschtine [sic] was doing and I think there are very, very serious questions that must be answered and nobody should be above the law,” said Corbyn in a short-fire round during the hour long debate.
The pronunciation of Epstein as “Epschtine” was leapt on by Corbyn’s critics, who denounced the Labour leader’s mispronunciation as another example of anti-Semitism.
Corbyn’s detractors quickly took to social media to explain why pronouncing Epstein as “Epschtine” was anti-Semitic. “Has anybody other than [Jezbollah] ever pronounced ‘Epstein’ as ‘Epsssccchtein’. Just making sure we all knew he was a Jew, maybe?” commented one, posting under the handle screwlabour.
Has anybody other than Jezbollah ever pronounced 'Epstein' as 'Epsssccchtein'. Just making sure we all knew he was a Jew, maybe? #ITVDebate
— Benjamin (@screwlabour) November 19, 2019
One anti-Corbyn Twitter user fumed that this was “the latest installment in the Corbyn anti-Jewish racism saga” while issuing a ranting thread on why she believed the mispronunciation was anti-Semitic.
The latest installment in the Corbyn anti-Jewish racism saga sent me down an orthoepic route. Why, exactly, is Jewish Twitter so up in arms about his pronunciation of “Epstein” as “Ep-shtine” rather than “Ep-steen”? Why was I so shocked when he said it last night? (A thread) /1
— Catherine Lenson (@CatherineLenson) November 20, 2019
To his many critics, the debate, which has boosted Corbyn’s chance of victory in the December election, also provided another moment of controversy. Rabbi Zvi Solomons took to Twitter to condemn Corbyn’s choice of book that he would gift to the Conservative leader.
Asked by the presenter to name a book one would give to the other, Corbyn said: “I know Mr Johnson likes a good read, so what I would probably leave under the tree for him would be A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, and he could then understand how nasty Scrooge was.”
Solomons, whose Twitter page contains dozens of ant-Corbyn comments, shared his reasoning for why he believed Corbyn’s choice of book was evidence of anti-Semitism. “Did you notice how @JeremyCorbyn offered Boris A #ChristmasCarol by Dickens. This is the author who wrote Oliver Twist in which #Fagin appears, a paedophilic Jew, referred to as “The Jew.” So much for him tackling #LabourAntisemitism. #AnyoneButCorbyn,” said the Rabbi.
Attacks on the Labour Party under the leadership of Corbyn became noticeably aggressive immediately after the government announced a new General Election next month. Pro-Israel Jewish community newspaper, the Jewish Chronicle, which has a worrying track record of making libellous allegations against pro-Palestinian groups, urged the British electorate not to vote for Corbyn in a sensational article warning that half of British Jews would “seriously consider” emigrating if Corbyn became prime minister.
A week later, a prominent Guardian columnist and strong critic of Corbyn peddled fake news in an effort to paint the Labour party as anti-Semitic.