AWL on Corbyn and the Middle East

July 22, 2015 at 2:16 pm (anti-semitism, AWL, internationalism, islamism, labour party, Middle East, palestine, posted by JD)

Corbyn and the Middle East: the hypocrisy of the right, a challenge for the left

By Sasha Ismail (at the Workers Liberty website)

The controversy sparked, or ramped up, by Jeremy Corbyn’s appearance on Channel 4 News on 13 July raises important issues for the left.

(You can watch it on the Channel 4 website here.)

Corbyn responded to interviewer Krishnan Guru-Murthy asking about his description of Lebanese Islamists Hesbollah and Palestinian Islamists Hamas as “our friends” by stressing that peace in the Middle East requires negotiations with all sorts of people.

The first thing to say is that, however one assesses the performance and motives of Guru-Murthy and Channel 4, there is clearly a right-wing push against Corbyn on these issues. If the Corbyn leadership campaign continues to perform as strongly as it has so far, the right-wing outcry is likely to get louder.

The motivations of these attacks are made clear by the fact that those making them are not bothered by the friendly relationship of the entire New Labour hierarchy with the Saudi dictatorship, or the links between all kinds of bourgeois British politicians – particularly Tories – and unpleasant regimes around the planet. They are targeting Corbyn because he looks soft on the ‘wrong’ people, and above all because they are bothered by the success of a left-wing campaign that is bolstering labour movement confidence.

The left must expose such cynicism and hypocrisy, both for general reasons and to defend the Corbyn campaign. At the same time, we should say that – judged by our own standards, not those of the right – Corbyn’s stance on the controversial issues is wrong.

In the March 2009 speech to a Stop the War Coalition meeting in which Corbyn talked about “friends” (on YouTube here) he said:

“Tomorrow evening it will my pleasure and my honour to host an event in Parliament where our friends from Hesbollah will be speaking. I’ve also invited friends from Hamas to come and speak as well…

“The idea that an organisation that is dedicated towards the good of the Palestinian people, and bringing about long-term peace and social justice and political justice in the whole region, should be labelled as a terrorist organisation by the British government is really a big, big historical mistake…”

“Our function is to support those people who are supporting and defending and representing the Palestinian people… part of [that] is inviting and welcoming our friends from Lebanon and from Palestine to London…”

The issue is not this or that phrase, nor the legitimate idea that getting peace often requires negotiations with people you don’t like – nor, of course, Corbyn’s absolutely correct opposition to repressive “anti-terrorism” legislation. It is the lack of sharp hostility to – and indeed praise of – brutally reactionary political forces. The problem with the likes of Hamas and Hesbollah is not that they are “terrorists” but that they are violently anti-women, anti-semitic, anti-working class theocratic bigots. In 2009 Hamas was engaged in a brutal clampdown on women and workers’ organisations among others in the Gaza strip: see here.

That a socialist could describe Hamas as “dedicated… to social and political justice” and describe working with them as a “pleasure and honour” is ridiculous. So is the comparison Corbyn made with the ANC. From a socialist point of view there were many problems with the ANC even before it took power, but to compare it to Hamas or Hesbollah is a slander.

We suspect that in this speech Corbyn got carried away, and that his underlying thought is that Hamas and Hesbollah are bad, but peace is the priority, Western imperialism and Israel are the chief evils, and so it is necessary to be diplomatic.

The problem with such diplomacy is that it means representing militaristic forces as peace-loving, and promoting bigoted reactionaries busy smashing our comrades – working-class activists, the left, feminists, etc in the Middle East – as progressives. People with Corbyn’s politics in Gaza face physical attack, prison or exile!

We want peace in the region, yes, and an end to the oppression of the Palestinians, but we also want to help the left there battle against Islamism. In addition, being able to vigorously denounce such forces would put the left in a stronger position to point out the hypocrisy of the right.

These kind of failings are not just a problem with Corbyn, but with wide sections of the left, from liberals through to self-styled revolutionaries. Those leading the Stop the War campaign have played a central role in spreading such ideas.

Against that approach we need to restate the basic Marxist idea of international working-class solidarity: “We shall never forget that the workers of all countries are our friends and the despots of all countries are our enemies” (German workers’ resolution during the Franco-Prussian War). The working-class movements, socialists, feminists and democrats of the Middle East are our friends, not Hamas and Hesbollah.

None of the candidates in the Labour leadership election are good on foreign policy; Corbyn at least opposes British militarism, nuclear weapons, etc, and despite his comments he is the most likely to support solidarity with working-class activists around the world. This in addition to his policies and record on austerity, workers’ struggles, migrants’ rights, and so on: a vote for Corbyn is a vote to break from the New Labour consensus on these issues, and rally the left and labour movement for a fightback.

22 Comments

  1. ZINR said,

    The problem is largely this: as a patron of PSC, and as a friend of the Hamas, Corbyn is defining himself as a proponent of a single-state “solution” in Israel/Palestine. His grotesque vision of a “peaceful” Palestine is one which encompasses everything that is now Israel and is ruled by Islamists (and therefore, by definition, contains no Jews). That he will have no chance whatsoever of facilitating this dreadful scenario is nether here nor there; he has unambiguously tied his political colours to the mast on this issue.

    Since his position is no different to Galloway’s, how does the AWL’s support of him sit with your (utterly correct) complete rejection of Galloway’s hateful politics? They are both one-staters, they are both Hamas supporters, they are both greasily chasing the Muslim vote in Britain whilst airily disregarding any Jewish feeling on the subject of foreign policy.

    You’re quite right to say that terrorism is something of a misnomer, and that what ought to bother the Left more about Hamas and their repulsive ilk is their brutally repressive, fascistic, misogynistic, antisemitic, homophobic, violent medievalist religious ideology. But it’s not as if Corbyn’s support for these people and their politics stops with the Hamas and Hezbollah – and his association with the foul PSC, as repulsive a gaggle of far-Right Islamists, Holocaust revisionists and good old Christian fundy Jew-haters as you’re ever likely to meet – his centre-stage appearance at the “Je Suis Ne Pas Charlie” rally (again, alongside the odious Galloway) was something of a giveaway, as he stood proudly before a Hitlerite mob of the Islamist Right and pissed on the graves of the murdered cartoonists…

    …oh, what’s the point? It seems the AWL will continue to support this ugly Jew-hater no matter how many Islamists he panders to, no matter how many Socialist principles he tramples underfoot in the pursuit of the Muslim vote. He is vile. If he becomes Labour leader he will achieve something I never imagined possible in all my years on this planet – I will be forced to vote Tory in a general election. Frankly the choice would be between that action and my emigration, and I suspect quite a few Jews feel the same way.

    • Glasgow Working Class said,

      Excellent comment and to the point. If that little prick were to win then the Labour Party has lost my subs and donations and my wife would leave Unite. However I believe that Labour will continue to oppose fascists as they have always done.

      • ZINR said,

        Well I sincerely hope they will.

        Pretty much everyone I know, all my friends, family and colleagues, are Labour and always have been. Not one of them supports Corbyn’s bid for leadership…for what little it’s worth, almost none of them are Jewish or have much by way of sympathy towards Israel. They just think he is an absurd hypocrite who will allow the Labour Party to become defined by its worst elements.

      • Political tourist said,

        Labour opposing racists……..
        Not at the Scottish Referendum they didn’t.
        Labour lined up with the BNP, SDL, UKIP and various assorted bigots.
        In the end Labour voters hunted Murphy and the rest of them out of Scotland.

    • Boleyn Ali said,

      Many of Corbyn’s views, especially those on the international issues dissuade me from voting for him as leader.

      The main issue in this election however is developing an anti-austerity opposition. He consequently represents the only option.

      It will take longer to purge the left of the type of thinking you correctly identify and oppose.

      What most commentators from your viewpoint miss (and Alan Johnson is perhaps the most persuasive http://leftfootforward.org/2015/06/an-open-letter-to-jeremy-corbyn/) is any concept of party, movement and accountability.

      There is no way that the party is going to back Corbyn on the Middle East, nor should it. There is even less possibility that a Corbyn Labour government would do anything other than line up behind mainstream international diplomacy.

      We need to move back in the direction of a Labour leader advocating party policy and being accountable for that and away from quasi-presidential practice. Let us collectively and democratically chose our “friends” and let us ensure that our leaders only work within that framework.

      It is a likely outcome of a Corbyn victory that the movement will become reinvigorated and opportunities to cleanse the left with it – something, I guess, you would welcome.

      • Jim Denham said,

        Hear, hear!

      • John R said,

        “It is a likely outcome of a Corbyn victory that the movement will become reinvigorated and opportunities to cleanse the left with it ” – Boleyn Ali

        I think that it is a more likely outcome, in the (still) unlikely event of a Corbyn win, that the Labour Party will descend, 80’s style, into a prolonged internal battle. Never mind that the Tories and their friends in the press will be howling with glee.

        Many of Corbyn’s economic proposals could easily be debated in a fraternal manner in a broad-church Labour movement. It is his alliances in the UK and views on international matters which are poisonous. These will be given a boost, rather than cleansed, in my view as I see no evidence to the contrary.

        Here’s a report on Howie’s Corner where a pro-Israel stand at the Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival was forced to leave after PSC protests. Only the views of “good, pro-PSC jews” are allowed in the PSC world and the Festival organisers, according to this report, acquiesced (appeased?).

        http://howiescorner.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/left-wing-fascists-hound-holocaust.html

        This type of behaviour will be hugely encouraged by a Corbyn win.

        It goes without saying that it would also consign Labour to electoral oblivion for the next 15 years or so while the Tories get to do what the hell they want.

        When I read the comments in the Guardian regarding Burnham, Cooper and Kendall (“They’re all a bunch of Tories! Expel them!”), I think what planet are these people on? They, and the AWL, can have as pure a Labour Party as the want.

        And Cameron and Osborne will support you all the way.

      • Boleyn Ali said,

        John

        I suspect that as Leader Corbyn would (have to) roundly condemn such deplorable PSC actions rather than enable them.

        I don’t think anyone wants “pure” Labour party and I know nobody who thinks any of the candidates are tories who should be expelled. What the opinion polls do show is that there is a large section of the membership wanting a more radical opposition and less of the apolitical “listen to the voters” nonsense. That is a sizeable group of people who could potentially be mobilised into some good old fashioned campaigning. Corbyns constiuency record of this is good and why he now has a very safe seat.

        As for electoral oblivion well perhaps, just for a start, we might focus on Scotland. Do we really think that, effectively, more of the same from Burnham or Cooper is going to produce the landslide we need up there in the short or medium term? Not saying Corbyn would but I’d rate his chances higher.

      • ZINR said,

        “There is no way that the party is going to back Corbyn on the Middle East…there is even less possibility that a Corbyn Labour government would do anything other than line up behind mainstream international diplomacy.”

        So what you’re saying is that these policies on the Middle East, which Corbyn has spent years loudly espousing to various audiences, will vanish into thin air the moment he becomes leader. What’s more, if he becomes Prime Minister, he and his cohorts such as Ken Livingstone, Andy Slaughter and Gerald Kaufman will refuse to seize their chance, put peace and diplomacy before their own vile personal politics, and ensure that Labour Party policy on Israel remains committed to a two-state solution?

        It’s nice that you feel so assured that Corbyn will work in the interests of the party and not adopt a Blair-ish “presidential” approach to politics (I’m sure Blair operated entirely autonomously throughout his tenure as leader and was entirely independent of cabinet or party opinion; other Labour MPs are saints and all mistakes/catastrophes can be directly attributed to Blair alone) – I must say though that I don’t feel in the least reassured. Where is the evidence to suggest that Corbyn will abandon his lunatic policies on the Middle East and suddenly revert to the middle ground? Where is the evidence that there is any serious and credible force within the Labour Party preparing to steer him in the direction of common sense?

        “It is a likely outcome of a Corbyn victory that the movement will become reinvigorated and opportunities to cleanse the left with it”

        Well, there’ll be “cleansing” alright…

      • ZINR said,

        “I suspect that as Leader Corbyn would (have to) roundly condemn such deplorable PSC actions rather than enable them”

        That’d be rather difficult seeing as there’s ample footage of him addressing the PSC H**tler Y**th at rallies and events and agreeing with them openly and enthusiastically about the need for Israeli Jews to surrender their lives to the forces of Islamic Fascism…why would he go back on his words? He has spent so many years hammering the point home that he clearly believes his own sick propaganda…

      • John R said,

        Boleyn.

        So Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader “would (have to) roundly condemn such deplorable PSC actions rather than enable them.”

        That you say he “would (have to) roundly” condemn this behaviour as Labour leader doesn’t inspire much confidence, to be honest. It makes it sound as though he’d be forced to do it rather than out of principle.

        As for “listen to the voters” being apolitical nonsense, well, I want Labour to do that, find out the reasons why the Tories won or people voted Ukip or SNP and come up with positive policies to try and win the next election.

  2. John R said,

    LBC hustings – Jeremy Corbyn refuses to say if he would vote “Yes” or “No” in EU referendum.

    Why?

    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/jul/22/jeremy-corbyn-could-lose-frontbenchers-if-elected-labour-leader

    • steveb said,

      Does it matter which way Corbyn votes in a referendum, which is not part of party politics or indeed our political process. And as for those front benchers who state that they would not serve under Corbyn, I hope they get what they wish for.

      • Steven Johnston said,

        The tories in power for the next 13 years?

      • caseypurvis said,

        CORBYN SOUNDS LIKE AN IDIOT

    • mark taha said,

      Perhaps he genuinely doesn’t know and would decide depending on the terms and circumstances at the time. Reply to others-it often happens that, on particular issues,you find yourself on the same side as people you disagree with on others. Simples!

  3. Glasgow Working Class said,

    PT. The SNP lined up with allsorts during the Common Market referendum.They had a common cause you silly boy. I think that Scots have become welfare junkies wanting to live in the twilight zone and thats what attracts them to the SNP. You can fool some of the people some of the time. The anti English rhetoric I have heard from Nats for decades makes them like Golden Dawn and those Right Sector thugs from the Ukraine. UKIP are to the left of the SNP.

    • Steven Johnston said,

      Though they are not as dependent as that lot in NI, now they love their welfare cheques and vote for the right too.

      • Glasgow Working Class said,

        Steven are you suggesting Sinn Fein IRA and the DUP are right wing? Ok they are a bit dodgy about abortion, womens rights, gay things and whether it should be men or women who wash the dishes but surely Gerry Adams who was never a member of the IRA and is a progressive person inspite of the working class who were slaughtered but Gerry had no responsibility at all and was totalky innocent.

  4. Steven Johnston said,

    That’d be rather difficult seeing as there’s ample footage of him addressing the PSC H**tler Y**th at rallies and events and agreeing with them openly and enthusiastically about the need for Israeli Jews to surrender their lives to the forces of Islamic Fascism…why would he go back on his words? He has spent so many years hammering the point home that he clearly believes his own sick propaganda…

    Yet he is a poltician and their promises are worth what?

  5. Doug said,

    Surprise, surprise. Zionist hysterics about Corbyn and so lining up with all the right wing anti-socialists. Seems you’ve got your priorities skewed again. You people are a joke.

    • Steven Johnston said,

      Your post is a sick joke. Corbyn supports capitalism so is an anti-socialist and you’ve shown your true colours with the term “Zionist hysterics” Sounds like a phrase the BNP would use.

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