Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Corbyn “Not Fit For High Office”, Chief Rabbi’s Article Faces Protest.

with 25 comments


The way in which the leadership of the Labour Party has dealt with anti-Jewish racism is incompatible with the British values of which we are so proud.”

From the article.

Chief Rabbi Mirvis

The party leadership have never understood that their failure is not just one of procedure, which can be remedied with additional staff or new processes. It is a failure to see this as a human problem rather than a political one. It is a failure of culture. It is a failure of leadership. A new poison – sanctioned from the very top – has taken root in the Labour Party.

Many members of the Jewish community can hardly believe that this is the same party that they proudly called their political home for more than a century. It can no longer claim to be the party of diversity, equality and anti-racism. This is the Labour Party in name only.

How far is too far? How complicit in prejudice would a leader of Her Majesty’s opposition have to be in order to be considered unfit for high office?

Would associations with those who have openly incited hatred against Jews be enough? Would support for a racist mural, depicting powerful hook-nosed Jews supposedly getting rich at the expense of the weak and downtrodden be enough? Would describing as “friends” those who endorse and even perpetrate the murder of Jews be enough? It seems not. What we do know from history is that what starts with the Jews, never ends with the Jews.

It is not my place to tell any person how they should vote. I regret being in this situation at all. I simply pose the following question: What will the result of this election say about the moral compass of our country?

When December 12th arrives, I ask every person to vote with their conscience.

The front page article has been followed by this: (Guardian)

The archbishop of Canterbury has in effect backed the chief rabbi’s comments on the Labour leadership’s record on antisemitism with a tweet highlighting the “deep sense of insecurity and fear felt by many British Jews”.

Justin Welby does not explicitly refer to the Labour party, but his intervention a few hours after the chief rabbi’s excoriating public criticism of Jeremy Corbyn is significant.

The key words of the article are these, “How complicit in prejudice would a leader of Her Majesty’s opposition have to be in order to be considered unfit for high office?”

In other words, Mirvis asserts that Corbyn is “complicit” in anti-Semitism, and is only open to discussion about “how far” this has gone to make him unfit for “high office”.

This is, one can see, highly offensive premise on which to begin a debate.

This is of course par for the course for some people who have accused Corbyn of anti-Semitism, if not fascism (the latter claim is not picked out from the sky but from the words of leading proponents of this line of thought).

Mirvis highlights three instances.

  • Would associations with those who have openly incited hatred against Jews be enough?
  • Would support for a racist mural, depicting powerful hook-nosed Jews supposedly getting rich at the expense of the weak and downtrodden be enough?
  • Would describing as “friends” those who endorse and even perpetrate the murder of Jews be enough?

The first claim, “association” is given no details. The second, the Mural, was only “supported” by Corbyn in the sense that he – briefly – defended this Mural’s right to be there, and the use of the word “friends” refers, one assumes, to those for whom Corbyn  used this expression to all taking part in public meetings defending the Palestinian cause. I have heard him doi the same at countless meetings of all stripes. The word is, in many eyes, not always  unhelpful, but no more so than “comrade” or “colleague” in political parties.

References in Mirvis’ article to “faceless social media trolls”, “hounded parliamentarians, members and even staff out of the party for challenging anti-Jewish racism” are equally sweeping.

Where cases have been identified they have been dealt with, – it would not be hard to show this and this Blog cannot be alone in having followed some of them closely. Some have not been resolved quickly, and this is to be regretted.

From the opposing side Labour Against the Witch-hunt (LAW) has protested vigorously at Labour’s keenness to deal with Antisemitism.

This indicates that Labour has acted.

A series of allegations, involving Chris Williamson,  has meant that he is not allowed to stand under Labour colours  in the General Election.

There is much to criticise politically on Jeremy Corbyn’s take on international issues, including the Middle East, and more broadly, on the way he, and others, have taken the anti-colonial movements of the days of Empire, and the ‘anti-imperialism’ of the post-war period, into the present day.

The Israel Palestine conflict is, in many people’s eyes, best approached through the angle of a two state solution and not a classic liberation of one country from ‘colonial’ occupation, as the more extreme pro-Palestinian supporters allege.

In a multi-polar world, where anti-democratic countries like China and the Russian Federation operate, and Trump’s US runs amok, in which threats from genocidal groups like ISIS remain high on the agenda, and countries like Burma and Turkey practice ethnic cleansing, the old division of the globe into two camps, imperialism and its opponents, no longer works.

Yet Labour’s Manifesto has a balanced approach based on human rights.

Labour’s policy on the Middle East in the Election Manifesto is the following:

Labour is committed to a comprehensive peace in the Middle East based on a two-state solution – a secure Israel alongside a secure and viable state of Palestine.

There can be no military solution to this conflict, which must be settled on the basis of justice and international law. All sides must avoid taking action that would make peace harder to achieve.

That means both an end to the blockade, occupation and settlements, and an end to rocket and terror attacks. Labour will continue to press for an immediate return to meaningful negotiations leading to a diplomatic resolution. A Labour government will immediately recognise the state of Palestine.

Labour will take all lawful action necessary to counter and confront all forms of terrorism, and we will advocate a long-term multinational political strategy, led by regional actors, to tackle the spread of extremism.

To the Chief Rabbi’s  all-embracing charge-sheet Labour has responded.

“Jeremy Corbyn is a lifelong campaigner against antisemitism and has made absolutely clear it has no place in our party and society and that no one who engages in it does so in his name.

“A Labour government will guarantee the security of the Jewish community, defend and support the Jewish way of life, and combat rising antisemitism in our country and across Europe. Our race and faith manifesto, launched today, sets out our policies to achieve this.”

The party also said that anti-semitism complaints “account for about 0.1% of the Labour Party membership”, and that “polls show anti-semitism is more prevalent among Conservative than Labour supporters”.

Labour meanwhile challenged the figure of 130 outstanding cases as “inaccurate”, and said it was “categorically untrue to suggest there are thousands of outstanding cases”.

They added: “We are taking robust action to root out anti-Semitism in the party, with swift suspensions, processes for rapid expulsions and an education programme for members.”

Politics Home.

One other immediate reaction will be to bring to the attention of the Chief Rabbi, who only represents a section of the Jewish Community, to be precise,  British Orthodox Jewish synagogues,  whose authority is recognised by around half British Jews, the positions of Labour’s rival, the Conservatives, on diversity, equality and anti-racism.

The Chief Rabbi states, “Convention dictates that the Chief Rabbi stays well away from party politics – and rightly so. However, challenging racism in all its forms is not a matter of politics, it goes well beyond that. Wherever there is evidence of it, including in any of our political parties, it must be swiftly rooted out. Hateful prejudice is always wrong, whoever the perpetrator, whoever the victim.”

What has he said about this?


These are very serious matters.

Bob from Brockley gives more details on how some Tories have extended their racism to anti-Semitism.

A vote for the Conservatives is not a vote against antisemitism

Don’t let the Tories use Jews as a political football

Bob has his own take,

Anyone who reads this blog regularly or follows me on Twitter will know that I see Labour antisemitism as a real and massive problem: there is a shocking level of antisemitism among grassroots Labour activists (including candidates for office), a chronically insufficient response to this from a leadership that at best suffers from a deep inability to recognise contemporary antisemitism, and a massive amount of denial and defensiveness that itself shades into paranoid conspiracism. Many British Jews and their good faith allies may decide not to campaign for Labour or even not to vote Labour; this position can be legitimately reached out of sincerely grounded existential fear, or out of anti-racist principle.

However, in a context where objectively the most likely alternative to Corbyn (probably the only alternative) is the re-election of the current government, to declare for “anyone but Corbyn” – or to go one step further and actually endorse the current government, as Ian Austin and John Woodcock have done – exceeds that legitimate position.

In this post, I will be arguing that – even if we ignore the most pernicious aspects of Johnson’s Conservative party (its disastrous hard Brexit strategy and its awful record on basically every single economic and social issue from the NHS to industry) – a vote that leads to a Johnson government is a vote for racism, both racism against Jews and racism against other minorities.

Update on how the intervention is already being used:

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25 Responses

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  1. […] See also: Coatsey here […]

  2. Organised religion has never been the friend of socialists or social-democracy. The Catholic Church in Italy was always a powerful fore opposing the Socialists and Communists, whilst having reached a modus vivendi with Mussolini. The Church of England has been described as the Tory Party at prayer, and so on.

    In the dim and distant past, immigrant Jews into Britain were a poor underclass, and often brought radical ideas to this country with them. But, that is decades ago. Any such connection of the Jewish community with Labour long since disappeared. A large part of the Jewish community now is not just affluent, but firmly established within the establishment. That is certainly the case with the older Jewish community leaders, and journals like the Jewish Chronicle are pretty much parts of the Tory press pure and simple.

    Given that the connections of these establishment figures with organisations such as BICOM, with its own direct connections with the Israeli state, it is not a question of conspiracy theory or repeating anti-Semitic tropes to point out that these Jewish elites have a direct connection to, and vested interest in promoting the interests of Zionism and of Israel, and thereby of attacking anyone that does not fit into the traditional British establishment mould of being an uncritical proponent of that state. A similar process has unfolded in the US, where, unlike Britain, a large chunk of the progressive Jewish community has broken away from that tradition, and become increasingly vocal in its opposition to Israel, and of the Jewish community leaders who have continued to try to defend it. In part, that seems due to the close connections between Trump and Netanyahu, but there seems also to be a recognition that this is not simply a question of the attitude of this or that government to the Palestinians, but is a feature of all Israeli governments, which reflects an underlying systemic feature of the nature of the Israeli state itself.

    The fact that the Two State solution has been exposed as a palpable nonsense, used simply as a means of justifying the continued oppression of the Palestinians on the basis of some such impossible solution being delivered some time never, is at least one good thing that Trump has achieved, by agreeing to support Israel’s annexation of further parts of the West Bank. The more this reality is manifest, the more anti-Zionists will come under attack, and the more that anti-Zionism will be portrayed as anti-Semitism.

    Anti-Semitism has been described as the Socialism of fools, but anti anti-Zionism, along with the presentation of anti-Zionism as equating to anti-Semitism is the conservatism of even bigger fools and charlatans.


    November 26, 2019 at 4:24 pm

  3. David Rosenberg’s response is unhelpful. Scoffing at the Chief Rabbi, or calling into question his motives just makes the situation worse and confirms many Jews in the view that the left just doesn’t care what they think – or thinks they should just shut up for the greater good at election time. The only way forward is left to seriously confront and understand the roots and contemporary construction of the antisemitism in our own midst, which requires first an acknowledgement that it exists, and for us to respond patiently, via reasoned debate.

    Jim Denham

    November 26, 2019 at 5:26 pm

  4. I do think however Jim that the point is that Mervis said, ” challenging racism in all its forms is not a matter of politics, it goes well beyond that”.

    As he politicses his attack by confining it to Labour and Corbyn in particular he is open to serious criticism for his statement.

    I am well aware that his branch of Orthodoxy has a deep relationship with politics in the first place which should be made clear if he cares to intervene in this General Election.

    His own United Synagogue is an active supporter of Israel, and proud of this.

    That is its right, but it does not the right to pose as a referee on the Labour Party’s fitness to govern.

    Andrew Coates

    November 26, 2019 at 5:44 pm

  5. I was thinking, the whole Corbyn fiasco reminds me of Shakespeare’s tragedy ‘Coriolanus’. Coriolanus was an honoured Roman General who was advised to seek election to the Senate. Part of the form for this was to visit the marketplace and shoe the plebs the scars of wounds sustained in the service of Rome. He was too proud to do this and ended up berating the plebs for their false belief they had a right to see them. Needless to say, it did not end happily, Coriolanus was banished from Rome. Those that live by the sword, die by the sword and those that lie by democracy die by public exposure.

    Sue r

    November 27, 2019 at 9:55 am

  6. That should be ‘live’ by democracy, although ‘lie’ is probably just as true.

    Sue r

    November 27, 2019 at 9:57 am

  7. Sue, you should talk about “live by democracy” on this site, a site which refuses to accept the results of the 2016 EU referendum!

    Steven Johnston

    November 27, 2019 at 10:08 am

  8. You lot are, presumably, not stupid people. Are of you going to tell me you didn’t think would happen? Or say “We never asked for this”. Terry Fuckwitt from Viz would have done a better job at leading the Labour Party than Corbyn.

    Steven Johnston

    November 27, 2019 at 10:39 am

  9. Despite the headlines, the recent intervention of Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis on the issue of alleged anti-semitism within Labour was not an “unprecedented” intervention from the leadership of the Jewish community in the four-year history of anti-semitism smears directed at the party.

    The intervention was small-fry in comparison to the demonstrations of hundreds of British Jews led by the Board of Deputies and Jewish leadership council in March 2018, the joint front cover across three national Jewish newspapers accusing Labour of anti-semitism in July 2018, the letter signed by 68 rabbis accusing Labour of anti-semitism in the same month, or the accusations levelled by the far-right extremist Rabbi Jonathan Sacks in August 2018.

    Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis’s letter, describing Jeremy Corbyn as “unfit for office” and urging the electorate to “vote with their conscience” is just the end of a long line of overtly political attacks on the Labour Party from Jewish community leaders.

    They are, in effect, playing a dangerous game of chicken with the electorate; explicitly asking them to place their faith in the word of official institutions purporting to represent the Jewish community over and above their hopes for a better country for themselves, their families and their children.

    As the statistics show, accusations of anti-semitism levelled at Labour members account for less than 0.01 per cent of the Labour Party membership. Every investigation into the issue from the Royall report, the Home Office select committee investigation and the Chakrabarti report have concluded that there is no evidence to suggest a higher prevalence of anti-semitism in Labour than any other party.

    On polling, the Tory Party has a significantly higher prevalence of anti-semitic sentiments than Labour, and those attitudes in Labour are below those found in the British population at large.

    The lack of substance and evidence behind the constant smears is increasingly evident, and fewer and fewer people are inclined to take the word of official institutions which are acting in such a nakedly political manner. Meanwhile, real threats to the Jewish community go unnoticed.

    Only a weeks ago, Jewish actor and comedian Marlon Solomon reported via twitter that he had been engaged by two men in a takeaway in Manchester, demanding to know if he was “a f****ing Jew” and sieg heiling before leaving the shop. This is the real threat of anti-semitism in modern Britain — yet in a sign of the times, he was unable to convince several of his Twitter followers that these were not thuggish Corbynites, but hard-right Tommy Robinson supporters.

    The recklessness with which community leaders like Mirvis are exploiting fears of anti-semitism is unforgivable. As a genuine far-right threat to Jewish people rears its head internationally, Mirvis and many of the official institutions of British Jewry have opted to expend their efforts on a crusade to prevent Labour forming a government.

    In the face of this, if the British people give Labour a decent vote in the general election then Mirvis, the Board of Deputies, the JLC and the Jewish community press will have not a fig-leaf left to hide them. Their credibility will be spent and their institutional voice ever more isolated having spent four years attacking one of the few forces in British society which will stand beside them as the far right continues to grow.

    Rabbi Mirvis is overplaying his hand
    Voters are being asked to call the rabbi’s bluff in the face of increasingly unbelievable allegations – and this relentless politicking only threatens the safety of the Jewish community writes ADAM LEWINSKI


    Andrew Coates

    November 27, 2019 at 11:51 am

  10. The real reason the Chief rabbi et al are antiCorbyn is because he is committed to an arms embargo on Israel and the recognition of a Palestinian state. Israel is the UK’s second most important partner in intelligence which would be discontinued in the event of a Corbyn government. The Morning Star is well aware of all this. It is not simply a moral question.

    Sue r

    November 27, 2019 at 12:25 pm

  11. A comrade sent me this comment (with which I 100% agree) re Corbyn’s performance on the Andrew Neil show : On a national politics show in the middle of an election – the most important election in a generation – as one the slogans says; after some serious and big ‘mistakes’ by the Labour leadership over several years on this matter; after the furious and, I think, outrageous intervention by the Chief Rabbi a few hours earlier; all Corbyn had to say was he is ‘truly sorry for how anti-semitism has been handled in the LP over the last couple of years’, then pause, followed by ‘lessons have been learned etc, we must move on.’

    He didn’t, he couldn’t, I thought it was a horror to watch, instead he gave a politician’s answer, that ‘let me make it clear, racism in our society is a total poison, blah, blah, blah’. Yeah, we know that. That wasn’t the question.

    Didn’t Corbyn and his stalinist advisors anticipate this question from someone like Andrew Neil especially after the Chief Rabbi’s intervention a few hours earlier? Did they think by giving that politician’s response that would be sufficient?

    This was national TV with a national audience, it’s the general election, Andrew Neil is a gobshyte reactionary TV politics interviewer but Corbyn went on his programme knowing this. Of course, the right have and will exploit this issue. They are doing their job, they’re fulfilling their role, there’s no point in bleating about the right having a go. Regrettably, Corbyn has failed to fulfil his role as leader of a progressive labour party.


    Jim Denham

    November 27, 2019 at 12:39 pm

    • It is hard to say how he could have won on this but I agree his performance looks dire.

      There is also this, Jim, reflecting the stand on international issues criticise above – a criticism which many of us on the left have been making for some time now.

      “5. ‘What does that mean?’

      Corbyn declined to say for certain whether he would give the orders to kill any new leader of so-called Islamic State (IS) if it was not possible to arrest them.

      The exchange began by Neil suggesting Corbyn “always gives Britain’s enemies the benefit of the doubt? Galtieri in the Falklands, to Mr Putin when the Kremlin was trying to kill people in Salisbury here in England”.

      “You rarely have a good word to say for our allies. You’ve no time for NATO, the alliance that’s kept us safe,” Neil continued.

      “Why should people trust you to defend our national interest?”

      On any new leader of IS, Corbyn said he would “take the appropriate decision at the appropriate time…”

      Neil: What does that mean?

      Corbyn: … with all the information. You ask me a hypothetical question in a hypothetical scenario, I’m obviously …

      Neil: But it might not be that hypothetical because we know what the Americans have done with al-Baghdadi. People just don’t think you would do this.

      Corbyn: Andrew, I think we also have to look at how we’ve created these dangers as well. That means the point I just raised. The point I just raised is a very serious one.

      Neil: It doesn’t stop him from killing us.

      Corbyn: Andrew, you have to look to the future as well.

      Neil: That’s what I’m doing. You were just looking to the past.

      5 Stand-Out Moments From Jeremy Corbyn’s Bruising Interview With Andrew Neil
      Labour leader was pulled apart on anti-Semitism and Brexit in BBC head-to-head.

      Andrew Coates

      November 27, 2019 at 1:12 pm

  12. So, when you wake up on the 13th of December, to find that BJ romped home and has a majority to push his version of Brexit through parliament. That Corbyn & McDonnell have resigned, where do you go from there?

    Steven Johnston

    November 27, 2019 at 12:58 pm

  13. One must say I wholeheartedly agree with Jeremy. This whole anti-antisemitism in the Labour Party is akin to a storm in a brassiere. Labour, this great country of ours must move on. We must focus on what is really important, what really matters to people, like jobs and the NHS Getting more police on the beat and looking after the welfare of animals. And most importantly of all – let’s get Brexit done!

    Boris Johnson

    November 27, 2019 at 1:12 pm

  14. Would it be ironic, if the Labour party failed to win the general election, that Chief Rabbi and the Jewish board of deputies gets the blame?

    For the record I abhor anti-Semitism and if the labour party are guilty of this charge then they damn well should lose the election.

    I dislike Andrew Neil’s politics but good for him for exposing Corbyn as a man not fit to govern.

    Steven Johnston

    November 27, 2019 at 1:17 pm

  15. What did you expect though Andrew? You know he was a no-hoper back then, so what do you think has changed?

    Steven Johnston

    November 27, 2019 at 1:19 pm

  16. I’m loathe to comment further, especially as my previous comment yet again has failed to appear, but also because of the nature of the comment I wish to make.

    That is that its best to simply ignore the politically motivated, hyperbolic comments of people like the Chief Rabbi, and thereby deny them the oxygen of publicity they seek.


    November 27, 2019 at 1:28 pm

    • Sorry Boffy, it got caught up with this: scores of comments filtered out…: “RFID Mark of the Beast
      Would you allow your government to place a microchip in your body?

      Did you know that is the future we are approaching with RFID Microchip technology?

      Even more importantly, did you know there was a man almost 2000 years ago who prophesied of a cashless society in the last days? This mans name is Jesus.

      Did you know that this RFID Microchip matches perfectly with the Mark of the Beast in Revel

      Andrew Coates

      November 27, 2019 at 1:50 pm

    • Unfortunately they got the Front Pages and it’s hard to ignore them.

      Andrew Coates

      November 27, 2019 at 1:50 pm

  17. I couldn’t disagree with you more Boffy. But if what you say is true, then the voters will see through it and you need not worry.

    Steven Johnston

    November 27, 2019 at 1:41 pm

  18. “They are, in effect, playing a dangerous game of chicken with the electorate; explicitly asking them to place their faith in the word of official institutions purporting to represent the Jewish community over and above their hopes for a better country for themselves, their families and their children.”: what a despicable and counter-productive comment from Adam Lewinski in the Morning Star. What he’s saying amounts to “Jews and your recognised leaders, shut up at least for the duration of the election, and let the rest of us concentrate on the important bread and butter issues, which you lot are placing at risk with your fabricated claims about antisemitism.” What what he means, isn’t it? Or have I misunderstood him?

    Jim Denham

    November 27, 2019 at 6:58 pm

  19. All that talk or “purging” the labour party of the Blairities is starting to look awfully hollow now!

    If that really what was holding the labour party back, why couldn’t Corbyn beat May?

    Why is the gap in the polls, between the Labour party and the Tories growing wider each day?

    The tories are running away with this election. What have you got to say now? Oh, look, he’s found a document that says the tories will sell of the NHS! Oh Jeremy Corbyn! Pathetic!

    Steven Johnston

    November 27, 2019 at 10:59 pm

  20. I note that the Adam Lewinski article doesn’t appear in today’s print edition of the Morning Star, despite it still being available on their website. Perhaps Mary Davis and/or Dave Katz spotted it and put in a complaint. My suggestion that the article amounts to a threat to Jews to “shut up or else…” is confirmed by the heading and strap-line to the article:

    “Rabbi Mirvis is overplaying his hand

    “Voters are being asked to call the rabbi’s bluff in the face of increasingly unbelievable allegations – and this relentless politicking only threatens the safety of the Jewish community writes ADAM LEWINSKI”

    Jim Denham

    November 28, 2019 at 3:08 pm

  21. Oh well that’s alright Jim.

    Steven Johnston

    November 28, 2019 at 3:40 pm

  22. Guess the Rabbi had a point in the end.

    Steven Johnston

    December 12, 2019 at 11:44 pm

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