Douglas Murray

Jeremy Corbyn and the cynical tactics of the left

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It is August, so perhaps it is inevitable that parts of the left are getting somewhat over-heated. But it can’t just be the weather. Take this segment from the bottom of a story in Sunday’s ‘Observer’ which was about something else (comments by Labour’s Deputy Leader on that party’s Leader):

‘[Tom] Watson’s intervention came as Corbyn was forced to “entirely disassociate” himself from an organisation whose website lists him as a member of its international advisory panel and which openly supported a prominent writer convicted of Holocaust denial. In 1996, the Just World Trust, an international NGO that has been a trenchant critic of Israel, wrote a letter defending the controversial French philosopher Roger Garaudy, who denied that the killing of Jews by the Nazis constituted genocide. Two years later, Garaudy was convicted in France of Holocaust denial, and received a suspended jail sentence. At the time of Garaudy’s conviction, Just’s letter of support was publicly accessible on its website, as was a list of “friends” of its international movement. Corbyn was listed as the movement’s “convenor” in Britain.

The official response from the Labour party for this story is that Corbyn didn’t know he was the head of the British chapter of this organisation and ‘has asked to be removed’. So there you have it. The Labour party’s line is ‘Might have happened to any of us.’ Though it’s enough to give you pause isn’t it? The ease with which any of us might end up heading the local branch of a Holocaust denial movement.

I suppose that the drip-drip of these stories (to such an extent that a story like the above is not a story but a mere addendum to another story) must be affecting the brains of some of Corbyn’s supporters. And in such a case those supporters have only a few choices open to them.

There is the decent option – which is also the hardest. This would consist of sincerely trying to work out why the main party of the British left is now led by a man who keeps turning up in every international anti-Semitic fever swamp. There doesn’t seem like there’s much of an appetite for that option.

So then there are the indecent options. These include attempting to change the subject while merely pretending to deal with the first matter. For the time being this appears to be the most attractive alternative.

Thus it is that portions of the left have decided to counter what they regard as the ‘anti-Semitism card’ with the ‘Islamophobia card’. Of course there are other people hanging around with not very much to do who are very happy to join this bandwagon. ‘You criticise me for anti-Semitism? Fine – I raise you “Islamophobia”.’ How admirable. How cynical. How revealing.

Of course there are so many problems with this tactic (for tactic it is) that it is hard to know where to begin. How about with the basics? Such as the fact that anti-Semitism is a centuries (indeed millennia) old disease, rooted not in facts but in conspiracy-theories, and which in living memory led to the physical annihilation of a third of the world’s Jewish population. Whereas ‘Islamophobia’ is a concept invented by Islamists in the 1990s in order to try to prevent any and all criticism of the religion of Islam.

And just one problem that the proponents of ‘Islamophobia’ vs anti-Semitism will always keep coming across is the problem of what we used to call ‘the facts’. For instance, if two Muslims attack and decapitate a British soldier in broad daylight on the streets of London, or another two Muslims cut the throat of an elderly priest as he is saying mass at a church in Rouen, what are we to say about this? Those who throw around ‘Islamophobe’ want us to say that the people shouting ‘Allah Akbar’ while they slit the throats of infidels are not Muslims. If you fail to toe this line then you are an ‘Islamophobe’.

And of course if you were to mention that such people – minority though they may be – appear to be following their understanding of certain dictates of their religion’s inventor then you are criticising Mohammed, and criticising Mohammed is wildly ‘Islamophobic’. Yet here is an interesting thing. For it remains very clearly not anti-Semitic to criticise Moses. If you say you don’t think the strictures on Moses’s tablets were up to much and that he could have written better, you are not an anti-Semite. Yet if you say you don’t much like the way Mohammed behaved you are a wild ‘Islamophobe’. And thus equivalent (these people hope) with someone who thinks the Holocaust of European Jews didn’t happen.

All of which is very advantageous, of course, as it is meant to be. The concept of ‘Islamophobia’ was set up this way in order to give Islam a qualitative advantage in the proselytising and religious-protection stakes. Creating a rigged game which can be played on the shallowest as well as the deepest ground.

Today there is an effort by various people to distract from the Labour leader’s shame by portraying Britain’s former Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, as an especially hideous ‘Islamophobe’. This is because in a newspaper article on Monday (which was largely dedicated to criticising countries which have banned full-face coverings) Johnson mentioned in passing that women who wear the burka resemble ‘letter boxes’ and look ‘absolutely ridiculous’. Obviously Boris Johnson didn’t get the memo which says that in diverse, Islamophilic, equality-obsessed Britain the only thing to say about a woman in a full-face covering is that she looks absolutely beautiful, couldn’t be prettier, amazing more people haven’t thought of doing it, etc etc.

Thus somebody called Mohammed Amin who heads the ‘Conservative Muslim Forum’ told the BBC’s Newsnight yesterday, ‘This should have been a good article opposing the Danish niqab ban. But instead Boris spent about half the article slagging off Muslim women.’ The first part of which suggests that we’re all completely agreed that the Danes are wrong, and the second part of which is provable rubbish.

Meantime the Labour party’s Naz Shah – along with Jess Phillips and others – has decided to try to escalate the ‘letter box’ comment. Ms Shah has even written to the Conservative Party Chairman, Brandon Lewis, insisting that the party put Boris Johnson into mandatory ‘diversity training’. I presume that this training is now so perfected that anyone who goes into it is guaranteed to come out saying that far from looking ridiculous, women in burkas are in fact mega-hot and total babes. We’ll see. In any case it would be easier to listen to talk of mandatory diversity training for ‘Islamophobia’ if it was not pushed by Naz Shah, who has a recent history of anti-Semitism so extreme that the modern Labour party suspended her for her anti-Semitism a couple of years ago. Which is quite a feat.

Anyway, they all know what they are doing, these people. Some of them are simply trying to defend their religion (including, surprisingly, the most regressive versions of their religion) from any and all criticism. The far-left, meantime, are simply trying to cover for the fact that on an average Sunday it is no longer especially newsworthy that their leader should be exposed as having yet another affiliation with yet another Holocaust denier. A Holocaust denier, incidentally, who chose in adulthood to convert to Islam. Who knows why he might have done that? Or who would dare to speculate?

In any case, perhaps these cynical little tactics of the far-left will work. Or perhaps they will not. We must hope they do not.

Written byDouglas Murray

Douglas Murray is Associate Editor of The Spectator. His most recent book The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity is out now.

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