UK Opposition Leader Corbyn Faces Pressure Over Anti-Semitism Accusations as Lawmaker Quits

September 2, 2018 Updated: September 2, 2018

The British Labour Party has become “a force for anti-Semitism” under Jeremy Corbyn, a veteran lawmaker claimed as he cut ties with the leadership to vote as an independent.

On Aug. 30, veteran MP Frank Field—an early Corbyn supporter—announced that he’s withdrawing as Labour whip (meaning he will vote as an independent). And other lawmakers are threatening to follow suit.

Some 15 lawmakers in the Labour Party—the main opposition party in the UK—are also mulling the creation of a breakaway party, according to the Times.

The threat comes as the party, which has lurched to the left under would-be British prime minister Corbyn, prepares to vote on Sept. 4, about whether to change a controversial internal policy document related a definition of anti-Semitism.

Photographs recently surfaced showing Corbyn at a wreath-laying ceremony in Tunisia in 2014, apparently honoring the terrorists who killed Israeli Olympians in the 1972 Munich attack.

Later, footage emerged from 2013 of Corbyn saying a group of British Zionists had “no sense of English irony.”

They were the latest events that critics say demonstrate that Corbyn and his close allies are anti-Semitic—something he has strenuously denied.

But analysts said Corbyn’s controversial stance reflects his broader unyielding anti-Western ideology rather than being than motivated by anti-Semitism, per se.

‘Culture of Intolerance, Nastiness, and Intimidation’

Field also said a “culture of intolerance, nastiness, and intimidation now reigns in too many parts of the Party nationally.”

Frank Field speaks at a thinktank event
Frank Field (L) speaks at a think-tank event alongside David Cameron (R) in London, on Jan. 11, 2010. (Andrew Parsons /Conservative Party via Getty Images)

According to The Telegraph, another three MPs are ready to follow suit. Former minister Lord Blunkett said the anti-Semitism row should prompt a rethinking of the so-called Corbyn project, he wrote in The Telegraph.

Blunkett also drew a parallel between current “bullying and thuggery”  and what he experienced when the communist entryist group known as the Militant Tendency sought to take over the party in the 1980s.

Corbyn spent decades on the isolated hard-left wing of the Labour Party, before being boosted to the leadership position as a rank outsider in 2015, bolstered by a group called Momentum.

A protester blows through a shofar during a demonstration in Parliament Square against anti-Semitism in the Labour Party on March 26, 2018 in London, England. (Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
A protester blows through a shofar during a demonstration at Parliament Square in London against anti-Semitism in the Labour Party on March 26, 2018. (Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

Party lawmakers have tried to oust Corbyn in the past, but were thwarted by a change of rules that gave more weight to the views of the quickly growing public membership rallied under Momentum.

Moderates in the party have complained that some lawmakers have been “purged” through threats and manipulation of the internal workings of the party.

Rumbling concerns of anti-Semitism cracked into a full storm over the summer after the Labour Party refused to adopt the internationally standard definition of anti-Semitism, claiming it restricted the capacity to criticise Israel and Zionism.

Three British Jewish newspapers wrote a joint editorial saying that the party under Corbyn is an “existential threat.”

‘Anti-Imperialists Are “Friends”‘

Following weeks of pressure, on Sept. 4, the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party will again vote on whether to adopt wholesale the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism—an almost standard definition used by many organizations.

Corbyn has said that the definition would be a straight-jacket for critics of Israeli policies.

In July, lawmaker Dame Margaret Hodge threatened to take Labour to the High Court to prove that Corbyn is an anti-Semite, after the party investigated her for berating Corbyn over the anti-Semitism claims. The investigation was dropped.

To staunch supporters, Corbyn is the victim of a witch-hunt from opponents on the right and also from moderates within the Labour Party who have been waiting for the opportunity to dethrone him.

Corbyn surrounded by communist flags
Britain’s opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn gives a speech from the top of a double-decker bus as Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) flags fly at a May Day rally in London on May 1, 2016. (Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images)

But longtime observers of the hard-left faction of British politics, including Labour members, say that the revelations simply reflect Corbyn’s unwavering anti-Western ideology, tempered through years on the hard-left wing of the party.

Anti-Western, anti-war and anti-American sentiment has long been a key element of the hard left in the UK, say Paul Anderson and Kevin Davey, authors of “Moscow Gold? The Soviet Union and the British Left.”

“Leninist anti-imperialism continues to play a central role in shaping [Corbyn’s] thinking on foreign affairs,” they wrote in an update to the conclusion of the book in 2016. “If there’s any guiding principle to Corbynism, it’s that the West—in other words, the U.S. and the other ‘imperialist powers’—is always wrong.”

In this worldview, “from the IRA to Hamas, from Cuba to Hezbollah, from North Korea to Venezuela, ‘anti-imperialists’ are ‘friends’ usually deserving solidarity—and a blind eye has to be turned to most of their flaws and their crimes,” it continues.

Follow Simon on Twitter: @SPVeazey
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