Sometime last year three Turkish people I knew visited Jordan on holiday. Everywhere they went they found the locals, upon learning they were Turkish, would get all excited and say:
“Oh we love Erdogan! We love how he stands up to the Israelis!”
This despite Jordan’s rather sketchy record when it comes to Palestinian refugees, the PLO, and occupying land. Now there is every chance these locals were Palestinians, but my acquaintances said it is now common to hear similar sentiments in Turkey. In particular, they like this performance:
The fact is, regardless of where you go in the Middle East and certain other regions, bashing Israel is hugely popular. More often than not, this equates to simple Jew-bashing. Yes, there are many legitimate complaints which can be leveled at Israel and criticising Israel does not in itself make one anti-semitic. However, if the only country in the world whose existence you dispute happens to be the Jewish one, and you sound as though you’re reading from a Hamas pamphlet when the subject comes up, people will draw their own conclusions. And for Turks to complain about the occupation and oppression of Palestinians is a little ironic, especially given how much their dear leader admires the Ottomans. As usual, the problem is not that Palestinians are oppressed, but that it is Jews doing the oppressing.
Which brings me onto this:
Jeremy Corbyn said he was present but not involved at a wreath-laying for individuals behind the group that carried out the Munich Olympic massacre, a partial admission that led to a row between him and Israel’s prime minister.
The Labour leader had been asked if Palestinian leaders linked to the Black September terror group were also honoured at a memorial event he attended in Tunisia in 2014, at which victims of the 1985 Israeli airstrike in Tunis were remembered.
Corbyn said “a wreath was indeed laid” for “some of those who were killed in Paris in 1992” and added, in response to a question: “I was present at that wreath-laying, I don’t think I was actually involved in it.”
The hard-left in Europe and elsewhere has always been anti-Israel, partly because they took their lead from the Soviets who had an interest in undermining America’s ally in the Middle East. Coupled with that, you have the left-wing suspicion of Jewish bankers, businessmen, and media moguls who supposedly run the world and conspire to thwart the success of glorious socialist revolutions. The latter is where they share common ground with the hard-right: go on any alt-right or MAGA blog and within three comments someone is writing a thousand-word paragraph on the Rothschilds.
Jeremy Corbyn is famous for being a hard-left outsider, and being anti-Israeli is near enough compulsory in those circles and if this stems from anti-semitism, then so be it. Certainly, nobody’s going to complain. Only now Corbyn has found himself leader of the Labour party people are appalled at his behaviour, but I fear they have missed the point. What they should be asking is why someone who lays wreaths at the graves of dead terrorists is enjoying so much support, and the answer – as our Turks traveling in Jordan discovered – is that this sort of thing is popular among determined and vocal minorities everywhere. There’s no point blaming the preacher when so many people are tripping over themselves to hear the sermon.
Corbyn has never been interested in building a broad coalition, and he wouldn’t know how to even if he was. Like George Galloway, his shtick is to pander to a select audience and thrive on the notoriety it generates. He knew exactly what he was doing when he laid that wreath, just as he did when he defended the IRA and invited Sinn Fein to Parliament. The reason why his denials are so nonsensical is because he needs to say just enough to get rid of the reporter and move onto the next question without disappointing his core supporters who fully approve of his actions. The fact is, Corbyn’s just doing what he’s always done, only now it’s a lot more popular.
So rather than demanding Corbyn resign – why should he? – those concerned should ask how laying a wreath at the grave of Islamic terrorists became a sensible political act for the leader of Britain’s opposition. In other words, who is supporting this stuff, and in what numbers? It’s not difficult to find some pasty white septuagenarian at a protest or online ranting about the Jews, and some younger lefties may have swelled their ranks recently, but these people have always been at the fringes of British political life. So what’s different now? How come blatant anti-semitism in a major British political party is nowadays no longer something over which the leader should resign, but a source of much of their popularity? This is the elephant in the room that, for all their outrage, the media and political classes don’t want to address.
It used to be one had to travel to the Middle East to find people supporting a mainstream political leader solely because they sided against Israel and the Jews. Now we can find it in Britain, and those squawking the loudest about this state of affairs are usually those who did so much to bring it about.