Guardian criticised over editorial praising Corbyn’s ‘formidable record fighting racism’

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Guardian criticised over editorial praising Corbyn’s ‘formidable record fighting racism’

An editorial in response to Keir Starmer's confirmation Jeremy Corbyn will not stand as a Labour candidate at the next election has sparked communal anger

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn
Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn

The Guardian newspaper has received stinging criticism of an editorial it ran on Jeremy Corbyn which claimed the ex-Labour leader had “a formidable record fighting against racism.”

The editorial, written in response to last week’s confirmation by Keir Starmer that the Islington North MP could not stand as a Labour candidate at the next election, had initially given “two cheers” to the current leader over his “strong stance” over his party’s antisemitism crisis.

But in words that infuriated some in the community, it stated:”Mr Corbyn has a formidable record fighting against racism and in speaking up for many persecuted peoples, but in this case he was too slow and too defensive.

“To show how much better he was than some of his critics allowed, he should have tried harder to engage with their criticisms.”

In one of several letters published by the Guardian in response to the last Thursday’s editorial BaronessJulia Neuberger wrote:”The truth is that he was not slow or defensive.

“He simply did not act.

“He failed to engage with those who pointed out how toxic the party had become for Jews. He consistently failed to accord antisemitism the status of racism – which it undoubtedly is. He has been selective in those causes he has taken up – and rising antisemitism, including within his own party, apparently was not worth worrying about.

“Meanwhile, due to his inaction and failure to understand, he made absolutely miserable the lives of several Jewish MPs in his own party. To name but a few, Louise Ellman, Luciana Berger, Margaret Hodge and Ruth Smeeth all had a terrible time and had to put up with the vilest of hate campaigns on social media.”

The author Simon Sebag Montefiore also wrote a letter saying:”Like many other people, particularly my fellow Jews, I was surprised, dismayed and disappointed by your editorial.

“It is extraordinary that the Guardian should devote a formal editorial to defendingJeremy Corbynonly three years after his toxic crankery led to the unprecedented shame of an Equality and Human Rights Commission investigation into racism in the Labour party – and a Tory landslide.”

The Holocaust Educational Trust’s Karen Pollock wrote:”To claim Mr Corbyn has a “formidable record fighting against racism and in speaking up for many persecuted peoples” makes a mockery of one minority group, denying their experience of anti-Jewish racism. It’s as if Mr Corbyn and his allies are the victims here, not those who were victims of antisemitic hate.”

Meanwhile, in his letter Mike Katz of the Jewish Labour Movement added:”Your assertion that he had “a formidable record fighting against racism” will elicit a hollow laugh from the many Jewish Labour Movement members who suffered racist bullying and harassment – let alone the Jewish MPs hounded out of the party – all under his watch.

“Corbyn doesn’t deserve the credit you give him.”

The Board of Deputies president Marie van der Zyl also wrote to Guardian editor Kath Viner, registering her own objections to the editorial.

While The Guardian was widely condemned for the editorial, other columnists associated with the newspaper launched strong attacks on Corbyn’s record in recent days.

ColumnistRafael Behr appeared on the BBC’s Politics Live programme and berated Corbyn’s defenders on the left accusing them of “tolerating a bit of antisemitism” and saying under his leadership Labour became “infested” with antisemitism.

In The Observer, the Guardian’s sister paper, columnist Sonia Sodha wrote:”Corbyn has never apologised for the role he played in the institutional antisemitism that characterised the party under his leadership, including interference in the complaints process by his own staff, presiding over a culture in which members including Ken Livingstone partook in theunlawful harassment of Jewish members, and a lack of support for Jewish MPs like Luciana Berger and Margaret Hodge, who faced the most appalling abuse.”










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