Jeremy Corbyn wouldn’t get my vote, by Jean Calder

(This is the complete text of my column published on 5th September 2015 in the Brighton Argus which was edited to remove the paragraph relating to Sinn Fein and the IRA)

I didn’t have a vote in the labour leadership election and I’m was glad of that. People assumed I’d want to vote for Jeremy Corbyn, but they were wrong.
I like Corbyn’s anti austerity agenda, his respect for unions and the public sector, his rejection of privatisation and Trident and his scepticism about the European Union. However, I have some serious doubts about him. 

Despite apparent support for women’s rights, other policy positions he’s taken put their rights at risk. He appears to have been a broken reed in the Islington child abuse scandal, when desperate whistle-blowers first sought his help. I believe the stance he takes now on aspects of foreign policy put human rights at risk.

Much of what Corbyn has said about the plight of Palestinians and the brutality of Israeli state forces and illegal settlers is absolutely true. However, in rightly expressing solidarity with the Palestinians, he has also made common cause with Islamists who have no interest in establishing a just and democratic state (certainly not one offering equality to women, homosexuals or Jews). They want a caliphate, a theocratic fascist dictatorship. 

Corbyn has said it’s important to “talk” to people like Hamas and has offered the Peace process in Northern Ireland as an example. However, facilitating negotiation between participants in conflict is different from sharing a platform and giving the appearance of uncritical support for individuals such as Raed Salah of Hamas who has repeated the ‘blood libel’ against Jews (that Jews use Christian children’s blood in rituals) and says it is un-islamic to support women’s equality. 

It’s also absurd to equate violent islamists with the IRA. The IRA and Sinn Fein were not fascist organisations. Both were committed to Irish re-unification and British withdrawal, but crucially also to the maintenance of a democratic, non-sectarian secular Irish state. They was not imperialistic or expansionist. Hamas, in contrast, fights for a world-wide caliphate.

I question Corbyn’s attitude to Isis. In 2014, Corbyn said of Isis. “Yes, they are brutal,”..… “Yes, some of what they have done is quite appalling, likewise what the Americans did in Fallujah and other places is appalling.” Furious commentators have focussed on his comments on Fallujah and whether he should have equated Isis’ brutality with that of the Americans, but my concern is rather different. 

I make no defence of US conduct of the Iraq war. I question why Corbyn uses this to deflect attention from Isis atrocities. Above all, I want to know why he said only “some” of what Isis had done was “quite appalling”. I’d like to know which of Isis’ activities Corbyn thinks are acceptable. I see none – just brutal occupation by a so-called state in which men buy and sell naked children into sex slavery in public markets, pray before they rape them, stone women, throw gay men from high buildings and execute subject peoples and those they consider apostates with mediaeval cruelty – while abroad, waging war on civilians. 

Corbyn says the rise of Isis has been assisted by American and UK foreign policy. He’s right, but it didn’t create ISIS and it doesn’t excuse it – any more than the Treaty of Versailles caused or excused the rise of nazi Germany.  

There are some political forces with which no just government can safely negotiate because they are just too violent and dangerous to humanity. Hitler’s Germany was one, Pol Pot’s Cambodia another. Isis’ caliphate is yet another. At some point Isis, and crucially the fascist theocratic ideology that drives it, will need to be fought and beaten – not contained as Corbyn suggests. 

Boycot Israel over international piracy and ongoing crimes in Gaza

When Somali pirates attack ships in international waters, the Royal Navy is dispatched and the BBC rightfully condemns such piracy.

But when a peace convoy setting sale from Turkey is attacked in international waters, no though is given to sending the Royal Navy to protect fellow NATO ships, and the BBC repeatedly shows the ‘justification’ put out by the pirates.

The Israeli government says its soldiers were attacked by those on the ships.  In international law, when a ship is attacked in international waters by pirates, deadly force may be used.  No such force was used by those in the flotilla.

I am tired of listening to the lies and justification of the Israeli state, and the pitiful reaction of both the UK and US governments.

It is time for a full scale boycot of Israeli products.

Today’s demonstration in Brighton abused the memory of those who died in Gaza

Returning to Brighton this afternoon after a few days abroad, I encountered the anti-EDO, ‘remember Gaza’ demonstration, but the youths on the street seemed more intent on provoking the police than paying respect to the victims of the Israeli assault on Palestinians.  I saw a poster promoting the demo – it had a picture of Gaza and a picture of demonstrators and police clashing in a similar demonstration last year in Brighton.

I was angered by two things: the overwhelming display of force by the police – horses, riot gear, and so on.  Generally officers appeared to be focused on restraint, but from the little I saw, it would not take much for the policing to turn very ugly.  However, I felt greater anger at the demonstrators who were using the human tragedy that is Gaza as an excuse to have a go at the police.  It felt like the ultimate insult to the victims of Israeli aggression to use their suffering as cover for juvenile, anarchistic provocation of the police.

I recall a time when demonstrations were disciplined and stewarded.  They were about issues and not an excuse for confronting the police. The demonstrators today abused the memories of those who died in Gaza.  I am disgusted by their self-indulgence.