Thoreau got it right:

‘Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new.’ (Thoreau, ‘Walden’, Penguin, 1983, p.68)

The same is certainly true of propaganda. We can laugh now at McCarthyite paranoia warning of Soviet tentacles threatening every aspect of Western life during the Cold War. In the 1940s and 1950s, Hollywood produced dozens of anti-communist films with titles like ‘I Married A Communist’ and ‘I Was A Communist For The FBI’. Large-circulation magazines were titled, ‘Communists Are After Your Child.’ Even children’s comics declared:

‘Beware, commies, spies, traitors, and foreign agents! Captain America, with all loyal, free men behind him, is looking for you.’ (Quoted, Howard Zinn, ‘A People’s History of the United States,’ Harper Colophon, 1990, p.428)

We can guess how future generations will view the current propaganda blitz depicting Jeremy Corbyn as a threat to Britain’s Jews. Not since 2002-2003, when sanctions-stricken Iraq, willing to allow months of no-notice UN weapons inspections, was said to be a ‘clear and present danger’ to the nuclear-packing US-UK, has the truth been so completely and shamefully distorted.

The level of madness is breathtaking, even by ‘mainstream’ standards. In July, the Sunday Telegraph columnist Simon Heffer claimed on LBC radio that Corbyn ‘wants to reopen Auschwitz’. When the interviewer responded that it was completely unacceptable to suggest that Corbyn was capable of such a thing, Heffer replied:

‘I’m sure, in 1933, they had similar conversations in Germany: “the Fuehrer’s never going to do that”.’

Jeremy Hunt, then Foreign Secretary, commented in July:

‘When I went to Auschwitz I rather complacently said to myself, “thank goodness we don’t have to worry about that kind of thing happening in the UK” and now I find myself faced with the leader of the Labour Party who has opened the door to antisemitism in a way that is truly frightening.’

Noam Chomsky summed up the shameful nature of these remarks:

‘The way charges of anti-Semitism are being used in Britain to undermine the Corbyn-led Labour Party is not only a disgrace, but also – to put it simply – an insult to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust…’.

In the i newspaper, former Independent editor Simon Kelner focused on the way Corbyn had ‘mispronounced’ the name of the sexual criminal Jeffrey Epstein, Prince Andrew’s former friend, in a TV debate: ‘He called him “EpSchtine”,’ Kelner noted.

Along with ITV political editor Robert Peston (see below), Kelner did not only dispense with the usual affectation of journalistic impartiality, he emphasised his subjectivity in lending weight to an attack on Corbyn:

‘My reaction was a visceral one: it’s not something I can explain easily, or even rationally, but a Jewish person does know when there is something that sounds wrong, or perjorative [sic], or even threatening. It was as if he was saying: “Are you aware this man is Jewish?”’

Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, main gate. Preserved today as a museum. The attacks on Corbyn, say critics, are not only utterly dishonest, they insult the memory of true victims of anti-semitism.

The idea, then, is that Corbyn – who has been subjected to relentless, highly damaging attacks on this issue for years, and who has done everything he can to distance himself from anti-semitism, taking a very tough line on the suspension of allies like Ken Livingstone and Chris Williamson from the Labour Party – was emphasising Epstein’s Jewishness in a deliberate – or, worse – unconscious effort to smear Jews. Of course, only a truly crazed racist would be unable to resist such a patently self-destructive impulse on national TV. And yet, the outgoing Speaker of the House of Commons, former Conservative MP, John Bercow, who is Jewish, said during an interview with British GQ magazine last month:

‘I myself have never experienced anti-semitism from a member of the Labour Party, point one. And point two, though there is a big issue and it has to be addressed, I do not myself believe Jeremy Corbyn is anti-semitic.

‘I’ve known him for the 22 years I’ve been in Parliament. Even, actually, when I was a right-winger we got on pretty well… I’ve never detected so much as a whiff of anti-semitism [from him].’

Our search of the ProQuest media database found no mention of Bercow’s comment in any UK national newspaper.

Remarkably, in July 2018, The Jewish Chronicle, Jewish News and Jewish Telegraph produced similar front pages and a joint editorial warning against ‘the existential threat to Jewish life in this country that would be posed by a Jeremy Corbyn-led government’.

Gideon Levy, an Israeli journalist and author who writes a weekly column for Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, commented on the smears last week:

‘The Jewish establishment in Britain and the Israeli propaganda machine have taken out a contract on the leader of the British Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn. The contract was taken out a long time ago, and it was clear that the closer Corbyn came to being elected prime minister, the harsher the conflict would get.’

This echoed the view of Professor Norman Finkelstein, whose mother survived the Warsaw Ghetto and the Majdanek concentration camp, and whose father was a survivor of both the Warsaw Ghetto and the Auschwitz concentration camp. Finkelstein said:

‘If Corbyn loses, a lot of people in the Labour Party are going to blame it on those Jews who fabricated this whole anti-semitism witch-hunt hysteria. And that will be a problem, which… you know what the bigger problem there is? It’s true! Jews were the spearhead of this campaign to stop Corbyn. And so, there’s going to be a lot of anger within the Labour Party – that’s not anti-semitism, that’s factually based.’

Finkelstein added:

‘The British elites could not have gotten away with calling Corbyn an anti-semite unless they had the support, the visible support, of all the leading Jewish organisations. You have to remember that during the summer, all three major British publications, for the first time in British Jewish history, they all took out a common editorial denouncing Corbyn as an anti-semite and saying that we’re now standing on the verge of another Holocaust. They are the enablers of this concerted conspiracy by the whole of British elite society to destroy Jeremy Corbyn.’

As Levy observed, the campaign reached its climax in an article last week in The Times by Britain’s chief rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis. Mirvis suggested that Corbyn should be ‘considered unfit for office’, adding:

‘I ask every person to vote with their conscience. Be in no doubt, the very soul of our nation is at stake.’

ITV’s political editor Robert Peston tweeted:

‘The Chief Rabbi’s intervention in the general election is without precedent. I find it heartbreaking, as a Jew, that the rabbi who by convention is seen as the figurehead of the Jewish community, feels compelled to write this about Labour and its leader. I am not… making any kind of political statement here.’

We responded:

‘What kind of journalistic neutrality is it for ITV’s political editor to use the fact that he is Jewish to support as sincere and even “heartbreaking” a bitterly disputed claim attacking the Labour Party in this way? In what universe is this impartial, objective journalism?’

The BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg tweeted on the chief rabbi’s criticism an astonishing 23 times in 24 hours. Kuenssberg retweeted the following comment (screenshot here) from chat show host Piers Morgan in response to Labour shadow international development secretary Barry Gardiner’s refusal to field further questions on anti-semitism:

‘Wow. The breathtaking arrogance of this chump telling journalists what questions to ask. They should all ignore him & pummel Corbyn about anti-Semitism.’

Kuenssberg later apparently deleted this retweet.

Small glimpses of sanity were occasionally visible on social media. Glen Oglaza, former senior reporter at ITN and ex-political correspondent for Sky News, commented:

‘Don’t want to get involved in the #Labour #anti-semitism row, but worth pointing out that the #ChiefRabbi is a lifelong Conservative supporter and, in his own words, a “lifelong friend of Boris Johnson” Nuff said’

It was indeed ‘nuff said’. But, in fact, it was almost never said by corporate journalists.

Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept was typically forthright in responding to Mirvis:

‘This is utter bullshit.

‘The British Conservative Party is rife with anti-semitism, while there’s no evidence Corbyn is.

‘If you want the Tories to win, just say so. It’s incredibly dangerous to keep exploiting anti-semitism for naked political and ideological ends like this’

In 2014, during ‘Operation Protective Edge’ – the Israeli attack on Gaza in which 2,251 Palestinians were killed, including 299 women and 551 children – Mirvis wrote:

‘There is no “cycle of violence” in Gaza. There is Hamas trying to annihilate Israel, and Israel trying to defend itself…’

With hundreds of civilians lying dead, he added:

‘Israel has no desire to kill or injure civilians in Gaza. They are potential partners in peace whose death only serves the interests of Hamas’s PR war.’

And:

‘To measure the morality of war by the military might of each party, the number of deaths or the amount of suffering on each side is not merely misguided; it plays into the hands of a ruthless and calculating aggressor.’

Levy commented on Mirvis’s smear:

‘As opposed to the horrid Corbyn, Mirvis sees nothing wrong with the continued occupation; he does not identify with the struggle for Palestinian freedom, and he doesn’t sense the similarity between the South Africa of his childhood, Har Etzion of his youth and Israel of 2019. That is the real reason that he rejects Corbyn. The Jews of Britain also want a prime minister who supports Israel – that is, supports the occupation. A prime minister who is critical of Israel is to them an exemplar of the new anti-Semitism.’

In contrast to the blanket coverage of the chief rabbi’s comments – it was the lead story on the BBC News website for half a day – there was only token notice given to the Muslim Council of Britain’s warning of ‘denial, dismissal and deceit’ of ‘endemic, institutional’ Islamophobia within the Conservative Party.

There was also virtual BBC silence in response to the blistering attack on Boris Johnson’s racial slurs by Stormzy, the British rap artist who was a huge success at this year’s Glastonbury Festival. In an Instagram post that has been ‘liked’ almost 300,000 times, Stormzy noted:

‘I think Boris Johnson is a sinister man with a long record of lying and policies that have absolutely no regard for the people that our government should be committed to helping and empowering. I also believe it is criminally dangerous to give the most powerful role in the country to a man who has said that the sight of a “bunch of black kids” makes him “turn a hair”, compared women in burqas to letterboxes and referred to blacks [sic] people as “picaninnies” with “watermelon smiles”. I think it’s extremely dangerous to have a man with those views as the sole leader of our country.’

He added:

‘I will be voting for Jeremy Corbyn… for me, he is the first man in a position of power who is committed to giving the power back to the people and helping those who need a helping hand from the government the most.’

A commenter said (forwarded to us via email, 27 November 2019):

‘I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but the BBC are seriously compromised in this election.

‘Yesterday, arguably *the* most influential black person in the UK, Stormzy, launched a blistering attack on Johnson, calling him “sinister” and deploring his history of racism. This has been shared tens of thousands of times on social media. In the same post, he applauded Jeremy Corbyn as a figure of trust.

‘The BBC have not covered this at all.’

In a letter to the Guardian, Professor Des Freedman of Goldsmiths, University of London, commented:

‘Rigorous academic research shows that, in the first three weeks of the election campaign, coverage of Labour in the press has been overwhelmingly negative, with the Conservatives receiving consistently positive coverage… The most powerful sections of the UK media are simply not prepared to let citizens freely make up their own minds on Labour policies, nor to scrutinise Conservative claims systematically.’

The Evidence – The Real Threat To Human Life

Our ProQuest database search of newspaper articles for ‘Corbyn’ and ‘anti-semitism’ shows how intensively the issue has been used to attack Corbyn prior to the looming election on December 12:

September = 337 hits

October = 222 hits

November  = 1,620 hits

While opinions in effect declaring Corbyn a Nazi are widely reported, opinions defending Corbyn by the likes of John Bercow, Gideon Levy, Norman Finkelstein, Glenn Greenwald, Noam Chomsky, Jonathan Cook, Michael Rosen and others reach a comparatively small audience on social media but are simply ignored by the establishment press reaching millions.

Exactly mirroring the fake claims justifying the 2003 Iraq war – also universally presented as serious and fact-based – it turns out that claims of an epidemic of anti-semitism within the Labour Party are completely bogus. Israel-based former Guardian journalist Jonathan Cook summarised a recent survey published in The Economist:

‘It showed that those identifying as “very left-wing” – the section of the public that supports Corbyn – were among the least likely to express antisemitic attitudes. Those identifying as “very right-wing”, on the other hand – those likely to support Boris “piccaninnies” Johnson – were three and a half times more likely to express hostile attitudes towards Jews. Other surveys show even worse racism among Conservatives towards more obviously non-white minorities, such as Muslims and black people. That, after all, is the very reason Boris “letterbox-looking Muslim women” Johnson now heads the Tory party.’

Other surveys have strongly supported these conclusions, including an October 2016 report by the Commons home affairs committee and a September 2017 report by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research and a Labour Party report discussed here in February 2019.

In 2002-2003, credible evidence from former UN weapons inspectors arguing that Iraq had been ‘fundamentally disarmed’ of 90-95% of its weapons of mass destruction by December 1998 was almost completely ignored by the corporate press – it just didn’t fit the establishment narrative. The same is true of the above highly credible and consistent reports – they are simply not part of the discussion.

Johnson: His criminal postures have no consequence as far as the media tastemakers are concerned.

If we are serious about offering a moral calculus, then we should, of course, include the fact that Johnson would certainly support Trump in any future racist wars against Iran, Venezuela, or North Korea, whereas Corbyn would not. Does it matter to journalists, to the public, that we might elect a leader who would make it more difficult for the US to kill, injure and displace hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of people? How does that concern rank alongside Brexit, the fact that Johnson is a jovial fellow, or the fake claims of anti-semitism? We need only glance at Johnson’s track-record for evidence of the threat.

Since November 1, ProQuest finds 24 newspaper mentions containing the words ‘Boris Johnson’ and ‘Yemen’. Only one of them, in the Independent, focused on Johnson’s destructive role in the conflict:

‘The government has signed off nearly £2bn worth of arms sales to repressive regimes in the two years since the 2017 election, official figures show.’

These regimes include Saudi Arabia, ‘which has been widely condemned by the international community for its offensive in Yemen’ and ‘benefited from £719m in UK licences for bombs, missiles, fighter jets, sniper rifles, ammunition’.

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said:

‘As foreign secretary, Boris Johnson played a central role in supporting the terrible Saudi-led bombardment of Yemen, which has created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. Tens of thousands of people have been killed, but the arms companies only see it as a business opportunity.’

In 2017, defending the US-UK destruction of Libya in 2011, Johnson crassly commented that the Libyan city Sirte could be the new Dubai, adding, ‘all they have to do is clear the dead bodies away’. Johnson also voted for the devastating 2003 Iraq war.

By contrast, The Times reported:

‘Labour is pledging to put human rights and international law at the heart of foreign policy, in keeping with one of Jeremy Corbyn’s longest held passions. As well as attacking “failed military interventions”, the manifesto promises a War Powers Act to give parliament a legal veto on military action.’

And:

‘Arms sales to Saudi Arabia would be suspended immediately after criticism of the country’s role in the civil war in Yemen.’

But even these horrors are trivial – we don’t use the word lightly – compared to Johnson’s Trump-like stance on climate collapse. Johnson, a notorious climate denier, has ‘Almost always voted against measures to prevent climate change.’ In 2015, Johnson wrote an article in the Telegraph titled: ‘I can’t stand this December heat, but it has nothing to do with global warming’. Johnson endorsed the completely discredited view that ‘it is all about sun spots’.

The reality is very different. Professor Tim Lenton at the University of Exeter, lead author of a recent article in Nature warning of ‘existential threat to civilisation’, said last week:

‘We might already have crossed the threshold for a cascade of interrelated tipping points. The simple version is the schoolkids [striking for climate action] are right: we are seeing potentially irreversible changes in the climate system under way, or very close.’

Phil Williamson at the University of East Anglia, concurred:

‘The prognosis by Tim Lenton and colleagues is, unfortunately, fully plausible: that we might have already lost control of the Earth’s climate.’

Most recently, Johnson refused even to participate in a Channel 4 leaders’ debate on climate change, instead sending his father and MP Michael Gove, who were turned away. BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg tweeted a defence and a humorous discussion on this no-show, but no criticism. We can only wonder at her response, and that of the rest of the establishment press, if Corbyn had refused to participate in a debate on a key area of vulnerability, instead sending his dad.

If we can see beyond the propaganda, it is quite obvious that it is Johnson who offers, and who has already offered, a very serious threat to human life, not Corbyn. Voting for Johnson will likely have deadly consequences, not just for the traditional victims of US-UK firepower, but for all of us as the last hopes of averting climate collapse rapidly slip away.

—DE and DC

About the author(s)
David Cromwell: Editor editor@medialens.org Born in Glasgow in 1962; studied natural philosophy and astronomy, then a PhD in solar physics; spell with Shell in the Netherlands, then a research position in oceanography in Southampton; left in 2010 to work full-time on Media Lens; author of Why Are We The Good Guys? (Zero Books, 2012); co-author, with David Edwards, of two Media Lens books: Guardians of Power(Pluto Books, 2006) and Newspeak In the 21st Century (Pluto Books, 2009); author of Private Planet (Jon Carpenter Publishing, 2001); co-editor, with Mark Levene, of Surviving Climate Change (Pluto Books, 2007). •


David Edwards: Editor editor@medialens.org Articles published in The Independent, The Times, Red Pepper, New Internationalist, Z Magazine, The Ecologist, Resurgence, The Big Issue; monthly ZNet commentator; author of Free To Be Human – Intellectual Self-Defence in an Age of Illusions (Green Books, 1995) published in the United States as Burning All Illusions (South End Press, 1996: www.southendpress.org), and The Compassionate Revolution – Radical Politics and Buddhism (1998, Green Books).