Robert Peston’s grotesque attack on Jeremy Corbyn surpasses what even the Daily Mail could muster

Robert Peston and Jeremy Corbyn
Tracy Keeling

Robert Peston has made a grotesque attack on Jeremy Corbyn that surpasses even what the Daily Mail could muster.

ITV‘s political editor joined the chorus of Corbyn critics on 14 August. He posted an image on Twitter of an early day motion supported by the Labour leader in 1985. That motion criticised then-president Ronald Reagan’s visit to a German cemetery which contained “the remains of Nazi SS stormtroopers”. Peston posted the image with the following message:

There was a time when @jeremycorbyn was acutely aware that just being in certain cemeteries would cause grievous offence to Jews.

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Peston’s point was clear: the Labour leader’s 2014 visit to a Palestinian cemetery in Tunis, which the Daily Mail recently splashed on, was akin to visiting Nazi graves. That suggestion is offensive and, according to the British establishment’s own purported standards, prejudicial. But it also highlights one of the main results of this anti-Corbyn media campaign.

Islamophobic

Racism and discrimination is regularly in the UK news at the moment. The rise in antisemitism and Islamophobia are two reasons why that’s the case. Another is, of course, the controversy surrounding Labour’s proposed antisemitism code of conduct.

Continue reading below...

Media outlets have amplified the voices of those who fully support all of the examples in the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism. A significant number of Jewish organisations, however, argue that some of the wording of this definition “intentionally” equates “legitimate criticisms of Israel… with antisemitism”.

One example of antisemitism the IHRA provides is:

Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.

So, comparing Israeli policy to Nazi policy is antisemitic, according to the IHRA. But Peston clearly just made the same comparison in relation to Palestine, as the cemetery in question contains a memorial to the 74 victims of an Israeli terror attack, 62 of them Palestinian. It also houses the graves of three Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) officials accused of being linked to a terrorist attack on Israeli Olympic athletes, although their role in those killings is not proven.

Following Peston’s tweet, people questioned whether it represented “anti-Muslim bigotry”:

Demonising and dehumanising

Another example the IHRA provides of antisemitism is:

Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews…

Of course, someone could call a Jewish person a Nazi in an attempt to dehumanise and demonise them. Because it’s a way of portraying that person as a monster. Labour recommends in its code of conduct that party members “resist” making such comparisons for the very reason that it carries a “strong risk” of appearing prejudicial.

Is the same not true of the Palestinians, though? Is Peston not demonising and dehumanising them by comparing them to Nazis? Arguably so. And that’s prejudicial, according to the IHRA’s guidelines. It’s also incredibly dangerous.

The Palestinians are an oppressed people living under a now over 50-year-long military occupation. As Jewish intellectual Norman Finklestein has explained, two million of them (half of whom are children) are “caged into conditions which are literally unliveable” in Gaza. Meanwhile, the UN says Palestinians living in the Occupied Palestine Territories (OPT) face “the bleakest picture yet”. After a visit in June, its special rapporteur on human rights in Palestine – Michael Lynk – said:

Palestinians in the West Bank face daily indignities, as they pass through Israeli checkpoints, face night raids of their homes, and are unable to build or expand their homes or work to develop their communities due to the complex system which makes building permits nearly impossible to obtain from the Israeli authorities

Lynk also warned that Israel “appears to be getting closer to enacting legislation that will formally annex parts of the West Bank”.

These people, who are facing down the barrel of a gun, need our empathy and international outrage. Otherwise, Israel may feel emboldened to make their situation even ‘bleaker’. Yet it is these people whom Peston appears to be dehumanising.

Collateral damage

In their ‘get Corbyn’ campaign, British media figures and outlets appear to be writing off Palestinians as collateral damage. They’re in danger of making it less likely that the global community will empathise with, or fight for, their struggle.

Given the UK’s appalling history of standing by Israel as it wipes the floor with the Palestinians’ rights, that’s not surprising. But it is disgusting. And it’s one of the many reasons why millions of Britons stand with Corbyn. Because he is promising a different path; one where the UK stands up to bullies and prioritises human rights – for everyone – instead.

That is, of course, why he’s got to be ‘got’, and apparently by any grotesque means necessary.

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Featured image via Rwendland/Wikimedia and Chatham House/Wikimedia

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