Margaret Hodge reportedly called Jeremy Corbyn a “racist” on 17 July. The Labour MP launched the attack on her leader after the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) approved a code of conduct on antisemitism that she disagrees with.
Corbyn responded at the time by reportedly saying “I’m sorry you feel like that”. But the morning after, he took to social media and gave the best ‘answer’ possible.
The long walk to freedom
Nelson Mandela would have been 100 years old on 18 July. So in commemoration, Corbyn posted the following message on Twitter:
Nelson Mandela was born 100 years ago today.
He continues to inspire. pic.twitter.com/xkpgppRsx9
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) July 18, 2018
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The Labour leader chose to share a quote from Mandela in his tweet. It read:
To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.
Given Hodge’s criticism of Corbyn the evening before, this phrase is apt.
The NEC approved the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism on 17 July. Rightly, it’s taking steps to confront antisemitism. It is on the rise in the UK, along with Islamophobia. But Labour adopted a version of the IHRA’s definition without examples that could gag legitimate criticism of Israel.
36 Jewish groups worldwide have expressed the same reservations about the IHRA definition stifling such criticism. But Hodge, a number of other Labour MPs, and 68 rabbis object to the party not including the examples that threaten to do so.
As Mandela said, however, freedom involves ‘respecting and enhancing the freedom of others’. And Israel is doing neither of those things in relation to the Palestinians. In fact, in 2014, Noam Chomsky argued that Israel’s actions in Palestine are “much worse than apartheid” in South Africa – the state Mandela was born into.
So distinguishing antisemitism from legitimate criticism of Israel is crucial. Otherwise, the “much worse than apartheid” situation Israel is inflicting on Palestinians will not change. As the example of South Africa proves, global condemnation and boycotts play a part in the downfall of racist regimes.
Deeds not words
Meanwhile, Hodge is one of the two MPs who led the charge to oust the Labour leader in 2016. The former minister for Tony Blair submitted the motion calling for a no-confidence vote in Corbyn after the EU referendum that year.
Following her latest attack on Corbyn, Hodge will face disciplinary action. Given the general bias of the British media, however, it’s likely that Hodge’s false representation of the Labour leader will be left to fester in the minds of the UK public.
That’s a shame, though. Because, as his tweet shows, Corbyn tends to amplify important voices when it comes to the issues of racism, oppression and injustice in countries like apartheid South Africa and “worse than apartheid” Israel. Those on the receiving end, not those dishing it out.
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