Putting fear of Corbyn’s Labour in perspective | Letters

Readers respond to a piece by Jonathan Freedland in which he asked how Jews can vote for the Labour leader

Jonathan Freedland is incorrect to depict our parliamentary elections as a presidential contest (Many Jews oppose Brexit, but how can we vote for Corbyn?, 9 November). Neither is he justified in assuming that Jews should be treated as a single homogeneous entity in considering which way to vote, despite his acknowledgement that views are not uniform.

The accusations against Jeremy Corbyn are well known. His long history as a defender of Palestinian rights has undoubtedly involved association with people with unacceptable views about Jews. But that does not make him antisemitic and, as he has stated, a line must be drawn when opposition to Israel’s government is based on antisemitic ideas or involves comparison with the Nazis.

Freedland might also have mentioned Corbyn’s long-term support for Jewish causes such as the commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day, condemnation of the persecution of Jews in Iran and Yemen, and terrorist attacks against Jewish schools and synagogues, as well as support for Jewish communal institutions in the UK.

Nevertheless, more must be done to reassure many in the Jewish community that their fears are taken seriously. Corbyn needs to take a clear lead in showing progress in the Labour party’s internal procedures, including no tolerance for antisemitic views among prospective candidates and providing regular aggregate reports on the outcome of disciplinary processes.

However, nothing justifies Freedland in invoking the spectre of the Holocaust as a deterrent to those who wish to oppose what he calls “a hard Brexit enforced by an Islamophobe”, not to mention more than nine years of austerity. It is to be hoped that he will reconsider embracing this dangerous form of identity politics.
Dr Anthony Isaacs

• Whenever I read Jonathan Freedland writing about his fear of antisemitism, part of me wants to weep. My mother was a Jewish refugee who became a Quaker, so I became familiar with the Jewish practices of friends and family, as well as the open listening and acceptance of Quakers. The narratives we tell ourselves about the world, and our place in it, have a deep impact on our beliefs and actions. I have just re-read William Blake’s The Angel, in which the writer loses touch with her angel because she is afraid and so she arms herself with shields and spears to protect herself. She has lost the capacity to approach the world with love. When we teach ourselves to see hatred and suspicion in every corner, we will indeed see it everywhere. When we reach out in order to understand one another, we see each other’s hopes and fears, what guides and motivates us, what brings us grief and joy. However hard it may be, we all need to do this.

I hear antisemitic comments with horror and I am concerned that the policies of the far right will divide people even more. I long for a government whose policies will heal those divides. I think Jeremy Corbyn is aware of that need, and I am deeply sorry that many Jews do not believe him. He does not deserve to be a focus of fear. I cannot understand why he gets the blame for every misdeed in the party. He is not perfect, any more than the rest of us, yet he stands for the fairer, greener society that we are crying out for. Please, Jonathan, believe that a kinder world is possible and help to make it happen.
Ruth Tod
Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire

• This article by Jonathan Freedland, a man whose journalism I generally admire, has disappointed me. He wheels out the old tropes in a most un-Guardian like way. To give one example: that Jeremy Corbyn consorts with terrorists. To truly seek peace in any situation, you have to talk to both sides in any conflict. Tony Blair succeeded by talking to Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness. Not to have done so would have been remiss.

I am a secular Jew, all of whose Polish maternal family of origin perished in Auschwitz, and whose French paternal grandfather was picked up in Paris and died in Drancy holding camp. I too am perhaps oversensitive. To quote Freedland’s words: “I am afraid that Jewish history has made us that way, prone to imagining the worst.” Despite that, I categorically refute that either Jeremy Corbyn or the Labour party are antisemitic. They are, like me, against the government and spirit of Netanyahu, and its imperialist (and internationally unlawful) actions in Palestine. A world of difference intentionally ignored by the smear press, and seemingly by Freedland as well.
Andy Stelman
Bishops Castle, Shropshire

• Jonathan Freedland has no need to apologise for imagining the worst. After the previously unimaginable genocide suffered by European Jews in the last century, how could anyone expect a Jewish person, or indeed any person, to be free of fear again? All the more reason to be equally clear. It is preposterous and irresponsible to associate, as Freedland does, the prospect of a Corbyn government with the fates of those who “never made it out in time”.
Jeff Wallace

• Thank you yet again, Jonathan Freedland, this time for explaining so clearly the dilemma Jewish voters face, which many of us had not properly understood before. Why can Corbyn not see that the only hope for the future of the Labour party is a promise from him now that following the election, which he cannot win outright, he will stand down? Is he really so insulated from reality that he cannot see the damage he is doing?
Alison Watson

• Jonathan Freedland poses the dilemma for many Jewish remainers between voting for an antisemitic Labour leadership and a hard-Brexit Tory party. But I was surprised that he did not mention the obvious alternative. The Liberal Democrats are genuinely welcoming to all people and intolerant of all forms of racism, and they are committed to remaining in the EU, either by revoking article 50 if they should win, or supporting a people’s vote in cooperation with other parties. As many Jewish people tend to live in the same areas as each other, such as the three constituencies of the London borough of Barnet, a collective Jewish vote for the Lib Dems would be an effective and viable choice for electing MPs representing a party that has, at its heart, the interests of a large proportion of the population that includes Jewish remainers.
Jackie Marks


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