Britain’s Labour party recently took a major step backward when it elected Jeremy Corbyn as its new leader. Corbyn threatens to take Labour from a modern center-left party to one that is far left, and that makes us and many others very nervous.
There is good reason to be concerned. Corbyn has taken positions that are hostile to the United States, hostile to Israel and hostile to the European Union. He has said he would pull Britain out of NATO and unilaterally destroy the United Kingdom’s nuclear arsenal. He once introduced members of Hamas and Hezbollah as “friends,” later explaining that it was a diplomatic term, not an endorsement of the implacably anti-Israel organizations. He admires the late Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez and Greece’s Syriza party — the party that had us all holding our breath over the threatened Greek exit from the European Union. None of these associations makes us very comfortable.
Beyond that, there is concern regarding Corbyn’s associations with those identified as anti-Semites — such as Holocaust denier Paul Eisen; Raed Salah, whom The Telegraph described as accused of “virulent anti-Semitism”; and Dyab Abou Jahjah, banned as an extremist from entering Britain — and that has worried British Jews. Almost seven in 10 voiced concern about Corbyn in a Jewish Chronicle poll. “Corbyn’s lack of interest in the concerns of British Jewry and his long association with extremists augur badly,” The Times of London columnist Oliver Kamm told the Forward.
Some see Corbyn’s rise as being fueled by dissatisfaction with establishment politics in the same way that those concerns promoted gains in the far-right National Front in France and the far-left Syriza in Greece. Similarly, after nearly a decade of recession in our country, followed by a weak recovery, an ever-widening gap between the rich and everyone else and a daily sense that politicians are ineffective and gridlocked, we have witnessed the surprising rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. But even with those kinds of frustrations and concerns, what Britain and every other country needs is an elected government that offers a way forward, not a step backward.
It is possible that when Jeremy Corbyn gets the chance to stand opposite Prime Minister David Cameron in the House of Commons he will moderate his views. But we’re not holding our breath.