With the Human Rights Commission set to launch a probe into Labour antisemitism, we take a forensic look at the party leader’s relentless 30-year animosity towards Israel
By JODIE COHEN
On the UK Parliament website users can look up every Early Day Motion (EDM) tabled by MPs since the 1989/90 Parliament.
EDMs are motions submitted for debate in the House of Commons for which no day has been fixed. They are often used to put on record the views of individual MPs and can attract a great deal of public interest and media coverage.
MPs can sponsor their own EDM or sign other people’s. This investigation looks only at the EDMs Jeremy Corbyn has sponsored, as they are a clearer indication of his most strongly held views.
Since Parliament.uk’s records began, Corbyn has sponsored 834 EDMs covering 200 subjects, including 67 countries.
Yet one subject and one country stands out…
Israel, Israel, Israel…
Of the 834 EDMs sponsored by Jeremy Corbyn, 64 motions are critical of Israel or demonstrate one-sided support for the Palestinians.
He appears to have sponsored such an EDM virtually every year over a 22-year period, no matter what party leads the Israeli government.
The Labour leader’s EDMs on Israel appear to have started in 1993 – the year Israel signed the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians. They continued until he became Leader of the Opposition in September 2015. His record shows he has been more critical of Israel than any other country or single issue.
Corbyn’s Overall EDMs
To put the 64 EDMs on Israel and the Palestinians into perspective, Corbyn has tabled 55 EDMs calling for nuclear non-proliferation, one of the subjects for which he is best known. Some 18 of these specifically refer to Trident, Britain’s nuclear programme.
He has referenced his constituency of Islington 43 times during the same period – that’s almost 49% more EDMs on Israel than on his own constituency. He is more interested in criticising the Middle East’s only democracy than representing the people he was elected to speak for.
The Labour leader has tabled 23 EDMs related to trade unions, labour relations and workers’ rights. He sponsored 18 regarding the transport sector and workers within that sector. He proposed a further 17 on education, covering teachers’ pay, education funding and schools and colleges in his constituency. Corbyn’s EDMs on Israel are more than his EDMs on these three subjects – all of which he is passionate about – combined.
Appetite For Foreign Policy
MPs are allowed, of course, to take an interest in non-constituency and non-UK matters, and Jeremy Corbyn is clearly interested in foreign affairs. For example, he has tabled 26 EDMs on Morocco (often citing support for Western Saharan independence).
He has sponsored 25 motions on Chile (criticising Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and supporting human rights and democracy). And he has proposed 23 EDMs related to the troubles in Ireland in the second half of the 20th century.
However, his EDMs on Israel and the Palestinians clearly surpass the number of EDMs he has tabled on Morocco and Chile put together, and are not far behind his EDMs on Morocco, Chile and Ireland combined.
Take a deeper dive…
There have been times when Corbyn is so concerned about a subject that he tables more than one EDM in a row on the same topic. What’s his record? You’ve guessed it…In 2004, he tabled four EDMs consecutively on Israel and the Palestinians.
Some might argue that the other 649 MPs in the House of Commons might be just as concerned about Israel. So, I examined all EDMs on Israel since Parliament.uk’s records began. There are 442 EDMs on Israel in total, including motions that are both positive and negative. The Labour leader has sponsored almost 1/7 of these, only one of which could be deemed to be positive (it praises an Israeli peace coalition ‘Gush Shalom’).
He sponsored only two EDMs referencing Syria, both in 2013. One welcomed the UK ruling out military action, and one called for the Middle East to be a weapons of mass destruction free zone. There have been zero on Yazidi persecution, and zero referring at all to Islamic State by any of its names.
What about the troubles in Venezuela in recent years? He has sponsored no EDMs on the country since 2013, when he offered condolences to its people after the passing of President Hugo Chavez.
And what about those bastions of human rights, Russia and China? He has sponsored two (on Chechnya) and five (on Taiwan, Tibet and human rights) respectively. On Iran, two EDMs express concern at the prospect of war.
The others either express support for the rights of Iranian workers or for the Kurdish people in Iran. None condemn Iran’s repeated calls to wipe Israel off the map.
Any condemnation of Hamas, Islamic Jihad or Hezbollah? NONE.
So, it looks as though Corbyn is more concerned with Israel – which has been seeking peace with the Palestinians for decades – than with questionable regimes and key conflicts, in which well over one million people have perished.
One might assume that the reason Corbyn hasn’t tabled any EDMs on some of the above subjects recently is because he hasn’t tabled any EDMs since becoming leader – as is the custom for ministers upon their appointment.
However, a search of EDMs since September 2015 shows he has sponsored 54 motions during this time.
It’s also interesting to consider why Corbyn hasn’t posted any EDMs on Israel since becoming leader. One could presume it’s because, shortly afterwards, Labour became embroiled in questions over its attitude towards antisemitism and Zionism
A clasis case was of Jeremy Corbyn claiming “British ‘Zionists’ don’t understand English irony despite having lived in Britain all their lives”.
The remarks were made in 2013, when Corbyn was giving a speech alongside prominent British extremists at a London conference publicised by Hamas’ military wing.
What Would A Corbyn Premiership Mean For Israel?
Analysing his EDMs provides insights on what we might expect to see with regards to Israel, should Corbyn become prime minister.
In 2002, he was the primary sponsor of an EDM calling to end arms exports to Israel. That became Labour policy at last year’s party conference (remember the sea of Palestinian flags?)
In 2011, his EDM on the status of Jerusalem called on Israel to respect freedom of worship for all faiths in the city, which many would argue shows a lack of understanding of facts on the ground.
Corbyn denies supporting a blanket boycott of Israel, saying he believes in boycotting settlement produce only. However, our investigation has revealed that in 2002, he sponsored an EDM entitled ‘National Petition for Palestine’.
The motion says the British government should call on Israel to withdraw its army from the Occupied Territories, dismantle the settlements there, and accept that the Palestinians have an equal right to Jerusalem, whether it be the capital of their separate state (East Jerusalem) or that of a single democratic secular state.
It states Britain should make a public commitment to supporting UN resolution 194 calling on Israel to “grant the refugees, the Palestinians displaced by them, the right to return to Israel or a right to compensation if they choose not to return”.
Finally, it states that Britain should impose trade sanctions on Israel, including an arms embargo, until the above demands are met. A core demand of today’s Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel is the Palestinian refugees’ ‘right of return’ to Israel. In the words of former US President Barack Obama, this “would extinguish Israel as a Jewish state”.
Corbyn’s supporters take pride in the fact that he is a man of principle. He sticks to his guns and is proud of his unwavering positions on policy. This is part of his appeal. So, it could be argued that his EDM calling for a full boycott of Israel is an indication of the direction a Corbyn-led government would take.
The Bookies’ Favourite
Recent polls have indicated that a Prime Minister Corbyn is becoming increasingly likely.
Despite the local government elections held last week delivering a rebuke to both the main political parties, a YouGov poll for The Times on 23/24 April suggested a Labour lead over the Conservatives of 3%, with Labour achieving 30% of the vote. In fact, thirteen polls all taken in April 2019 suggest a Labour win at the next General Election.
With Theresa May under fire for her handling of Brexit, European elections will give us the next indication of which way voters are headed.
Whether or not Jeremy Corbyn becomes the next prime minister of the United Kingdom, one thing is clear. Corbyn’s record of sponsoring EDMs over the past two decades and more indicates that for him, as recently suggested by former deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, it really is “all about Israel”.
A dictionary definition of ‘obsession’ is ‘an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person’s mind.’ This analysis suggests that Corbyn is obsessed with Israel on an absolute basis as well as on a comparative basis – comparative over time, with other MPs, and with other issues. It’s a negative obsession, with only one EDM out of 64 highlighting positive dialogue.
The Key Question: Why?
So, why has the Labour leader been so utterly obsessed with Israel when other arguably far more pressing issues and topics get a free pass? That’s a question only he can answer. Until he does, people will remain deeply troubled about his true motivation.
About the writer:
Jodie Cohen is a public affairs consultant who has advised numerous multinational companies, as well as Jewish and Israel related organisations over the past 20 years.