The membership officer of Jewish Voice for Labour has defended Jeremy Corbyn against anti-Semitism allegations, saying they’re “fabricated”.
“I’ve known Jeremy for years. He’s opposed anti-Semitism, he’s supported Jewish causes, he’s supported Jewish organisations throughout his life. This is a scandal he’s been accused of, something that’s so manifestly untrue,” said Mike Cushman.
On the talkRADIO breakfast show, Julia Hartley-Brewer challenged him on why Corbyn is being accused of anti-Semitism if it isn’t true.
“I think there are two reasons,” said Cushman.
“One, he’s a dedicated supporter of Palestinian rights, and therefore those who support Israel find him very problematic.
“Secondly, there’s a clutch of Labour MPs who have never reconciled themselves to the members wanting Jeremy as leader of the party and are willing to use any weapon in order to undermine him.”
Accusations against Corbyn ‘fabricated’
Listen to Cushman and Hartley-Brewer talking about the accusations against Jeremy Corbyn
“It is perfectly possible to be supportive of Palestinian rights and critical of the Israeli government and not be an anti-Semite,” countered Hartley-Brewer. “And yet Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t seem to be able to walk that tightrope, does he?”
“He does walk it very easily, as do I,” said Cushman, who describes himself online as a Palestinian rights activist. “We oppose the policies of Israel, we support self-determination for Palestinians, we support the right of all of the people in the region to live in peace.”
Hartley-Brewer said that new allegations seemed to surface with some frequency, to which Cushman said: “Many of the stories are fabricated.”
Board of Deputies of British Jews ‘haven’t denounced Trump’
“If we look at the latest one on Peter Willsman, if we look at the full transcript of what was said at the NEC, you find that what was reported was very selective quotations, a misrepresentation of his words, to paint him in a very bad light,” he added.
Hartley-Brewer argued his quotes - in which he said some Jewish people were “Trump fanatics” - were not misrepresented, but Cushman insisted his words were “taken out of context” and professed his agreement with some of what Willsman had said.
“He said some of the people leading the charge against Jeremy were Trump fanatics. It’s true, some of them are!” he said.
“We’ve been waiting for people from the Board of Deputies [of British Jews] to denounce the actions of Donald Trump and they haven’t.
“They welcome his actions. Trump is a racist, he needs to be called out as a racist, and if people can’t do that, they lose credibility in attacking anyone in this country.”
Marie van der Zyl, President of the Board of Deputies, has called for Willsman to be expelled from Labour and said Corbyn cannot call himself “anti-racist” unless he takes action.
The Board of Deputies told talkRADIO they have "denounced Trump many times" and that Cushman was "peddling falsehoods".
‘What has Theresa May done about Islamophobia in the Conservative Party?’
Jewish Chronicle editor Stephen Pollard told Hartley-Brewer earlier this week that he and other Jewish people were fearful of Corbyn becoming Prime Minister.
“I’m not saying that people are not experiencing real fear. I wouldn’t argue with people who tell me how they feel,” said Cushman, when questioned on “Jewish families not feeling safe”. “What I would argue is whether there’s any rational basis,” he added.
Cushman also questioned why anti-Semitism within Labour was getting a large amount of coverage whereas Islamophobia within the Conservative Party - which Baroness Warsi said last month was “very widespread” - was not.
- Read more: Jewish Chronicle editor: 'The longer people stay in the Labour party, they longer they support anti-Semitism
- Read more: Muslim Council of Britain calls for inquiry into Conservative Party Islamophobia
“What has [Theresa May] done to address Islamophobia in her party? Nothing! Has she set up a code of conduct? No action by the Conservative party,” he said.
“Because we don’t have incident after incident on a daily basis where Theresa May has sat next to people who’ve said Islamophobic things!” argued Hartley-Brewer. “Whereas the leader of your party seems to do it on an hourly basis!”
Listen to the discussion on Islamophobia
“She’s sat in the cabinet with people who’ve made Islamophobic statements,” responded Cushman.
“No one has gone through all the Twitter feeds and Facebook feeds of all the Conservatives trying to find something a bit dodgy. Nobody’s done that. Are you saying all the Conservatives are squeaky clean? They’re not!”
In 2017, Tory MP Bob Blackman retweeted a post by Tommy Robinson, a virulent critic of Islam. He said the tweet was done in error.
“Yes, there are anti-Semites in the Labour party and we have to root them out,” continued Cushman, but he backed Labour’s refusal to take on the full International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism.
“The problem with the IHRA examples is they’re slackly worded, they don’t precisely define what the problem is, but the Labour party code of conduct has been drawn up because it will allow effective action. Why are we being asked to drop a really powerful weapon to use a less powerful one?”
“You’re not, that’s nonsense,” said Hartley-Brewer.