Last week, a group of back-bench Labour MPs – many of them known and vocal opponents of Jeremy Corbyn – sponsored and signed Early Day Motion (EDM) 1071:
That EDM turned out to be a damp squib. International reaction, emerging evidence, judicial documents and public opinion have justified Jeremy Corbyn’s measured and statesmanlike response to the government’s attempt to rush to apportion blame for the Salisbury chemical attack.
Today, many of those same MPs have reacted with outrage to a six-year-old Facebook response by Jeremy Corbyn to a Facebook lament by highly-regarded US artist Kalen Ockerman, otherwise known as ‘Mear One’, who has been described as the ‘Michelangelo of graffiti‘.
In 2012, Ockerman complained on Facebook that his mural on a London house wall was about to be effaced – with no mention of the reasons for the local council’s decision to remove it. Corbyn responded:
“Why? You are in good company. Rockerfeller destroyed Diego Viera’s mural because it includes a picture of Lenin.”
On a simple reading, it is a straightforward comment about freedom of expression – which Ockerman did tag in his post.
Some of the MPs now expressing outrage have claimed that Corbyn was supporting antisemitic tropes by making the comment.
However, Corbyn’s own track record in Parliament makes the attempt to attribute anything remotely antisemitic to Corbyn’s comment look extremely weak.
In 2003, Corbyn was among the first MPs to sign EDM 123, explicitly condemning antisemitism:
In 2009, he signed EDM 850, congratulating Jewish News on an investigation into antisemitism on Facebook:
In 2012, around the same time he was making his Facebook comment, Corbyn was a co-sponsor of – and one of only twenty-five MPs to sign – EDM 195, condemning the BBC’s plan to cancel a programme specifically for the Manchester Jewish community:
In 2013, just five months after his Facebook comment about the mural, Corbyn was one of only thirty-three MPs to sign EDM 1133, condemning antisemitism in sport and calling for the adoption of all necessary measures to combat it:
Jeremy Corbyn has admitted he should have looked more closely at the mural before commenting and has welcomed its removal.
But anyone who tries to spin that into a smear that Corbyn has supported antisemitism – as the ‘MSM’ and some Labour backbenchers have – is pushing self-evident nonsense.
Antisemitism is vile.
And Jeremy Corbyn has been at the forefront of parliamentary resistance to it – often when very few others on the Commons benches bothered to join him.
His pedigree on that, as on so many issues of fighting for people and against discrimination and hatred, is a matter of record.
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