Why has Jeremy Corbyn met with so many “unsavoury characters”?
by Matt Coot
Someone made a comment under my previous article, Respect, Lies, and Illusions, that Jeremy Corbyn still had a lot to answer for with regards to meeting “unsavoury characters”. I promised that I would be writing an article about my take on this. Well, this is that article.
During the lead up to the election in 2017, and even before that when Jeremy Corbyn was fighting a campaign to become the leader of the Labour Party, we were drowned in articles claiming that Corbyn was everything from a terrorist sympathiser, to anti-semitic, to a holocaust denier, and more. All of this was said because Jeremy Corbyn has had a history of meeting with various ‘unsavoury characters’. I thought I would do a little investigation into this, to see what I could deduce from the evidence.
Who has Corbyn met with?
The main ‘unsavoury characters’ that Jeremy Corbyn has been accused of being friendly with are: Hamas; Hezbollah; Gerry Adams, the former leader of the IRA; Raed Salah Abu Shakra, the anti-semitic leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel; and Paul Eisen, a Holocaust denier. Of course, most recently, Corbyn was accused of meeting with a Czech spy and was accused by a Tory vice-chairman of being a traitor to the country. This latest accusation has been disproved, and is covered in a previous article.
What reasons has he given for his meetings?
1. Hamas and Hezbollah
During a home affairs select committee hearing, investigating the accusation of anti-semitism in the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn said, “The language I used at that meeting was actually here in parliament and it was about encouraging the meeting to go ahead, encouraging there to be a discussion about the peace process”. Later at the same hearing, Corbyn was asked whether he regarded Hamas and Hezbollah as “friends”, to which he replied with, “No. It was inclusive language I used which, with hindsight, I would rather not have used. I regret using those words, of course”.
2. Gerry Adams, the IRA, and Sinn Féin
Jeremy Corbyn has defended reaching out to republicans during the Irish Troubles. He has insisted that he “wanted the violence to stop”. In support of Corbyn, Michelle O’Neill, the Vice-President of Sinn Féin, said, “Jeremy Corbyn was someone who saw the primacy of dialogue, who engaged Sinn Féin down through the years and respected our democratic mandate when others would not, so I think that his track record speaks for itself.”
3. Raed Salah Abu Shakra
Jeremy Corbyn defended this meeting with, “We had quite a long conversation and I made my views very clear. He did not, at any stage, utter any antisemitic remarks to me.”
4. Paul Eisen
There were meetings of a group run by Eisen commemorating a massacre of Palestinian Arabs by militants. Jeremy Corbyn had attended these, which had taken place before Eisen had made any anti-semitic views known. He also was adamant that any monetary donations would have been by giving money to a collection bucket.
What else do we know about Corbyn?
Jeremy Corbyn has always been an active member, Vice-Chair, and now Vice-President of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. He has been consistent with his political message of disarmament.
Corbyn used to be the chair of the Stop the War Campaign. In addition to this, he has continually worked for peace and alternatives to war.
He has been a Member of Parliament for thirty four years. During this time, he has worked for justice, peace, and disarmament. He has stood by his beliefs, even when this meant disagreeing with his party.
On 8th December 2017, he received the Seán MacBride Peace Prize. The International Peace Bureau (IPB) described Corbyn as someone who has stood by his principles to ensure true security and well being for “his constituents, for the citizens of the UK, and for the people of the world”.
So, what can we deduce about the reasons why Corbyn met with these ‘unsavoury characters’?
It is clear that Jeremy Corbyn has worked for peace for his entire life. To claim that he supports terrorists or any form of violent direct action of any kind, is to completely misunderstand who the man really is.
Corbyn has worked with CND, the Stop the War Campaign, and as an MP for the Labour Party whilst supporting justice, peace, and disarmament. His whole life has been about trying to find alternatives to war, alternatives to violence, alternatives to terror. So why would he meet these people?
Surely the most sensible answer is that Jeremy Corbyn knows the power of conversation and diplomacy. Corbyn has met with these “unsavoury characters” to open a discussion and debate with them. He has shown respect to them to open up that dialogue. How else do you get someone to talk to you but by showing them respect? The answer to why he has met these people is simple: because he has been working for peace.
Jeremy Corbyn is not a former-Soviet spy, he is not a terrorist-sympathiser, he is not anti-semitic, and he is not a Holocaust denier. When nobody else would talk to these people, Jeremy Corbyn reached out and met with them. When everybody else was too concerned with their political image and what people would think, Jeremy Corbyn cared only for peace. He opened up discussions and tried his best to campaign for peace.
My question for other leaders and politicians is simple: why haven’t you tried to talk? Discourse is the only effective way towards peace. Without talking, we can never understand the other side’s point of view, we can never find out what would stop them from fighting, we would never be able to stop the violence. So, why haven’t more politicians reached out and tried this?
As an electorate, as citizens of this country, we should look at the media who insist on producing distracting articles unfounded in truth and with hardly any research put into them, and we should demand better. We should stand up to the politicians who try to distract us with rumour and false accusations, and we should demand better. Because, you know what? Sometimes discourse is stronger than air strikes.