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Subject: The full text & context of Corbyn's 'English irony' speech
Date: Fri, 14 Sep 2018 17:47:20 +0000
From: Chris Knight <chris.kni...@live.com>
To: cont...@redpepper.org.uk <cont...@redpepper.org.uk>
In all the many media stories about ‘anti-Semitism’ in the Labour Party,
perhaps the most disturbing is the claim that Jeremy Corbyn himself is
The only alleged evidence for this is Corbyn’s use of the words ‘English
irony’ during a speech in 2013. Here is that full speech, plus a summary
of the events surrounding it.
Please read it and decide for yourself whether this really is evidence
of Corbyn’s anti-Semitism://
*On 15 January 2013, the Palestinian Ambassador, Manuel Hassassian, said
in a speech in Parliament: *
We, the Palestinians, the most highly educated and intellectual in
the Middle East, are still struggling for the basic right of
self-determination. What an irony. How long are we going to suffer
and be patient with Israel? *You know I’m reaching the conclusion
that the Jews are the children of God, the only children of God and
the Promised Land is being paid by God!***I *//*have started to
believe this because nobody is stopping Israel building its
messianic dream of Eretz Israel to the point I believe that maybe
God is on their side. Maybe God is partial on this issue.’(Richard
Millett, ‘Palestinian Ambassador to the UK: “I’ve started to believe
that the Jews are the only children of God”’
16 January, 2013.)
The pro-Israel blogger, Richard Millett, then challenged the ambassador
over his statement. Jeremy Corbyn witnessed the confrontation and, in
a subsequent speech, chose to defend the ambassador in the face of what
the Labour leader has since called 'deliberate misrepresentations by
people for whom English was a first language, when it isn't for the
The following is a transcript of Jeremy's speech to the */Britain's
Legacy in Palestine /*international conference organized by the
Palestine Return Centre at Friends Meeting House, London, on Saturday
January 19, 2013.
Jeremy's speech <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKf1Hq5Iq8A&t=46s>to
the */Britain's Legacy in Palestine /*international conference organized
by the Palestine Return Centre at Friends Meeting House, London, on
Saturday January 19, 2013.
We'll be very brief because I've been asked to do seven minutes and I
will try and stick to that.
Firstly I want to say a huge thank you to the Palestinian Return Centre
for its establishment and its work over many years and for giving a very
solid base of information, understanding and support for Palestinians
and Palestinian history and the cause surrounding it.
Because it's actually very important that our supporters don't just go
down the road demanding, as they must, freedom and justice of
Palestinian people but have a serious understanding of how this
oppression of Palestinian people came about and how the division of the
people came about. Understanding history is something that guides people
throughout their lives and it's why I'm absolutely passionate that if I
had to have only one core subject on every school curriculum in every
country in the world it would be history not anything else.
**For the other evening we had a meeting in Parliament in which Manuel
made an incredibly powerful and passionate and effective speech about
the history of Palestine and the rights the Palestinian people. This was
dutifully recorded by the, thankfully silent, Zionists who were in the
audience on that occasion; and then [they] came up and berated him
afterwards for what he had said.
They clearly had two problems. One is they don't want to study history
and, secondly, having lived in this country for a very long time,
probably all their lives, they don't understand English irony either.
Manuel does understand English irony and uses it very very effectively.
So I think they needed two lessons which we can perhaps help some with.**
We have to look at the period in 1917 when Balfour Declaration was
written. At that time even the very farsighted and very smart people –
and don't underestimate them in the Foreign Office – they could not have
known that at the conclusion of the First World War would be the
Versailles Conference it would be that sort of frankly abominable
process where they sat around the table and calmly divided up the
colonies of the defeated nations and handed them out as mandates. No
different really to the 1884 Congress of Berlin that calmly sat around a
table and divided up Africa between the conquering powers. They could
not have known at that stage that the mandate territories would be
divided up across the region and France would get some and Britain would
get others and then the dishonesty, the deception, the lies of the
Balfour Declaration came home to roost, having promised one thing to the
Zionists and another thing to the Palestinians, they then proceeded to
divide and conquer which is of course the fundamentals of all empires.
And I'm sure many of you have been at various times in Jerusalem. It's
quite instructive obviously walking around East Jerusalem of the
beauties of the old city but it's also instructive to go to West
Jerusalem if you're able to and see the buildings that Britain put up in
the 1930s at a time of unbelievable economic chaos. At this end of the
Empire there were nevertheless building buildings to last. They were
building a colony to last for a very long time in exactly the same time
that Lutyens was designing New Delhi and Lee the eternal Empire in
India. It all came crashing down around their heads only a few years
later and that vile oppression of Palestinian trade unionists,
progressive opinion and a denigration of Palestinians and their history.
I was brought up being told at school that Israel was founded on a piece
of empty space and that they managed to make the desert bloom and they
built things there when there was nothing there before. Anybody that
studies the history of the region will know that at the end of the
Second World War, Palestine had media, had industry, had education, had
universities, had a relatively high standard of living. The whole region
was a coherent society and a coherent state. It was a denigration of
that which enabled Western opinion to be put together in support of Israel.
I noticed later on today a very interesting session I'm hoping to get
back in if I can for it, I'm not sure. And that is the implications of
the Mau Mau case for Palestinians which Martin Linton is going to talk
about because what needs to be done in this country is an understanding
of what the brutality of empire is all about.
Britain took part in the partition of Africa. Britain took part in the
slave trade before that. Britain took part in the Mandate territories in
the 1930s and even at the end of the Second World War, a war fought
against fascism, a war fought for democracy for peace for freedom, we
are told. Britain nevertheless in 1945 was straight at it joining in
with the oppression of the Vietnamese people in Vietnam, in Indonesia in
Malaya and crucially in Kenya.
But these things come home to roost and there was some kind of
historical epiphany for me sitting in the High Court earlier this year
with the Mau Mau people who are making their application for justice and
compensation for what happened to them in the 1950s in Kenya when they
were tortured murdered, brutalized, castrated every kind of vile piece
of treatment you can imagine and put in concentration camps that can
only be akin to Nazi concentration camps. They had their day in court
and they won their right of application for appeal and that is going to
go ahead hopefully very very quickly. They are very very old people but
I just thought fair play to them for being able to get it to that state.
So we need to understand and everyone needs to understand far more about
the history of the way in which the Palestinian people were divided and
sent to the four winds but it hasn't worked because that sense of unity
of Palestinian people, be they in refugee camps, be they within the 1948
borders the West Bank or Gaza or indeed anywhere else in the world
making their voices felt…
We've won that vote at the UN, we've gained such a huge level of public
support in this country in many other places because of that sense of
solidarity, but we need to teach the next generation to understand the
history of the brutality of colonialism, the brutality of occupation,
brutality of partition and at the end of the day it ends up brutalizing
yourself because you have to have oppressive laws in order to maintain
the oppression elsewhere.
It's not a liberation to oppress other people, it's an oppression of
yourself to oppress other people. So let's understand that history and
at this conference today I think is absolutely fantastic event that
we're having and I really do admire and applaud the work of the
Palestinian Return Centre because building those blocks of knowledge and
support is something that we will all benefit from the decades to come
as we move rapidly towards the liberation and unity of all of the
Palestinian people. Thank you very much.
*1. *In all the media coverage of this incident, it is striking that no
professional journalist has yet reported on Richard Millett's behaviour
and associations. However, the pro-Palestinian blogger, Tony Greenstein,
has published evidence
on his blog that Millett has been seen protesting alongside members of
the fascist group, Britain First, and has been banned from Amnesty
International events for harassing its members. The pro-Israel blogger,
Jonathan Hoffman, has also reported that in 2017 Millett was evicted by
police when a pro-Palestinian meeting in Parliament ‘degenerated into
chaos as the group of pro-Israel activists protested’.(‘Israel vilified
in Parliament, four Jews protest and get thrown out’
/The Times of Israel/ blog, 26 April 2017.)
This journalistic failure is reminiscent of the stories about Corbyn
hosting a talk by the anti-Zionist holocaust survivor, Dr. Hajo Meyer,
back in 2010. At this event, eye-witnesses reported ‘the 'hounding' of
85-year-old Dr. Meyer, and the bellows of 'boring! boring!' every time a
survivor of a different genocide tried to tell about their experience.’
One pro-Israel protester apparently even shouted 'Seig Heil' and gave a
Nazi salute. Yet no journalist saw fit to report any of this. (Amanda
Sebestyen, London Progressive Journal 12 February 2010; Press statement
from the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, UK. February 2010).
*2.* It appears that the focus for Corbyn’s criticism was only one
person, not all Zionists – and certainly not all Jews. Millett himself
has told the /Daily Mail/ that Corbyn was directly referring to him and,
in a video accompanying the /Mail Online/ article, he said that ‘three
days after [the Hassassian] event in Parliament, Jeremy said I have no
sense of irony.’ (Jake Wallis Simons and Tim Stickings, ‘Corbyn is hit
by official anti-Semitism complaint …’
/Daily Mail/, 26 August 2018; Richard Millett, ‘Blogger targeted by
Jeremy Corbyn responds to ‘English irony’claim’
/Mail Online/ Videos, 26 August 2018.)
*This speech, and the events surrounding it, need to be more widely
known. Please post the following link around social media. Thanks.*
Full text of that speech by Jeremy on the Palestinian ambassador to the
UK, English irony and certain Zionist critics.
Britain's Legacy in Palestine international conference organized by the
Palestine Return Centre at Friends Meeting House, London, on Saturday
January 19, 2013.
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