The twisted logic of Jonathan Sacks

Lord Sacks: Look into his own behaviour and beliefs and his attack on Jeremy Corbyn loses all credibility.

It must be an amazing thing to see the world through the prism of Jonathan Sacks’s mind.

I would not recommend it, though; it does not seem pleasant at all.

Take a look at the way this former Chief Rabbi has perverted the words of Jeremy Corbyn, regarding that incident with the Zionists in 2013. Mr Corbyn, you will recall, had said a group of Zionists had listened to a speech by Palestinian representative Manuel Hassassian at Parliament, then complained about it by deliberately misrepresenting his words. He said they did not understand English irony – a clear reference to the fact that people whose first language was English had distorted the very clear meaning of a person for whom it was not the mother tongue. It was an entirely reasonable response.

And Lord Sacks said it was the most offensive statement by a senior UK politician since Enoch Powell’s “rivers of blood” speech!


But it gets worse. He also said Mr Corbyn had “given support to racists, terrorists and dealers of hate who want to kill Jews and remove Israel from the map” and labelled the Labour leader as an anti-Semite.

He has provided absolutely no evidence to justify these claims. None at all.

Let’s look at what he said about Mr Corbyn’s 2013 comment: “It was divisive, hateful and like Powell’s speech it undermines the existence of an entire group of British citizens by depicting them as essentially alien.” No, it does not.

If any part of the incident was hateful, it was the way the Zionists mentioned by Mr Corbyn had tried to twist Mr Hassassian’s words in order to score a political point. If anyone was being divisive, it was the same group of Zionists, for the same reason.

The claim that Mr Corbyn depicted an entire group of British citizens by depicting them as essentially alien falls for two reasons. Firstly, he was referring to a specific group of individuals – not every single Zionist who ever existed. Second, he was not depicting anyone as essentially alien by saying they did not understand English irony – thousands upon thousands of schoolchildren have grappled with the concept over the years and many adults still don’t understand it. He was simply pointing out the inherent irony in somebody who should understand English perfectly well, deliberately misrepresenting the very clear words of somebody whose grasp may justifiably be less strong.

I have laboured that point a little, but it needed to be made perfectly clear. Lord Sacks’s words were not true.

“When he implies that, however long they have lived here, Jews are not fully British, he is using the language of classic prewar European antisemitism.” It’s a good thing he wasn’t doing that, then.

Again, Lord Sacks raises a couple of points. First, Mr Corbyn was talking about Zionists, not Jews. The two are not the same and should never be conflated. As a rabbi, Lord Sacks knows that, and the fact that he did it anyway raises gravely serious questions about his motives. Secondly, Mr Corbyn said nothing about the bona fides of the Zionists’ nationality. He said they did not understand English irony, and that does not and cannot equate to implying that they are not British.

“When challenged with such facts, the evidence for which is before our eyes, first he denies, then he equivocates, then he obfuscates.” No, no, no and no.

First, the evidence of Lord Sacks’s claims is not before our eyes. The evidence supports Mr Corbyn every step of the way. Secondly, Mr Corbyn did not deny the facts – he stated them. Thirdly, he has not equivocated – it means using ambiguous language so as to conceal the truth or avoid committing oneself and if you need an example, watch Theresa May’s disastrous attempt to avoid telling Michael Crick whether she thought Nelson Mandela was a terrorist. Mr Corbyn was entirely straightforward in his response to the allegations against him. In a statement, he said he spoke to “defend the Palestinian ambassador in the face of what I thought were deliberate misrepresentations” from people “for whom English was a first language, when it isn’t for the ambassador”. He said: “I described those pro-Israel activists as Zionists, in the accurate political sense and not as a euphemism for Jewish people – and that is made clear in the rest of my speech that day. I am now more careful with how I might use the term ‘Zionist’ because a once self-identifying political term has been increasingly hijacked by anti-Semites as code for Jews.” No equivocation there! Obfuscation is the act of making something obscure, unclear or unintelligible and, again, it does not apply as a description of Mr Corbyn’s words.

“This is low, dishonest and dangerous.” Lord Sacks’s words are low, dishonest and dangerous.

“He has legitimised the public expression of hate.” There is no evidence to support this claim.

“Where he leads, others will follow.” This is meaningless. Lord Sacks may be trying to imply that Mr Corbyn is inciting others into hatred of Jews, but without evidence of him actually doing this, all he is saying is that people will follow the leader of the Labour Party. It is accurate to that extent, but no further – and that does not help Lord Sacks’s argument.

“We know our history better than Mr Corbyn.” But do they know Palestinian history better than Mr Hassassian? Mr Corbyn was not speaking in his own defence when he made his remarks, so Lord Sacks is trying to twist the facts here.

“We have learned that the hate that begins with Jews never ends with Jews. Mr Corbyn’s embrace of hate defiles our politics and demeans the country we love.” The first sentence is so wide open to interpretation that it is essentially meaningless in the current context. The second is emotive nonsense. Mr Corbyn has not embraced hate – but a very good argument could be made that Lord Sacks has.

So Lord Sacks has deliberately twisted Mr Corbyn’s words; conflated Zionism and Judaism for no reason; and made unevidenced, false allegations.

These are typical examples of the tactics used by the anti-Corbyn element that has been trying to have Jeremy Corbyn removed under false pretences since 2016. Isn’t that when Shai Masot put up £1 million of Israeli government money for that very purpose?

Fortunately, the Labour Party is having none of this nonsense.

A spokeswoman said: “This comparison with the race-baiting Enoch Powell is absurd and offensive. Jeremy Corbyn described a particular group of pro-Israel activists as Zionists, in the accurate political sense – not as a synonym or code for Jewish people. Jeremy Corbyn is determined to tackle antisemitism both within the Labour party and in wider society, and the Labour party is committed to rebuilding trust with the Jewish community.”

And the luminaries of the social media were quick to seize on the former Chief Rabbi’s words – and rejected both them and him:

They picked up on his claim to know history better than Mr Corbyn, and turned it on him:

They found evidence to show that he was being disingenuous in comparing Mr Corbyn with Enoch Powell; he himself sees nothing wrong with Israel’s new “nation state of the Jewish people” law that established that country as a racist, apartheid state – so he himself supports racism:

And then there are the actions of Lord Sacks himself.

Supporters of Lord Sacks tried to bite back, but all they did was confirm the points being made against him. The following tweets, involving Aaron Bastani’s suggestion that the rabbis who signed a letter condemning Mr Corbyn several weeks ago should have been researched, make this clear.

Mr Bastani attracted criticism for making the suggestion, and for pointing out that Lord Sacks recently supported a book that is said to have praised Enoch Powell and promoted racist ideas. In response, he demonstrated the falsehood of the argument put forward by Lord Sacks’s supporters, who were saying that his revelation of the former Chief Rabbi’s support for far-right and racist ideas meant that he – Mr Bastani – must be a racist.

Doesn’t compute, does it?

Here’s Owen Jones, providing support for Aaron Bastani’s position.

There is an obvious conclusion to draw from this – and, strangely enough, it is one that Lord Sacks might have tried to present himself.

Always think for yourself and never give your blind faith to anybody… especially people like Lord Sacks.

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10 thoughts on “The twisted logic of Jonathan Sacks

  1. Zippi

    I should like to take tea with ex Rabbi Sacks and tell him, to his face, how much he disgusts me. The hate that begins with Jews never ends with Jews so, ex Rabbi Sacks is endangering my Jewish friends, my family and colleagues. When did Shae become an antiquated concept?
    I still might write to him.

  2. Kath Shaw

    This is a brilliant dissection of the dangerous lies and smears against Jeremy Corbyn. Thank you – this blog is an essential go-to when feeling the burden of despondency and oppression that such speeches and articles stimulate.

  3. Growing Flame

    Kath Shaw makes a good point about feeling down when confronted by the relentless smearing of Jeremy Corbyn. In a way, we supporters of the Labour Party are the first targets of this smear campaign. WE are the people most likely to reject racism and anti-semitism so WE are the people that the media are trying to whittle away from Party membership. WE are the first people to be alerted whenever there are fears about prejudice surfacing so WE are the people who could become the most despondent when faced with the daily barrage of , apparent “evidence” of anti-semitism. As others have pointed out, I fear that this smear campaign will backfire by making cries of “anti-semitism” just some kind of background noise to be ignored while getting on with real politics. Like the boy who cried “Wolf!” , those who only look for anti-semitism in progressive circles will fail to detect it when it rises in it’s natural home on the Right.

  4. Zippi

    Iwas having a conversation with him, in my head, last even and I realised that I had referred to him as ex Rabbi. I must correct that error; I’m sure that he is still a Rabbi, just no longer chief.

  5. Simon Tucker

    I think I have it sussed: on the one hand these right wing bigots are hoping their smears will discredit Corbyn in the eyes of all who are dumb enough to believe them. On the other, they are clearly hoping that Corbyn will so tie himself up in litigation over the continuous lies, slanders and defamations that he will have no time for presenting policies and undermining this atrocious rabble that calls itself a government.

  6. Growing Flame

    Interesting that Frank Field cites “anti-semitism” and bullying in his local Party as reasons for leaving. Neither allegation has ever had much substance , but relies on one or two examples which are then endlessly recycled to exaggerate the effect.
    Yet he doesn’t take issue with the actual reasons for his distress, which is that the Labour Party is returning to its roots with policies to tax the wealthy and the large Corporations, re nationalising the railways, building homes for rent, increasing the minimum wage, funding students throughout education etc. If Frank Field actually agreed with any of these policies, he would have stuck with the Labour Party in order to vote for them. But he doesn’t mention them,as if he cannot bring himself to argue against, knowing that would sabotage any hopes he might have of influencing actual Labour Party members.

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