Corbyn in fresh antisemitism row over endorsement of book suggesting banks controlled by Jews

Labour leader describes JA Hobson’s ‘Imperialism: A Study’ as a ‘great tome’

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Wednesday 01 May 2019 18:40
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Rebecca Long-Bailey on Jeremy Corbyn's endorsement of 'Imperialism: A Study': 'In no way would Jeremy Corbyn condone any antisemitic comments'

A Labour frontbencher has defended Jeremy Corbyn over allegations of antisemitism after it emerged he had endorsed a century-old book that suggested banks were controlled by the Jews.

In a fresh row about anti-Jewish sentiment, the Labour leader wrote the foreword for a new edition of JA Hobson’s Imperialism: A Study, in which the author argues European finance was controlled “by men of a single and peculiar race”.

In 2011, Mr Corbyn, then a backbencher, described Hobson’s 1902 book as a “great tome”, which was “brilliant and very controversial at the time”, according to The Times.

In the book, the left-wing economist suggested finance in Europe was controlled “by men ... who have behind them many centuries of financial experience” and “are in a unique position to control the policy of nations”.

He argued that the great financial houses have “control which they exercise over the body of public opinion through the press”.

And he suggested no European state would engage in a great war “if the house of Rothschild and its connections set their face against it”.

Mr Corbyn’s decision to write the book’s foreword was described as “damning and damaging” by Jewish campaigners, and comes amid concern about the handling of antisemitism complaints within Labour.

But shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey insisted Mr Corbyn had not condoned antisemitic tropes but instead commented on the “wider thought” around western imperialism.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I haven’t read the book myself, but as I understand it Jeremy, like many politicians, has quoted this relevant political thinker.

“Jeremy quite vigorously would not support any antisemitic statement made by that particular writer or indeed any other particular writer.”

Pressed on the issue, she said: “I think he was looking at the political thought within the whole text itself, not the comments that were antisemitic in any shape or form.

“Jeremy certainly wouldn’t countenance the support of any antisemitic comments, as I have said.”

Labour MP Wes Streeting urged his colleagues not to defend Mr Corbyn for “lauding a book containing classic antisemitic tropes”.

Ex-Labour MP Ian Austin, who quit the party over its handling of antisemitism allegations, said the news cast doubt on Mr Corbyn’s ability to lead the party.

He said: “Jeremy Corbyn endorsed a book that peddles racist stereotypes of Jewish financiers and imperialism as ‘brilliant’ and a ‘great tome’.

“He attacked the USA and Nato, but defended the Soviet Union and Venezuela. He is completely unfit to lead the Labour Party.”

Euan Philipps, of the campaign group Labour Against Antisemitism, said: “The revelation Jeremy Corbyn wrote the foreword for a reportedly deeply antisemitic book is damning and damaging.”

A Labour spokesperson said: “Jeremy praised the Liberal Hobson’s century-old classic study of imperialism in Africa and Asia.

“Similarly to other books of its era, Hobson’s work contains outdated and offensive references and observations, and Jeremy completely rejects the antisemitic elements of his analysis.”

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