The remarkable revelation that Jeremy Corbyn — as part of a Palestine Return Centre (PRC) mission to Beirut in 2011 — met representatives of Palestinian rejectionist factions is further evidence of his fundamentalism when it comes to the Israel-Palestine conflict.
It meant that he had no qualms sitting with those opposed to the PLO, those who refused any negotiation with even the Israeli peace camp, but who instead enthusiastically endorsed a Greater Palestine at the expense of a two-state solution.
The PRC itself is close to the Muslim Brotherhood and was opposed to the Oslo Accords agreed by Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin. In a statement after the meeting, Mr Corbyn implicitly rebuked those who differentiated between different Palestinian factions as facilitating “a classic colonial divide and rule tactic”. As with Seumas Milne, what matters is Palestinian resistance to Israel and not the political colouring of those who resist — even if reactionary and antisemitic.
One of those whom Mr Corbyn met in February 2011 was a representative of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine — General Command (PFLP-GC), which originally split from the left wing PFLP in 1968 because it preferred emphasis on eye-catching acts of violence rather than on intellectual discourse and Marxist dialectic.
The PFLP-GC has never confined its military action solely to the West Bank and Gaza. It was responsible for the killings of a large number of children during attacks on moshav Avivim (1970) and Kiryat Shemonah (1974). It broke with the PLO when Arafat began to hint about the establishment of a mini-state in the early 1970s and thereby an indirect recognition of Israel. Its opposition continued into the 1980s when it sided with the Fatah rebellion against Arafat in May 1983.
Many Palestinians regarded the PFLP-GC as little more than a Syrian stooge at the beck and call of Damascus, reflecting the bitter rivalry between Hafez al-Assad and Yasser Arafat. It was founded in 1965, allegedly with help from Syrian intelligence, by Ahmed Jibril, a Palestinian refugee who had fled to Syria during the Nakba in 1948 and subsequently joined its army. Unlike other Palestinian factions, it significantly refused to side with left-wing Muslim groups during the Lebanese civil war in the 1970s because it would have meant opposing Syrian forces. More recently it has supported Hezbollah militarily and aligned itself with Bashar al-Assad during the Syrian civil war.
All this dovetailed with Mr Corbyn’s reluctance to attribute the chlorine attack on Douma in April 2018 to the Syrian government as well as his reticence to criticise the entry of Iran into the region. Ironically, meeting hardliners in Beirut in 2011 coincided — in dramatic contrast — with the birth of the Arab Spring in Syria.
Mr Corbyn’s refusal to promote the PLO over its rejectionist and Islamist opponents is indicative of his deep-seated antagonism to the idea of a state of the Jews — even to the point of retrospectively criticising Labour prime minister Clement Attlee’s recognition of Israel in 1949. Moreover, Mr Corbyn has been pointedly silent about the Labour left’s strong support for Zionism by figures such as Nye Bevan during that period. It is indicative of Old Labour’s solidarity with the Hebrew republic and the Corbynistas’ wish to see it wither away.
Given all his ideological baggage, Mr Corbyn’s past continues to catch up with him. Once more he has been shown to be the albatross around the neck of the Labour Party.
Jewish Chronicle 26 November 2019