Last January, Donald Trump infamously omitted mention of the Jews from his Holocaust Memorial Day statement, provoking a national scandal and withering criticism from liberals. Today, Jeremy Corbyn, the leftist leader of the U.K. Labour party, released his Holocaust Memorial Day statement—and did the exact same thing.
As has been widely reported, Labour under Corbyn has been rocked by escalating anti-Semitism scandals, leading to the suspension of dozens of officials, and extending all the way up to Corbyn himself. Before the 2017 U.K. election, just 13 percent of British Jews said they would vote for Corbyn’s Labour, the same as the percentage of Muslims who voted for Donald Trump. This Holocaust statement, then, offered Corbyn an easy opportunity to mend some fences with British Jews and show that he takes their concerns into account.
Instead, he managed to erase Jews from the story of their own genocide. Here is Corbyn’s statement in its entirety:
We should never forget the Holocaust: The millions who died, the millions displaced and cruel hurt their descendants have suffered.
We should understand the way fascism arose in Germany and the circumstances that gave space for the Nazis to grow.
At this, and at all other times, we should reflect and make sure succeeding generations understand the power of words.
Their power to do immense good and inspire; and their power to promote hate and division.
Let us use their power to educate to inspire but above all to build values of trust and respect.
Corbyn was seemingly unaware of the irony of calling for people to be circumspect in using their “power of words” while utterly effacing the Holocaust’s primary victims from his account of their murder. The Times columnist Hugo Rifkind, among others, expressed his disbelief:
I literally cannot understand why he would do this. Can it be accidental? You mention Jews, just like you mention gypsies, homosexuals and dissidents. If you don’t, you are making a specific point of not doing.
— Hugo Rifkind (@hugorifkind) January 25, 2018
The Anti-Defamation League, which previously called out Trump’s similar statement in 2017, also responded to Corbyn. “To omit any reference to Jews or anti-Semitism in your Holocaust remembrance statement is offensive to us and the millions murdered,” said ADL director Jonathan Greenblatt. “Nazi ideology was rooted in hate and anti-Semitism. We can never forget that.”
For many of Corbyn’s fans on Facebook, however, his omission did not go far enough. The post was immediately deluged with anti-Semitic comments complaining about the commemoration of the Holocaust at all, or vaguely attempting to equate Israel with the Nazis.
Corbyn, the current odds-on favorite to be Britain’s next prime minister, is not the first major political leader to make this mistake. When Trump left out the Jews from his Holocaust memorial statement, his administration initially doubled down and defended it. By contrast, when Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau made the same miscue in 2016, his office quickly corrected. Which path Corbyn will take remains to be seen.
In other news, the U.K. parliament debated today whether to fully designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, and Corbyn instructed his party to oppose such a ban. Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has openly called for the genocide of the Jews.
UPDATE: After Corbyn came under fire for his message, some supporters pointed out that he or his staff had submitted a statement mentioning Jews for the print pamphlet distributed at the U.K. Holocaust Educational Trust’s ceremony. They did not explain why Corbyn mentioned Jews and anti-Semitism privately for a mostly Jewish audience of hundreds, then deliberately posted a completely different statement omitting both for his millions of mostly non-Jewish followers on social media.
UPDATE (1/27): Following days of backlash, rather than doubling down like Trump, Corbyn reposted the private message on his public Facebook, making sure to highlight the mention of Jews in his pull quote graphic.
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