As reported by the BBC here, the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is being accused of comparing the state of Israel to Islamic State (IS), he said

"Our Jewish friends are no more responsible for the actions of Israel or the Netanyahu government than our Muslim friends are for those various self-styled Islamic states or organisations."

Corbin was denounced by the current and previous Senior Rabbis of the UK citing that Corbyn should not be comparing Israel to IS.

When asked about it, Corbin said

"No, no of course I'm not. The point in the report is that you shouldn't say to somebody just because they're Jewish, you must have an opinion on Israel. Any more than you say to anyone who is a Muslim you must have an opinion on any vile action that's been taken by misquoting the good name of Islam. I just ask people to be respectful and inclusive in their debate."

Was Corbyn actually making a comparison between Israel and IS?

Although his statement is lengthy, the simple pattern Corbyn seems to be using is the comparison

A is to B as C is to D
A is not more to B than C is (not more) to D

it seems to me that what is being compared is the "relationship" of A to B with the "relationship" of C to D. It doesn't seem that A is being compared to C, or that B is being compared to D.

Am I missing something?

  • 1
    "A is no more B" is slightly but significantly different from "A is not more to B" A is no more Y than Z is a construction that pretty much only shows up in comparisons, where it could be something like "He is no more likely to graduate from college than", and Z could be "I am to become a lion-tamer", implying that both are very unlikely. It's basically a comparison of the degree of two things, not of the two things themselves.
    – stangdon
    Jun 30, 2016 at 23:40
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is not about learning English.
    – user3169
    Jun 30, 2016 at 23:42
  • 3
    I disagree with the close vote - the kind of comparison that's being made here is tied closely to the specific grammar being used.
    – stangdon
    Jul 1, 2016 at 11:47

3 Answers 3


I don't think you've missed anything as such. From the quotes you mentioned your rather thorough analysis sounds accurate to me.

However, this is the sort of language device that some people will read a lot more meaning into than was intended to be there in the first place, as seen in the rabbis' reaction. This is related to the impression some people will get that being able to use the relationship A->B to describe relationship C->D means that there must be parallels between B and D, however obscure they may be. Israel's actions are already a touchy subject - accidentally implying that their morality may be compared to IS could easily insult those who feel close ties to the nation.


The statement of Corbyn's that attracted much ire yesterday can be described in logical terms as follows:

P = "I am Jewish". Q = "I support and/or am responsible for the actions of Netanyahu's and other Israeli premiers". R = "I am Muslim". S = "I support and/or am responsible for the actions of various self-styled Islamic states or organisations". (i.e. Daesh)

We have as Corbyn's statement: NOT(P implies Q) OR NOT(R implies S), or, equivalently, (P and NOT Q) OR (R and NOT S) *. The false equivocation is (Corbyn's statement) implies (Q == S).

Courtesy to WolframAlpha, there are counterexamples to that. Just type (NOT(P implies Q) OR NOT(R implies S)) implies (Q XNOR S) in to the prompt.

Thus the equivocation is a Fallacy / objectively false.

*The case NOT(P implies Q) AND NOT(R implies S), by distribution of the AND gate, is equivalent to P == R, or effectively, "The set of Jews is equal to the set of Muslims", which is obviously false.

  • 2
    Unfortunately, natural languages, and English in particular, don't always follow formal Boolean logic. Politicians are known to use formal and informal fallacies in various subtle ways, so proof that this is not how a computer or mathematician would understand his speech isn't as useful as showing that this is not how a fluent speaker would. Jul 2, 2016 at 1:10
  • @NathanTuggy Indeed, reasoning, which is what we express in language, isn't limited to formal logic. Still, I'm glad to see someone attempt this kind of analysis, so I'm not downvoting it even though I disagree with the spirit of it. It sheds light on the topic, or at least it might, except that it contains some errors. Caradhras, would you like to try correcting these errors and making a new analysis? I'd like to see an attempt that isn't easily dismissed by someone who opposes the approach. I'll explain the errors in the next comment.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Jul 2, 2016 at 2:59
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    @CaradhrasAiguo, the nation of Israel was established by the U.N. and its current goverment was elected in a democratic process, while daesh arrogated authority to themselves by force of arms. Their "executions" should be termed, rather, as "murders." There is no equivalency between military action undertaken by a sovereign nation in retailation for attacks upon its citizens and murders committed by armed criminals. The notion that the issue can be reduced to formal logic, or that a comparison of the numbers of dead establishes that one is "better" or "worse" than the other, is a chimera. Jul 2, 2016 at 5:21
  • 1
    I wonder if the person who gave this a +1 actually checked whether the Boolean algebra matches the sentence.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Jul 2, 2016 at 19:06
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    @Caradhras I don't fully understand your thinking about the NMLK version, but it's hard to be clear about tricky things like this in 600-character comments. Even with plenty of space and total clarity, understanding this kind of thing is hard. But here's one thing I'm sure of: The question is about English, so explaining how to get from the English to the Boolean algebra is the main point. The opposing views about Corbyn's sentence differ about what it means.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Jul 2, 2016 at 19:20

This is an interesting question about a convoluted comparison that seems to be open to interpretation. But it's also a much bigger question about a politician's views. I'll give my personal take on things as I try to guess Corbyn's intentions.

In a certain sense, there is an undeniable line drawn between Israel or the Netanyahu government and various self-styled Islamic states or organisations.

The Jewish friends are no more responsible, which I infer to mean "not at all responsible." For the sake of clarity, we can attempt to simplify the analogy:

Jews are not responsible for the actions of Israel or Netanyahu, in the same way that Muslims are not responsible for the actions of ISIS.

I think one can infer a connection between Netanyahu and ISIS if they choose to, but I don't think one has to read the connection as explicit. I think the negation of the association (not responsible for the actions) allows us to see the connection or not. If you think about it, a negation of association means that there isn't much of a comparison to begin with. It's a clever way to form an analogy, but in Corbyn's case, it has caused too much confusion.

So did Corbyn mean to call out Israel? It's no secret that Corbyn doesn't like Netanyahu politically. Corbyn is a progressive liberal, and Netanyahu is a hardline conservative who loves Donald Trump. Politically, they are opposites. And at least a few members of Corbyn's Labour Party have been accused of being anti-Zionist, while Netanyahu is the world's most outspoken Zionist.

At best, Corbyn was foolish to say something like this, because it has caused a lot of harm to his party. But also consider that a person can be a critic of Netanyahu and of the current governing party of Israel without being against the Israeli people. Indeed, one can be anti-Zionist without being anti-Semitic. Keep in mind, there is such a thing as anti-Zionist Judaism. There are valid ethical arguments both for and against Zionism. Corbyn insists that he is not anti-Semitic and that his party does not tolerate anti-Semitism, and from videos I've watched I actually believe him. (I realize it's dangerous to believe a politician...)

Many Jews get frightened by anti-Zionist rhetoric, and not for bad reason. People who hate Jews are generally anti-Zionist as well. Do Jewish leaders have a motive for accusing Corbyn of being anti-Semitic? Yes, some leaders are probably interested in protecting Israel from a party that might be sympathetic to enemies of the Jewish state -- the Palestinians.

So my answer is as vague as Corbyn's analogy. I don't feel strongly about what I think, but I think this is what happened:

  • Corbyn took a shot at Netanyahu by comparing him and his ruling party to ISIS.
  • Corbyn isn't racist or anti-Semitic himself, but deep-down he and other party members might sympathize with Palestinians.
  • Some British rabbis are worried by Labour Party's anti-Zionist sentiment and have taken this opportunity to denounce Corbyn publicly.
  • 5
    This reads more as a declaration of your political loyalties than as an explanation to help someone learn English. To keep this on-topic for ELL, could you expand on the grammar and reduce the political side-taking?
    – Ben Kovitz
    Jun 30, 2016 at 23:24
  • Sorry if I came off strongly like that. I'm trying to answer the question -- giving what I think is a reasonable explanation for why people have reacted the way they did.
    – Ringo
    Jul 1, 2016 at 0:15
  • BTW, I haven't downvoted this answer. I think it has the seed of something excellent. I don't think you need to answer from an unbiased or unemotional perspective. Presenting your emotions and loyalties, and showing how they influence (or don't influence) your interpretation, could shed a lot of light on how the construction "A is no more X to B than C is X to D" gets used and understood in English—especially, the way it gets understood by people on different sides of an issue. It seems to me that the construct has a bizarre and disturbing ambiguity. …
    – Ben Kovitz
    Jul 1, 2016 at 1:10
  • … Could you briefly explain just enough of the background about Netanyahu, etc., that someone unfamiliar with Israeli politics, British politics, and this form of rhetoric could follow the way you're explaining the two interpretations? If you could get across why you don't see the statement as likening Israel to ISIS, and why other people do, that might be enlightening for people learning English. Then again, I suspect that the same ambiguity occurs in most or even all languages; I don't know. Even so, it might be useful for learners to see: "Ah, they do it, too."
    – Ben Kovitz
    Jul 1, 2016 at 1:18
  • 1
    I agree, I think a better answer would describe the ambiguities of this construct. Will think about it some.
    – Ringo
    Jul 1, 2016 at 1:39

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