Although reports and actions in the past year have suggested that Corbyn’s Labour might just have a problem when it comes to Jews, some Labour members beg to differ. At Momentum’s World Transformed festival in Liverpool, a panel made up of Rhea Wolfson, Jackie Walker, Jonathan Rosenhead and Jeremy Newmark came together to ask: Does Labour have an anti-Semitism Problem?
Attendees were gifted leaflets, on their way into the workshop, that called for the Jewish Labour Movement — which has ‘used the charge of widespread anti-Semitism in the Labour party to attack the new movement’ — to be expelled from Labour.
This sentiment was a common theme throughout the session. Walker — who is vice-chair of Momentum — claimed the problem of anti-Semitism had been ‘exaggerated for political purposes’ at at a ‘huge cost to our movement, to our communities and to many individual people in and outside of our party’. As Walker herself was previously suspended from Labour over accusations of anti-Semitism, she read from a script at the meeting in order to keep a track of what she said.
Rhea Wolfson, recently elected to Labour’s NEC, also questioned the motives of those who have suggested there is a problem. Wolfson accused Scottish Labour’s Jim Murphy of making such bogus claims when he blocked her first attempt to join the NEC by claiming that she was associated with anti-Semitism as a result of being a part of Momentum. She said that while — as a Jew herself — she was opposed to real anti-Semitism, what required closer examination were the ‘more subtle issues’:
‘A lot of those pieces you look at them and you say “well I don’t agree with that language but I totally understand the sentiment”.’
Meanwhile Professor Jonathan Rosenhead — emeritus professor at LSE — frankly didn’t see what all the fuss was about. He used a soufflé analogy to raise doubts about the supposed scandal — blaming the one-sided media along with those who wanted to ‘malign’ Jeremy Corbyn:
‘How has this monstrous soufflé of moral panic been whipped up, where did this come from? We need to ask about this soufflé: who the cooks are? Where is the kitchen? What are the implements? How’s it been done?’
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the speaker who received the coolest reception was Jeremy Newmark, chair of Jewish Labour Movement. Audience members heckled him after he accused Walker of ‘perpetuating’ the ‘myth’ that Jews were responsible for the slave trade. By the end of the session, it was over to audience questions where one attendee claimed the creation of Israel will lead to a nuclear war while another explained that there couldn’t actually be anti-Semitism on the Left because — by definition — those on the Left cannot be anti-Semitic.
Does Labour have an anti-Semitism problem? This session will not have calmed concerns.