As I’m writing this, I can’t stop thinking about my sixteen year old self: a naïve, optimistic teenager who had just joined the Labour party, sure that Ed Miliband was going to put the country to rights, and that being one of the party members who would help him do that was an honour and a duty. How times have changed. In the wake of Labour’s anti-Semitism scandal, I’ve now left the party. Here’s why.
I should start by saying I’m Jewish. When I was growing up, I thought that that meant that I belonged to the religion of Judaism, and that I couldn’t eat bacon. More recently, I’ve learned that it actually means I can eat as much bacon as I want, but also that I’m automatically suspected by some to be complicit in smearing left-wing politicians, endorsing the murder of Palestinians, and God knows what else. So swings and roundabouts, really.
I know that sounds glib, but I feel like glibness is the only option open to me other than rage and despair. I mean, imagine. You join a political party because it looks like the only sane political force left in Britain. Then members of that party call you a kike, a Mossad agent, a Zionist whore. Members of that party threaten your friends on the basis of your religion. Members of that party deny the Holocaust. Councillors elected to represent that party call Jews blood drinkers and paedophiles. Blogs read and shared by thousands speak of a “Jewish war” against the party leadership, or warn of a Zionist lobby trying to make criticism of Israel illegal. The party’s MPs defend anti-Semites, and elected members of its National Executive Committee attack Jewish community leaders as liars and “Trump fanatics.” The man elected twice to lead the party by a huge majority of party members claims, on one hand, to be so naive that he keeps accidentally sharing platforms with people who apparently dislike Jews, and, on the other, so well informed that he can write his party’s own definition of anti-Semitism without consulting any Jews. Jews who speak out are immediately presumed to be acting in bad faith, whether on behalf of Benjamin Netanyahu or Theresa May. Guilty until proven anti-Zionist.
Imagine three years of delivering leaflets and knocking doors and phoning voters with that on your shoulders. Three years, in which your justifications for not cutting up your membership card hinge on the belief that having the Jewish community thrown under the bus by Jeremy Corbyn is less bad than having the whole country thrown under the bus by Theresa May.
Last week, that threadbare, humiliating logic finally stopped convincing me. It still feels like a betrayal at times, and I guess it is. But betrayal cuts both ways. And I can’t see it as anything but a betrayal when so many Labour members think that I – rather than a man who suggested that Israel could be behind jihadist violence in Egypt, or buddied up with Hamas terrorists – am a threat to their values.
One of the latest anti-Semitism scandals involves Corbyn sharing a platform with Hajo Meyer, an Auschwitz survivor who compared Israel to Nazi Germany. Meyer made his remarks at an event called ‘Auschwitz to Gaza’, which Corbyn hosted, lead, and allegedly had protestors thrown out of. Think about that. One Holocaust survivor was platformed because his fringe views excused his Judaism in Corbyn’s eyes, and his experiences could be usefully weaponised against the Jewish state. Another Holocaust survivor tried to disagree, marking him as the wrong type of Jew, so he had to be silenced. Imagine the cowardice, the cynicism, the downright inhumanity that could motivate such a decision. Remember that some – perhaps many – Labour members see this episode as a vindication of Corbyn. And I am sure that you would agree that this party is no longer a place for a Jew.
Jamie Rodney is a student at the University of St Andrews. He left the Labour Party five days ago, having been a member for five years