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Labour’s anti-Semitism problem is losing its power to shock

14 May 2019

12:09 PM

14 May 2019

12:09 PM

A Labour activist – since elected a councillor – sharing neo-Nazi material declaring that ‘the Jews declared war on Germany in 1933’. A video of a Labour MP rousing a rabble with the incendiary suggestion that ‘Zionism is the enemy of peace’. An activist for the self-proclaimed anti-racist party suggesting a march on their local synagogue. The secretary of Jewish Voice for Labour telling a crowd of pro-Palestinian marchers that Jews are ‘in the gutter’.

In isolation, all of these are jaw-dropping and deeply alarming. That they all happened – or emerged – in a short period of time following years of similarly scandalous behaviour means that a certain ennui about Labour anti-Semitism has set in. But it is important that we don’t get bored by these stories. The party’s problem with Jews must not lose its power to shock.

Labour’s reaction to such stories has certainly become predictable, even as MPs and councillors leave the party decrying its ‘institutional anti-Semitism’. A mealy-mouthed semi-apology saying the party is determined to root out all forms of racism, while doing precisely zilch, is the typical response. This is followed by a temporary suspension from Labour, if we are lucky, which will probably last until the fuss dies down. Meanwhile, on and on it goes.

The Labour anti-Semitism crisis has been rumbling on for nearly four years now and it poisons the party – which could soon be running the country – from top
to bottom.

It is there in its leadership team, schooled in Soviet-style anti-Semitism in which Jews and Zionists – as the colonialist oppressors of the Palestinians – are the enemy. Jeremy Corbyn was ‘present’ but ‘not involved’ when wreaths were laid for members of the terror group behind the attack at the Munich Olympics, in which 11 Israeli athletes were murdered.

Corbyn calls Hamas his ‘friends’. He defended the painter of an anti-Semitic mural. And he says that British Zionists ‘don’t understand English irony’ even if they have ‘lived in this country for a very long time, probably all their lives.’ More recently, it emerged that Corbyn wrote an uncritical foreword to an anti-Semitic book by John Atkinson Hobson, which argued that banks and the press were controlled by Jews.

Corbyn’s good friends include Chris Williamson – suspended for saying Labour had been “too apologetic” over anti-Semitism; and Richard Burgon, the shadow justice secretary, who denied he had said ‘Zionism is the enemy of peace’ until a video of him emerged saying just that.

It is there in the structures of the party where anti-Semites seemingly go unpunished, emboldening rank-and-file members to be ever-more open in their hatred of Jews.

The new head of complaints is Laura Murray, the daughter of Corbyn’s friend Andrew Murray – a man who believes that the roots of the 9/11 terror attacks lay in ‘Zionist colonialism’. Laura Murray intervened to stop the suspension of a member who was later arrested in a police probe over anti-Semitism. She wrote ‘although (the member’s)…tweets are drawing on conspiracy theories, they are just about Israel and no mention of Jews or Jewishness etc.’

Even when a firm line is taken on those accused of anti-Semitism, the reaction from other Labour members is staggering. Amanda Bishop, a Labour member from Brighton, was so angry that a fellow activist had been suspended by the party for accusing ‘IsraHell’ of carrying out genocide that she wrote on her local Labour party forum: ‘Why are we continuing to accept this bullshit? We can’t allow this to go on. We need to march about this to the Synagogue…all of us members in Brighton.’

As with other incidents, complaints about this post were seemingly ignored until the media picked it up.

I could go on. And on. And on. And yet when we, Jews and our allies, speak up about it we are told it is ‘a smear’ and that we are making too much of a fuss. Others say it isn’t about Jews at all, but about Israel.

Just over a year ago, I stood with more than a thousand other Jewish people outside Parliament saying, ‘enough is enough’, begging Labour to root out this problem. I don’t think any of us imagined how much worse things would get.

Even as officials from the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) decide whether to start a full investigation into Labour’s anti-Semitism problem, more racism piles up. Like a fizzy wine that’s been uncorked, its impossible to put a lid onto the problem – even if the political will was there. Which is patently isn’t.

Meanwhile for Britain’s tiny Jewish community we are wondering about our futures here. It’s been astonishing and frightening to see how quickly anti-Semitism has become mainstream. There is Jew hate on our streets. Suddenly we have a taste of what our ancestors in Nazi Germany went through. Please don’t stop being shocked by this.


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