This evening in Britain, the Jewish Shabbat dinner will follow the traditional order: blessing the candles and the wine, washing hands, giving thanks for the bread and trying to get through the first serving of noodle kugel before someone brings up the Labour party.
The decision by the national executive committee to restore the whip to Chris Williamson will be on the menu tonight. The Jew-baiting Nosferatu was suspended in February for ‘a pattern of behaviour’, that pattern taking the shape of a giant middle finger to the Jewish community and culminating in a grisly speech declaring Labour ‘too apologetic’ about anti-Semitism.
One of the NEC members who voted to lift Williamson’s suspension is Huda Elmi, who called for the Equality and Human Rights Commission to be abolished after it launched an investigation into Labour’s treatment of Jews.
Keith Vaz has, with the integrity for which he is rightly famed, called for his own decision to be rescinded mere hours after taking it. Operation Stay and Fight has stepped up its response from Wes Streeting Twitter thread to tersely-worded open letter. It reserves the right to escalate matters further, all the way up to another #EnoughIsEnough hashtag and a crying face emoji.
Shammai, the first-century Jewish sage, counselled his followers to ‘say little and do much’ and in Judaism deeds matter more than beliefs. In the Labour party, it’s the other way round; good intentions are an excuse for being party to bigotry.
The spoils of all that staying and fighting is Luciana Berger out of the party and Chris Williamson back in it, but the Corbyn-enablers will not be dissuaded. Salvation will come with the next meeting and the next and the next. Corbynistas aren’t the only ones for whom the Labour party is a cult. The enablers talk of ideals and history but, when it comes down to it, their attachment is just snot and sentiment and the pitiful dependencies of pitiful people.
Whether Williamson ought to enjoy the Labour whip is a matter of little significance. He is a single wart on a body diseased from head to foot: removing him will not cure the patient.
Enablers cannot live without Labour and an anti-Semitic Labour party is better than no Labour party at all. This addiction is unfortunate for sufferers but it doesn’t make them victims: they are complicit — in coin and sweat; in respectability lent and legitimacy conferred. Many of them are sincerely horrified by anti-Semitism but it is a secondary emotion to their primal instinct: hatred of the Tories has a keener claim on their conscience than solidarity with the Jews. It is a passive calculation but a decisive one all the same: they want to be in government more than they want Jeremy Corbyn not to be.
Some will feel sorry for these Labour members — not least themselves — but this sympathy is misplaced. They are not victims but accomplices in one of the oldest crimes of all: making Jews feel like outsiders in their own country. An anti-Semite works against Jews because he hates them but those who fund, support and campaign to put anti-Semites in power are worse: they don’t even hate Jews and are still willing to work against them. Open letters and fierce tweets are poor substitutes for action, not least when your commitment to the fight against anti-Semitism is contingent on there not being a general election in the offing.
It is for Jews to decide how best to confront anti-Semitism but those of us who will be by their side no matter what owe them our honesty: Four years of outreach and awareness-raising have failed and continued links to Labour only reward an irredeemable institution.
The case for Labour being culturally anti-Semitic is unanswerable to those familiar with the matter but a harder sell among the general public when they see mainstream Jewish communal groups still engaging with Labour MPs. The current crop of anti-Semites, like every crop before, distorts historical examples of Jews keeping dialogue with their enemies as proof of collaboration or exculpation. If efforts to maintain ties with Labour continue, one day this moment will be lied about too.
You have convinced yourselves you have allies within Labour but consider the most senior of them. Tom Watson posed as your friend once before, then he supported Labour’s candidate in the Peterborough by-election, the now MP Lisa Forbes, despite her anti-Semitism on social media.
Watson will betray you again, and when he does we’ll be here to lend our solidarity. But we can’t stop him doing it — only you can do that. You do it by erecting a cordon sanitaire around the Labour party, its MPs and members. Place them beyond the pale, outside the sphere of legitimate democratic politics. Do not talk to them, brief them, debate them, invite them to events or share platforms with them. The Labour party, yimakh shemo.
An optimist might hope that these steps would shock Labour off the path it has embarked on but it is already too far gone. That leads to an inevitable conclusion: if it cannot be saved, it must be ended, and so it must.
There is no more pressing moral cause in Britain today than the total destruction of the Labour party. An electoral drubbing will not do. A change of leader will not suffice.
The Labour party has spent almost four years defaming, taunting and intimidating Jews. They have made Jews feel unsafe; they have made Jews feel unBritish. There must be a reckoning for this intolerable measure of evil, for both retributive and deterrent purposes. Another party will come along one day and try this again and there must be a warning in place, an object lesson in the wages of anti-Semitism and its indulgence. The debris of a once-great party would make for powerful teaching materials.