The spiel on the back of my Labour party membership card ends with two words that seem, nowadays, to be routinely ignored by too many members: tolerance and respect. Scandal has (once again) gripped the party as antisemitism and Corbyn’s inability to deal with it have come to the political fore.
For the blissfully unaware, some explanation is needed. Corbyn’s leadership has been fraught with accusations of antisemitism from the very start; from referring to Hamas and Hezbollah as his “friends,” to the alleged antisemitism report “white-wash for peerage” controversy, to the failure to expel Ken Livingstone for calling Hitler a Zionist. This list is by no means exhaustive, and the Jewish community has been swift in demanding that Corbyn properly deal with the level of antisemitism within the party.
However, as almost all British Jews will tell you, not much has changed — not that I’m convinced that any great effort was made in the first place. In fact, it’s almost certainly got worse, as it’s recently come to light that Corbyn was genuinely flummoxed as to why an anti-Semitic mural in London (which honestly looked like it belonged in 1930s Berlin) should have been removed back in 2012. This shocking discovery prompted a more thorough analysis of the Labour party’s problem, and the depth of it truly is disturbing.
There are 74 cases of antisemitism that are currently being investigated by the party, and according to John Mann MP, who seems to be one of the few sensible men left on the Labour benches, there could be as many as 5,000 claims that need to be dealt with. These cases are truly vulgar: for example, Marianne Tellier, a former branch secretary, tweeted an edited picture of a Job Centre sign with the words “Arbeit Macht Frei” (work sets you free), the taunt that adorned the entrance to Auschwitz.
Meanwhile, Christine Shawcroft, Chair of Labour’s Internal Disputes Panel (who has since had the sense to resign), thought it was appropriate to reinstate a Labour member who had shared an article that denied the Holocaust on his Facebook. However, what’s even more disturbing than this abhorrent racism is the amount of people who truly believe that this is all an orchestrated smear designed to topple the perfect and infallible Jeremy Corbyn.
The vile personality cult cite radical, fringe groups like Jewish Voice for Labour (some of whom are Holocaust deniers) and Jewdas (who called for “full communism” and for parliament to be burned down at their 2017 Seder) as representatives of the wider Jewish community, and so insist that poor Jez is suffering some sort of mistrial by the mainstream media. (Which is all run by Jews and Tories anyway, don’t you know?)
This is then normally followed by a virulent attack on Israel that nobody asked for, a reassurance of the difference between antisemitism and anti-Zionism, and an insistence that they (and Jeremy) are simply espousing the latter. And some of them are deluded to such an extent that they refuse to recognise that there’s a problem; in fact, David Lammy MP faced calls for deselection for having the temerity to attend the “Enough is Enough” antisemitism rally outside parliament. People in his constituency genuinely thought that the Jews legitimately protesting the horrific racism they face within the party were actually scheming to overthrow their dear leader.
This is not to say that I expect much from JC’s disciples (I don’t), but this outright denial of the problem really is infuriating. Not only is the suggestion that people who care about antisemitism in Labour are co-opting it to topple Jeremy incredibly insulting to Jewish people, it’s just plain wrong. It is not a smear to report that the Holocaust Educational Trust, the Jewish Labour Movement, the Jewish Chronicle, and the Campaign against Anti-Semitism are condemning Corbyn and his lack of action, it’s just news.
It’s disturbing news, but clearly it doesn’t matter to Corbyn’s lackeys; as far as they’re concerned, he can do no wrong, and the media unjustly assault him. You know, by accurately reporting stories about what he’s said, what he’s done, and who he associates with.
However, even though this is all quite shocking, the cherry on top is that it’s just history repeating itself – not the Corbyn mob either know or care.
When Michael Foot was Labour leader in the 1980s, his own personal failings were also dismissed as part of some sort of wider conspiracy to stop him coming to power, and thehard Labour left simply refused to recognise that Foot and many of the policies he advocated were just unpopular. And so, because they shifted blame to the ‘moderates’, they spent years trying to kick them out of the party, consigning Labour to years of internal strife, and the country to years of Tory rule. Sound familiar?
Labour has a crippling antisemitism problem — don’t let the nutters in the party convince you otherwise. We owe British Jews meaningful action, and that starts with expelling (NOT suspending) antisemites, properly vetting all candidates, and admitting that we are failing the Jewish Labour members who haven’t had the sense to leave. Corbyn’s had the power to do something for years, and it’s about time he exercised it.
Archie Batra is the Chair of the St Andrews Labour Society. This article represents his own view and not that of the Society.