Labour MP to UK Students: Anti-Zionism Is ‘New Antisemitism,’ Must Be Rejected
A British parliamentarian urged the Labour Party to adopt a zero-tolerance attitude toward anti-Zionism, which she called “the new antisemitism” in remarks made on Monday before more than 70 UK university students.
“Zionism is simply self-determination for the Jewish people in the world’s only Jewish state,” said Joan Ryan MP, chair of Labour Friends of Israel, in an event held by the advocacy group StandWithUs UK to examine the challenges Jewish and pro-Israel students face on campus.
She encouraged students to confront the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign for “demonizing and delegitimizing the only Jewish state,” noting that “inevitably” there will be an overlap “with calling out antisemitism.”
Ryan also condemned “appalling incidents of antisemitism” in her party, and called on Labour to apologize for and work to prevent such occurrences.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn “has to lead that fight against antisemitism in the party,” she said, warning against efforts to “wrap up” anti-Jewish hostility with other issues.
“It is racism, obviously, but we mustn’t avoid the issue by saying, ‘We abhor all forms of racism,’” Ryan observed. “Of course we do, but the issue has been antisemitism, and whilst you’re not identifying the issue, then you’re not able to effectively tackle it.”
She indicated that as tensions grew among Jewish voters following the exposure of antisemitic behavior by some Labour members, “LFI tripled its supporters,” suggesting that “there are many friends of the Jewish community, many friends of Israel” in the party.
The issue of antisemitism in Britain — specifically on university campuses — has drawn increasing concern from advocates and some elected officials.
The British government announced on Tuesday £144,261 in funding for a new program to help universities combat the trend, to be delivered by the Holocaust Educational Trust and the Union of Jewish Students. The measure will allow 200 students and campus leaders to visit the former Nazi concentration and extermination camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau, before participating in a seminar on identifying and addressing antisemitism.
“Sadly we have seen a distressing increase in swastika graffiti, Holocaust denial literature and politicisation of the Holocaust on some UK campuses,” said Josh Holt, president of the Union of Jewish Students, which has some 8,500 members in the UK and Ireland. “We are determined to combat this and welcome this significant contribution to our longstanding work bringing students of all faiths and backgrounds together to create cohesive campus communities.”
Labour MP Angela Rayner, who serves as shadow education secretary, said in November that antisemitism is “in our campuses and our schools and across our society.”
She also called on Labour leadership to root out antisemitism, noting, “we still have people in our party that are antisemitic. It’s not just what we say, it’s what we do — and I say that to everyone including my leader.”
A 2016 survey of British Jews found that 87 percent don’t believe that Labour does enough to counter antisemitism in its ranks. In a poll carried out by The Jewish Chronicle newspaper in 2017, British Jews gave Labour a rank of 3.94 on a scale measuring levels of antisemitism in the party, with five being the worst.