Guidelines for Astute Antisemites in the UK Labour Party
Each new major move of the British Labour party in regard to antisemitism strengthens the probability that as long as Jeremy Corbyn is its leader, the party will not seriously combat the many expressions of Jew-hatred by its members. This is because Corbyn is a prominent part of the antisemitism problem.
For years, Corbyn has been close to a variety of antisemites. He has called the terrorist organizations Hamas and Hezbollah his “friends.” And as soon as he became party leader, he promoted antisemites to senior party positions. Corbyn’s closest recent contact with a Jewish group was his participation in a 2018 Passover seder with the extreme anti-Israel group Jewdas. This organization has called Israel a “steaming pile of sewage which needs to be properly disposed of.”
Jonathan Arkush, the former president of the British Jewish umbrella body the Board of Deputies has claimed that Corbyn holds antisemitic views. He noted that the Labour leader served as chairman of the Stop the War organization, which is known for some of the worst anti-Israel discourse. This week, veteran Jewish Labour parliamentarian and former minister Dame Margaret Hodge called Corbyn an “antisemite and racist.”
The latest Labour manipulation concerns its definition of antisemitism, as accepted by its National Executive Committee (NEC).
In 2016, Corbyn said that Labour was accepting the antisemitism definition of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). This text is widely accepted internationally, including by the UK government. Instead, the Labour NEC accepted its own definition and guidelines — a confused text that can be interpreted and manipulated in many ways.
Jewish Chronicle editor Stephen Pollard said in response that Labour had now “formally adopted a position that allows its members to be antisemitic.” Indeed astute antisemites can study the guidelines to see which hateful remarks against Jews and Israel allow them to remain party members.
Jon Lansman is an NEC member and founder of the extreme left Momentum Group, which supports Corbyn. He wrote in The Guardian that Labour has set a gold standard for political parties with this new definition of antisemitism. No novelist could have invented this absurd scenario: a party internationally known for a miserable record in dealing with antisemites in its ranks claims to be at the world’s forefront in defining it. Labour MP Ian Austin said: “The leadership of the Labour Party seems to believe it knows more about antisemitism than the Jewish community.”
There has been massive criticism by Jewish organizations, rabbis, and others of Labour’s new definition of antisemitism. The Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), by far the largest Jewish body within the party, may even sue Labour over it. After massive criticism, the NEC has stated that it will have discussions with Jewish organizations about the text in the coming months. But this is another absurd position, as they have already received a huge number of critical comments from the Jewish community.
In April, in a highly emotional meeting in the House of Commons, MP Luciana Berger, the parliamentary chair of the JLM, said, “In 2018 antisemitism is now more commonplace, more conspicuous and more corrosive within the Labour Party.”
She added, “They have said that I am Tel Aviv’s servant and called me a paid-up Israeli operative. Essentially, this is antisemitism of the worst kind, suggesting that I am a traitor to our country.” According to the IHRA definition this accusation is antisemitic. The same conclusion is not clear according to the Labour definition.
In the UK, it is a common practice to deal with racism and antisemitism through the MacPherson principle, which says that a minority can itself define what is considered racism. Labour’s definition of antisemitism is the first major departure from this principle, given that leading Jewish organizations violently disagree with the party’s definition. There is already a legal opinion that the Labour definition of antisemitism is in breach of the UK Equality Act.
As far as can be seen, the new definition does not cover an item from the IHRA definition, which states that it is antisemitic to say that Israel’s existence as a state is a racist endeavor. Nor is it clear that comparing Israel to a Nazi state — as included in the IHRA definition — is a binding part of the Labour guidelines.
Recently, Labour has succeeded in making yet another contentious appointment: Gordon Nandell, a leading left-wing lawyer, has been hired to oversee the party’s disciplinary process. There have since been many revelations of his links to the party’s hard-left and activists involved in antisemitism.
All this is even more worrying, as a number of recent polls see the Labour party well ahead of the Conservatives in future elections. That could mean that Corbyn would be the UK’s next Prime Minister, possibly extending Labour’s antisemitism problems to the British nation.
Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld is the emeritus chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Irene Kuruc is a researcher of Western European antisemitism.