The UK’s Labour Party and Antisemitism: Enough Is Enough
It’s official. The UK Labour Party under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn is no longer a safe place for Jews. It is no longer a home for decent people. And it is no longer an institution that fights racism. It’s complicit in it.
On Tuesday, Labour’s national executive committee (NEC) approved — without a democratic vote — its controversial new guidelines on antisemitism, which were drafted last week by a party subcommittee.
Corbyn, who in March described himself as a “militant opponent” of antisemitism, was in the room when Labour decided to slap the Jewish community in the face again. More so, he supported the move.
With his deplorable acts of betrayal and empty promises, Corbyn hasn’t done much for the Jewish community. Something he has achieved, however, is to unite the entire spectrum of British Jewry in condemnation of him and his party.
Earlier in the week, 68 rabbis — including both Orthodox leaders and female rabbis — signed a joint letter urging Labour to endorse the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA)’s definition of antisemitism. In the House of Commons, the Parliamentary Labour Party led a rebellion against their leader, and voted in favor of the IHRA’s definition.
They all were ignored.
Labour told the Jewish community to their face that the party is not serious about fighting anti-Jewish sentiments in Labour. They signaled to Labour’s antisemitic members — and there’s no shortage of Jew-haters in the party considering the dozens of scandals that have rocked Labour in recent months — that being antisemitic and a member of the Labour party are not mutually exclusive.
With its recent vote, Labour gave a free pass to antisemitism and one cannot help but think that it was intentional. Veteran Jewish Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge certainly thought so when she told Corbyn to his face, “You’re an anti-Semite and a racist. … You have proved you don’t want people like me in the party.”
Labour’s definition is controversial because it leaves out central cornerstones that should be part of any definition of antisemitism, including using “anti-Zionism” as a smokescreen to conceal antisemitic sentiments.
Anti-Zionism is a form of antisemitism, because it’s every bit as discriminatory, stigmatizing, and marginalizing as the old version. Anti-Zionism is the belief that Jewish people do not have a right to a homeland. That the state of Israel is legally and morally illegitimate. It’s the kind of thinking you find in the charter of Hamas, which openly preaches genocide against the Jewish people. It’s the ideology disseminated by the BDS movement, which makes no secret of its desire to see Israel collapse. And it’s the politics of the leader of the British Labour party.
Welcome to Britain in 2018.
We shouldn’t be at all surprised that the NEC rejected the IHRA’s definition of antisemitism, because these people are led by a man who shakes hands with Holocaust deniers, invites Palestinian hate preachers to tea in parliament, and condemns his own country on Iranian state television.
Hamas and Hezbollah are his “friends.” Jews, not so much.
The decision taken by the NEC was a dark day for Labour. It was an act of cruelty towards the hundreds of thousands of decent Labour members and officials, who are every bit as horrified by antisemitism as their Jewish neighbors. And it was the final nail in the coffin in the minds of the Jewish community.
As long as Jeremy Corbyn remains leader of Labour, there’s no hope for British Jews in the party. Members of the Jewish community, and those who stand with them, have been ignored, abused, reduced to tears, ridiculed, and deemed irrelevant.
Enough is enough.
Julie Lenarz is a Senior Fellow at The Israel Project and the Executive Director of the London-based Human Security Centre. She tweets @MsJulieLenarz.