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March 28, 2019 10:33 am

New Study Claims That the UK Labour Party Is Institutionally Antisemitic

avatar by Manfred Gerstenfeld


British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn delivers the keynote speech at a Labour conference in Liverpool, Britain, Sept. 26, 2016. Photo: Reuters / Phil Noble.

British scholar Alan Johnson has published a 135-page report that concludes that the UK Labour Party is institutionally antisemitic. Its title indicates this: Institutionally Antisemitic: Contemporary Left Antisemitism and the Crisis in the British Labour Party.

Johnson himself is a member of Labour. He explains that three types of antisemitism are present in the party. The first is the “socialism of fools.” This means seeing capitalism, globalization, or banks as in some way “Jewish.” He writes: “When you hear talk of ‘Rothschild capitalism’ you know you are listening to the socialism of fools.”

Johnson adds: “The second [type of antisemitism] is ‘classical racial antisemitism,’ sometimes but not always informed these days by Islamist ideas about Jews.” The third variety he mentions is “antisemitism dressed up as ‘anti-Zionism.’”

Johnson’s main arguments about why antisemitism is institutional are damning for the party because of the many examples he gives to back up his claims. These include that the Labour Party is failing to safeguard its Jewish members. It also fails to understand and empathize with the Jewish experience. It does not effectively deal with antisemitism, but rather makes overly tolerant decisions in regard to individual cases. Furthermore, the party fails to educate members about antisemitism. Beyond that, Johnson states that Labour has failed to end the party’s culture of antisemitism denial and victim blaming.

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Johnson is not alone in his claims. The Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) is part of Labour. For similar reasons, it has referred the party to Britain’s Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). The EHRC initially gave Labour two weeks to provide a satisfactory response. On March 25, this was extended for another week.

The EHRC had already said that it believes Labour may have “unlawfully discriminated against people because of their ethnicity and religious beliefs.” If the EHRC decides to launch a formal human rights investigation against Labour, it could force the party to disclose details of its handling of antisemitism cases. This may include revealing internal communications such as emails and texts.

The Labour Party has 500,000 members. That is the size of a mid-sized town. When the party receives complaints about antisemitism, one can reasonably assume that these mainly concern elected officials or activists. Many dues-paying antisemites are not easily identifiable as Labour members.

Several Labour MPs have said that they believe the party’s General Secretary, Jennie Formby, was intervening to protect members accused of antisemitism from punishment. She was forced by MPs to provide details about antisemitism complaints and actions against them. The numbers that were released would have been shocking for a mid-sized town. Formby revealed that the party received 673 complaints in 10 months about acts of antisemitism by its members. This covered the period from approximately April 2018 to January 2019. She said that 96 members were immediately suspended from the party, yet only 12 were expelled.

What makes Labor unique among Europe’s leftist parties is that so much of its antisemitism targets Jews, not only Israel. It is not difficult to find acts of anti-Israelism by leading figures in a variety of other European socialist or social democratic parties. For example, when Sigmar Gabriel was leader of the German SPD Party and the country’s foreign minister, he accused Israel of apartheid. It took him months to apologize.

The Norwegian Labour Party leader and former foreign minister Jonas Gahr Stoere called Israel an “apartheid state” after the Nation-State Law was passed in the Israeli Knesset. He also wrote a back-cover comment praising a book by two Norwegian Hamas supporters. Yet in none of the other socialist parties do we find significant antisemitism targeting local Jews.

There are also more far-reaching questions that should be asked: One is that in quite a few of the European populist parties, there is far less antisemitism than in Labour. So why would Jews and Israel boycott these parties but not Labour?

Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld is the emeritus chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs think tank.

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