Saturday, October 23rd | 17 Heshvan 5782

April 3, 2019 9:03 am

When It Comes to UK Labour, the Party’s Over for the Jews

avatar by Robert Festenstein


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

For some time now, the UK Jewish establishment has been demanding change from the British Labour Party. A year ago, Jews famously demonstrated outside Parliament, stating “Enough is Enough.” They put forward a number of demands, included an apology from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. A year later, there has been no apology and no appreciable movement toward answering any other demands.

Despite this stone-faced approach, the Jewish leadership continues to demand change in the hope that at some point the most antisemitic leadership of the parliamentary opposition since World War II will somehow see the light. It is not unlike a man who still seeks a reconciliation with his ex-fiancée even though she has long since formed a relationship with someone else.

In November of 2018, the Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry attended the President’s Dinner at the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the organisation’s premiere event. Ms. Thornberry was told in clear terms how unhappy British Jews were with Labour and how change was needed. Reports from the dinner confirmed how much Ms. Thornberry understood the pain being endured by her hosts and had taken it all in. Or maybe not.

For some time, the Liverpool MP Luciana Berger had suffered from a hideous number of online antisemitic attacks, some of which culminated in prosecutions and convictions for those responsible. Her offense? To fight back against the Jew-haters in the Labour Party. Eventually, in February 2019, enough was enough for Ms. Berger and she left, citing antisemitism as a principle reason for her departure.

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Enter again Ms. Thornberry. Despite being told how much British Jews were suffering at waves of Labour antisemitism, she revealed that she clearly hadn’t taken any notice. When she made her speech about Ms. Berger (and seven others) leaving the Labour Party, Ms. Thornberry had nothing to say about racist attacks on a former colleague, nothing about police protection Luciana Berger needed at the Labour Party Conference in 2018, and nothing at all about a Jew being hounded out of the Labour Party.

Her response was clear and unequivocal. Speaking about those who had left the party, she said, “It was our manifesto and our leader that gave them the huge majorities that they now have in their seats — those seats they have betrayed by their actions. If our new independent splitters have got the guts to have by-elections, we will crush them.”

Like the man who thought he was getting back with his girlfriend and got it wrong, British Jews in March of this year were told in no uncertain terms that their relationship with the Labour Party was well and truly dead — crushed in fact. Yet, the Jewish establishment still hasn’t gotten the message, refusing even now to declare that Corbyn and his entourage are a lost cause. Some leaders claim that contact needs to be maintained in case Labour is elected. The political reality is that the Labour leadership wants nothing to do with the Jews now, when they potentially need their votes, so there is little or no chance of a Labour government answering the phone when the Jewish establishment calls.

Labour is off limits to the Jews, and Jewish leaders need to say so. Trying to cosy up to a group that hates us makes us look weak and ineffective. The Jewish leadership needs to understand what most of British Jews already know: the Labour leadership doesn’t want Jews. Corbyn et al must be told that British Jews no longer wish to join a club that doesn’t want to have them as members. No more trying to maintain contact just in case they get into power, no more demands that have no prospect whatsoever of being met, and above all a clear and powerful refusal to have anything to do with a Labour leadership that not only tolerates antisemitism, but promises to punish those Jews who protest about it. Enough is enough, the party is over.

Robert Festenstein is a lawyer living in Manchester, UK. He is active in fighting BDS and antisemitism, including through the use of the legal process.

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