The UK Labour Party’s Antisemitism Is No Longer Deniable
JNS.org – The BBC is routinely disparaged by Israeli and British Jews for its political bias and hostile attitude towards Israel. But such accusations are not always warranted.
Last week, the current affairs program BBC Panorama fixed its spotlight on the phenomenon of antisemitism in the ranks of the British Labour Party. Under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, who regularly denies the phenomenon’s existence, one of Britain’s most important political parties has been cultivating an antisemitic atmosphere.
According to The Daily Mirror, the BBC was pressured to pull the program, but refused.
Israeli television stations, such as the Kan public broadcaster (which is also an employer of mine), should purchase the rights to air the Panorama program in Israel, in order to raise awareness about what is transpiring in a key left-wing party in a leading Western democracy.
The BBC program presented troubling figures in typical British fashion — that is to say, by putting them mildly. The Panorama producers not only interviewed senior Labour officials, but also activists, some of them Jewish, who were tasked with investigating antisemitism in the party. Some of them eventually threw their hands up in despair and resigned.
Viewers were exposed to previously revealed facts, such as that Corbyn, while visiting Tunisia, placed a wreath on the graves of the terrorists who perpetrated the Munich Olympic massacre in 1972, and that party officials have uttered a litany of libels against the Jewish people. Ken Livingstone, the former mayor of London, is recognized as fanning the flames of the party’s antisemitism, for which he was suspended from the party for two years. This suspension, however, was met with accusations of a “Jewish conspiracy” within the party.
How can we explain the phenomenon of Labour’s antisemitism? One explanation is that Corbyn ascended to the top of the party from the fringes of the radical left. The spirit he has sought to imbue runs counter to the center-leaning spirit inculcated by former leaders Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
But the Panorama expose makes it impossible to argue that Corbyn is simply a victim of malicious and libelous propaganda, as claimed by his supporters, even those in Israel. And the Panorama revelations didn’t come as a surprise to many in the United Kingdom. Those who follow the newspapers there know that the press hasn’t relaxed its coverage of antisemitism within Labour. It is in Israel that the issue should be far more prominent than it is.
In Israel, though, it seems the press would rather obsess over the antisemitic pasts of the ruling parties in some central European countries and tendentiously cover their present activities. However, the leaders of these countries are, at the very least, making a concerted effort — some more than others — to emphasize the ideological amendment they are making, or shunning their party’s antisemitic past entirely.
It’s very possible that in the future, in light of the fissures within Great Britain’s governing Conservative Party, Corbyn will be elected prime minister. Perhaps, if he is elected, he will look to openly oppose the antisemitism in his own party. It’s highly unlikely, however, that he will be able to duck the facts exposed by the BBC.
Yaakov Ahimeir is a senior Israeli journalist and television and radio personality. A version of this article first appeared in Israel Hayom.