Thursday, February 18, 2016

Op-Ed: Why does the Labour Party seem to find it so difficult to weed out antisemitism from within its ranks?

Jeremy Newmark, Chair of the Jewish Labour Movement @ The Telegraph:
It is partly about refusal to engage with contemporary antisemitism as it is understood by most Jewish people today. My party must reflect upon this carefully if our stated opposition to all forms of racism is to be taken seriously by the victims of antisemitism.

We need to get over the denial. If "Holocaust Denial" is a central motif of antisemitism on the political Right, "Antisemitism Denial" is fast becoming a parallel on the Left. In Oxford, the refrain was that "most accusations of antisemitism are just the Zionists crying wolf". At JLM we don’t use the term antisemitism lightly. We encourage robust criticism of Israel’s government and its policies. We do not take the “Israel right or wrong approach”. We advocate a Palestinian state as an expression of self-determination of the Palestinian people. Nevertheless, even we are dismissed as the “Zionists crying wolf”. Despite European antisemitism being measured at a historic high against any index, it is almost impossible to discuss it in Labour circles without encountering this form of denial.

Sometimes, people refuse to engage in another way. They act as if serious antisemitism ended some time ago. At a leadership hustings event, one of the strongest responses to a question on antisemitism came from Jeremy Corbyn. It was robust, passionate and empathetic. Jeremy described his family’s involvement in fighting the Fascists during the 1936 "Battle of Cable Street". It was an almost brilliant response. The problem was, it ended there. The answer stopped at Cable Street. It left the question hanging – did Jeremy understand that antisemitism is a constantly mutating virus? Does Corbyn understand that today antisemitism takes a very different form? I think he, like most in the Labour Party, does. But unless this is demonstrated from the top, incidents like Oxford will continue to taint us.

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