We are witnessing a wave of orchestrated hysteria over claims that the Labour Party is rife with antisemitism and has a ‘problem with Jews.’ This is not true. Yes there is indeed a problem. The problem is that some people – Jewish and otherwise, inside and outside the party – use allegations of anti-Semitism as a stick to beat the Corbyn leadership, regardless of the damage caused.
Jeremy Corbyn and others have done their best to respond, rightly asserting their impeccable anti-racist credentials, treating specific allegations of antisemitism seriously, investigating them and taking appropriate measures. This is no more and no less than should happen with allegations of racism or discrimination of any kind.
But this has not satisfied those sections of the pro-Israel lobby orchestrating the attacks. They have targeted Malia Bouattia, the first Muslim woman to be elected president of the National Union of Students, on the thinnest of pretexts and despite her consistently principled stance. Another victim has been Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) founder member and lifelong anti-racist Tony Greenstein, suspended from the Labour Party without even being informed of the charges against him. Now Naz Shah has been suspended on the basis of a few inappropriate social media posts, which she evidently regrets – swiftly followed by Ken Livingstone for having the temerity to defend her. (Regarding Shah’s comments, read more here, and this background to Livingstone’s comments on Zionism & Hitler)
Those who are making allegations of anti-Semitism are talking a different language. It is not anti-Semitism but anti-Zionism that is their concern. It is opposition to Israeli racism not anti-Jewish racism that concerns them.
This campaign of vilification is intended to undermine Labour’s new leaders, because of their commendable record of supporting justice for Palestine. The wider aim is to crush support for the solidarity movement, which is working to achieve for Palestinians basic rights that are endorsed by international legal bodies.
As the Jewish Socialist Group has stated on its website: ‘A very small number of such cases seem to be real instances of antisemitism. Others represent genuine criticism of Israeli policy and support for Palestinian rights, but expressed in clumsy and ambiguous language, which may unknowingly cross a line into antisemitism. Further cases are simply forthright expressions of support for Palestinian rights, which condemn Israeli government policy and aspects of Zionist ideology, and have nothing whatsoever to do with antisemitism.’
As Labour and Trade Union activists, we condemn this witch hunt and assert the right to campaign in solidarity with all oppressed people, including Palestinians. We: – Reiterate our strong commitment to combating all forms of racism and to defending those who are subjected to it. We actively oppose Islamophobia, prejudice against migrants and racism against ethnic and religious minorities, including anti-Jewish racism.
– Reject the suggestion that questioning the Zionist ideology of the Israeli state and its supporters – both Jews and non-Jews – entails antisemitic prejudice. On the contrary, campaigning to end the injustices inflicted by Israel on the Palestinian people is in the very best traditions of the British Labour movement.
– Urge the Labour Party establishment to
- listen to the many Jews who are outraged by the lie that Jews are not safe in the Labour Party;
- cease victimising those who work for justice for Palestine;
- adhere to fair practice and transparency when investigating charges against members;
- call to order Labour Party members who bring the party into disrepute by spreading calumnies about widespread antisemitism in the party.