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28th Mar 2018

Labour clearly isn’t anti-Semitic – look how many times Jeremy Corbyn has denied it

Jewish voters are saying enough is enough

Josh Kaplan

Jewish voters are saying enough is enough

For as long as anything lasts in British Politics, the Jewish people of the UK have leant towards the Labour party. Typically metropolitan, middle class and well-educated – Jewish voters have always blended in perfectly with Labour supporters in big cities. They stand somewhere to the left on most mainstream issues like healthcare, welfare and education and even broadly agree with the left-wing position that Israeli settlements aren’t helping anyone.

But over the last couple of years, while under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, Labour’s relationship with British Jews has, for a lot of the Jewish community, gone beyond the pale.

Labour’s hard left, like most at the far reaches of the political spectrum, lacks nuance in its arguments. Confusing legitimate criticism of Israel with twinges of anti-Semitism is a recurring problem.

And while it may have been easy to ignore before, on Corbyn’s watch anti-Semitic sentiment has weaved its way through the party like a virus.

In 2016, a year into Corbyn’s leadership, it was revealed that Naz Shah had shared an image on Facebook advocating the relocation of Israel to the continental United States a year before she became the MP for Bradford West.

Other posts compared Israel to the Nazis. She apologised and was suspended from the party, only to be reinstated in June.

During the Shah row Ken Livingstone appeared on BBC Radio London defending the MP. He said: “When Hitler won his election in 1932 his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews.”

Livingstone, a long time Corbyn ally, was suspended for a year but refused to apologise and repeated his remarks. He was suspended again in April 2017, a suspension which was then extended pending the results of an internal investigation.

Corbyn could have taken action more quickly, in both instances. And when he did it was too little, too late.

Labour conducted an investigation into anti-Semitism in the party, and a two month-long inquiry led by Shami Chakrabati found “no evidence” of systemic anti-semitism in Labour.

The report was widely condemned but that didn’t get in the way of a peerage for the author – recommended by Jeremy Corbyn.

On Monday Corbyn admitted, in direct contradiction to the Chakrabarti Inquiry he praised last year, that Labour too often dismisses anti-Semitism as a case of a couple of rotten apples.

He conceded that Labour has failed to address anti-Semitism, albeit in the face of an unprecedented open letter and demonstration against his leadership outside parliament by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council.

Labour MPs attended and spoke at the rally.

There’s a cycle now when Labour undergoes an anti-Semitism scandal. Controversial figure from the left of the party (such as Ken Livingtone) says something a bit off-colour, possibly including a crude Hitler metaphor, reasonable people are rightly outraged, moderate Labour MPs and the press look for their leader to condemn it and then, there’s a silence. Eventually, Corbyn offers up a statement of regret, promising an investigation and “reassuring voters that bigotry of any kind has no place in the Labour party.”

Jewish voters don’t buy it.

For a “man of principle” like Jeremy Corbyn, confronting the issue of anti-Semitism within his party demands serious examination of his own views, and those of the movement he’s inspired.

To many British Jews, myself included, the latest Corbyn incident isn’t just about a nakedly racist mural. It’s about the repeated and systemic lack of solid commitment to dealing with Labour’s Jewish problem. It’s about the fact that Corbyn didn’t immediately expel Ken Livingstone for his remarks about Hitler and Zionism. It’s about the fact that over the years of being a wilderness backbencher he was willing to allow Jew-hating callers on his Press TV show and allow himself to mingle with them on Facebook.

These charges of anti-Semitism, don’t mean anything to Corbyn’s supporters. Hunkered down with an aggressively defensive Millwall-esque mentality, the twitter Corbynistas see this as another attack by Tories/Blairites to defame their Supreme Leader.

They don’t give it any more thought than the bullshit claims that he was a Czech informer or a Soviet sympathiser. But this blindness to the ugly reality allows genuine bigotry and anti-Semitism to flourish.

Now for the first time in decades Jewish voters, who have never known anything other than Labour, and Jewish MPs, who believe they can no longer rely on their leader to tackle anti-Semitic abuse, are saying enough is enough.