AntiSemitismWatch is perhaps uniquely placed to offer the UK Labour Party and its leader Jeremy Corbyn a considered solution to the anti-Semitic crisis currently engulfing them.
We were the first to identify the clear source of the problem in our article entitled, ‘The inconvenient truth for the left and why Labour is in such a mess‘.
In the simplest terms, the political left-wing forms the ‘natural home’ of the ideology that views with hatred everything associated with and related to Israel. In essence, it is anti-Zionist sentiment that is driving the current wave, insurgency if you will, of anti-Semitism.
These views that have come so much to the fore within Labour were sparked by left-winger Corbyn’s party leadership victory, which brought with it an influx of new members with these ‘out-dated and prejudiced’ views.
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is the living embodiment of this problem. There is now overwhelming evidence that BDS is home to vile anti-Semitic rhetoric, debate and policy. BDS, and its acolytes such as Israeli Apartheid Week, drives this, in part, through its lack of respect for the dignity of the individual and for the rights of others to hold and express different intellectual positions.
The article prophetically concluded that BDS movement is systemically anti-Semitic and that the political left was in danger of becoming similarly so, and so was the Labour Party!
AntiSemitismWatch just the evening before the Ken Livingstone furor erupted also predicted troubled times ahead for the relationship between the former London Mayor and Corbyn.
Corbyn’s response to the overall issue has been three-fold:
- Make repeated statements that there is no room in the party for any racist or anti-Semite
- Claim that there is no crisis in the party over anti-Semitism
- and, most recently, announce an independent inquiry into anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.
The first point has, indeed, seen some action follow with various party members, officials and MPs, including Livingstone and Naz Shah, suspended. However, it is this very same evidence that leads AntiSemitismWatch to conclude that this response is doomed to failure.
With each new accusation there have been issues of indecision, prevarication or lack of leadership shown.
- Gerry Downing, accused of ‘anti-Semitism’ and being ‘obsessed with Jews’, kicked out, readmitted on appeal and then kicked out again.
- Vicki Kirby, probed by the party in 2014 after a series of posts on Twitter in which she apparently suggested Adolf Hitler might be a “Zionist God” and Jews had “big noses”, subsequently reinstated with a warning, appointed vice-chairman of Labour’s Woking branch, and then suspended again.
- Naz Shah, who following the Facebook revelations was not suspended for 32 hours until Corbyn succumbed to the pressure exerted by the media, the Prime Minister, Jewish commentators and some within his own party.
- The Oxford University Labour Club mess which triggered the recent crisis has still not been resolved despite the launch of an inquiry into the matter.
- Even the suspension of Ken Livingstone was weakly handled by Corbyn. Virtually all party communication on the subject was dealt with by Labour ‘spokespeople’. We also had the spectacle of John Mann being seen be many as the hero of the hour in his facing down and castigation of Livingstone. While not perhaps expecting precisely the same from the leader of the official government opposition something of the spirit displayed by Mann has been entirely lacking in Corbyn.
There are other Labour members in addition to John Mann worthy of mention for their mettle shown in fighting anti-Semitism in the party, including Wes Streeting and Luciana Berger who has herself been subjected to vicious anti-Semitic abuse.
Yet, these example are not set to be the sum total of what Labour will have to contend with. It is inevitable that the injurious damage will continue through further revelations. As such, they will persist in making mockery of the claim of a party with zero tolerance against anti-Semitism.
That brings us to the announcement of an independent inquiry to be led by Shami Chakrabarti, the former head of the rights group Liberty, who will be tasked with opening a dialogue with the Jewish community and will report back to Labour headquarters within two months on how the party can best tackle antisemitism and other forms of discrimination.
It is entirely inconceivable that this inquiry will deliver the necessary radical and truthful thinking and proposed action to deliver the step-change necessary for the Labour Party to emerge from this crisis with a realistic prospect of regaining its credibility.
Instead, it will likely focus on tightening party processes for dealing with potential transgressors of Labour rules on racism and anti-Semitism etc. It will also undoubtedly conclude that there exists a real desire within the party leadership to tackle the issues but, AntiSemitismWatch predicts, it will entirely fail to offer up the necessary action plan to tackle the causes.
So AntiSemitismWatch offers up to Corbyn, Labour and Chakrabarti our own radical five point plan:
- As with any plan for recovery, first admit there is a problem. Labour’s Chuka Umunna has alluded to it, but still shied away from admitting the full extent, when he said: “I think there is a problem with anti-Semitism on the fringes of the left, there is no doubt about that; it would be completely disingenuous to deny that.”
- The message must come from Corbyn himself. No longer is it viable or acceptable for him to stand behind others speaking on his behalf.
- The admission must acknowledge that, like all parts of the political spectrum, Labour will contain individuals who hold plain, old-fashioned anti-Semitic attitudes. Labour is not immune to this just because of their long association with human rights but neither is it unique to them.
- The more radical aspect to the admission is to accept that while criticism of any foreign state, including Israel, is legitimate, the rhetoric on this one lone country has, all too often, been used as a disguise for attacking the Jewish people more widely.
- The issue of anti-Zionism would also need to be addressed as part of the admission, acknowledging that the right of self-determination is an unalienable right. That anything that calls for the destruction, removal, transportation or dismantlement of a democratic state and its people is in itself anti-Semitic. This provides for Corbyn and Labour to reassert a commitment to achieving a peaceful two-state solution.
Only such explicit clarity offered by our five point plan will take Labour towards a path out of the mire. It provides the only clarity necessary for Labour to then be able to hold true on its zero tolerance pledge.
Danny Cohen, the former head of the BBC, recently suggested of Labour, ‘If you are Jewish how can you vote for them?“. The relationship between Corbyn’s party and the Jewish community hangs by a thread. There remains limited time and opportunity for repair, our five point plan is an offer that should not be rejected.