A version of this letter was first posted on the Jewish Labour Movement opinion section, and can be read here
To see a Member of Parliament and a member of the Party’s ruling National Executive Committee suspended for making antisemitic comments and denying the offensive nature of comparing Hitler and the Nazis to the Zionist movement, has been extremely upsetting for us and many other Jewish members. The idea that accusations of antisemitism is merely a tool to smear the current leadership is quite simply wrong, and in our view, alienating to Jewish members and voters. Antisemitism exists within the Labour Party and must be taken seriously, instead of being dismissed and brushed aside.
But unfortunately, for many of us, this week has been nothing new. We know the difference between antisemitism and anti-Zionism, and right now both exist in abundance. The past few months have seen many of us having to contend with cases of antisemitism in university Labour Clubs, national youth elections and in the National Union of Students. Sadly, we are not surprised by these cases. For years, despite being party members from across the spectrum and with a range of views on domestic matters and on Israel/Palestine, we have all had experiences of being defined solely by our Jewish identity with our views ignored, and faced the use of loose antisemitic language such as ‘zio’ and ‘Zionist lobby’. At the same time, synagogues, Jewish schools and communal buildings all have high security due to the very real threat of violent antisemitic attacks. Antisemitism is not a theoretical problem, it is something we face in our daily lives. We do not want the Labour Party to become one more safe-haven for it.
Much has been written about the need for Jewish people to be able to define what is and isn’t antisemitism. This is hugely important if the Labour Party is to deal with this current crisis of antisemitism but when this current situation is over, we urge all Labour members to treat us like any other member with no prior assumptions and listen to our views as you would from anyone else, whether on domestic policy, on antisemitism or on Israel and Zionism.
Signed by Youth and Student members of the Jewish Labour Movement: