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Anti-Semitism in the British Labour Party


The left-wing ideologue Jeremy Corbyn won the leadership of the British Labour Party last year, and it’s been downhill ever since for the vast majority of the country’s Jews, who are increasingly denounced as “Zionists” because they don’t want to see Israel destroyed.

Whether Corbyn intends it or not, he has created a climate whereby people feel free to voice absolutely egregious opinions, in language that increasingly crosses the line into old-style anti-Semitism.

This is more than a bit ironic, given that the previous party leader Ed Miliband, who lost the 2015 election to the Conservatives, was Jewish. And Labour, for that matter, was the political home for a majority of British Jews for many decades.

As late as 1997, 70 per cent of the British Jewish community voted for the Labour Party. Today it is less than 25 per cent.

Jonathan Arkush, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, remarked that under Corbyn “most people in the Jewish community can’t trust Labour. In the last few weeks we have witnessed a stream of clear-cut cases of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, which can’t just be fobbed off as differences over Israel.”

Michael Foster, who ran as a Labour candidate in the 2015 general election, recently denounced Corbyn maintaining that “the Jewish community cannot support a political party that, at its top levels, appears by its inaction to tolerate anti-Semitic speech and behaviour.”

Such people, added Foster, “blend Israel and Zionism into the supposed demagoguery of the classic Jew, an all-controlling malevolent demon, and a rich one, intent on committing incremental genocide against the Palestinian people.”

Yet Corbyn “makes no attempt at all to put at ease a Jewish community in Britain that for more than 100 years has supported Labour spiritually, politically and financially.” This has given a green light to his supporters to denounce Israel and those who defend it.

A Labour councillor in Luton, Aysegul Gurbuz, has been suspended after a series of anti-Semitic tweets were found on her Twitter account in early April. She described Hitler as the “greatest man in history” and hoped Iran would use a nuclear weapon to “wipe Israel off the map.” Other tweets expressed “disgust” that “Jews are so powerful.”

Mohammed Dawood, another Labour councillor, in the east Midlands city of Leicester, recently described Israelis as “colonizers” and stated that Israeli troops are “Zionist terrorists.”

However, two other party activists were recently readmitted following their suspension for anti-Semitism.

Gerry Downing had posted a tweet in 2014 that claimed prominent historian Ian Kershaw had a “Zionist minder.” Downing had been excluded from the party but has now been reinstated as a full member.

The Labour Party had also suspended Vicki Kirby for comments on social media in 2014. One message claimed that “We invented Israel when saving them from Hitler, who now seems to be their teacher.”

But she was subsequently not only readmitted but selected as the vice-chair of the Working Labour Party’s executive committee this past March.

On the other hand, Louise Ellman, a Jewish Labour MP for Liverpool Riverside, has been targeted by activists at meetings of her constituency party.

A small group have attended the sessions specifically to attack her, asking questions only about her position on Israel. One non-Jewish man said that when he defended her, he was threatened and told he was a “Zionist fascist.”

Ellman called on Corbyn to take action. That prompted his brother, Piers Corbyn, to post a tweet claiming that “Zionists can’t cope with anyone supporting rights for Palestine.”

The Labour Party candidate in London’s mayoral race recently said he is “embarrassed” and “sorrowful” about his party’s failure to take on anti-Semitism.

Sadiq Khan told a London Jewish community centre that Corbyn needs to be “trained about what anti-Semitism is.” He noted that this is “not just a problem for the Jewish community, it is a problem for society.”

 

Henry Srebrnik is a professor of political science at the University of Prince Edward Island.

 

 

 

 

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