This kind of racism has not happened in any major party since the 1980s. Discuss.

by Rob Marchant

Let us ask ourselves a simple question. When is the last time a major political party was seriously accused of endemic racism?

That is, racism with a link to a segment of the party’s politics; not of a couple of isolated individuals, but of a group of activists in the rank and file, including numerous elected representatives who clearly showed (written) evidence of racist attitudes?

And accused not by a hostile newspaper, or an opposing party, but by a moderate and respected political organisation representing that minority?

Or such that that same minority’s house newspaper would have actually introduced a logo linking all the stories on Labour and racism against that community, there having been so many recently?

All these are things which have come to light in the last few weeks. About Jews.

In Labour, the party of the anti-racists.

It’s difficult to think of when racism was last acceptable in politics but we probably have to go back to the 1980s, at least. In the 1980s, Labour was determinedly anti-racist. The Conservative party, as blogger Adam Bienkov points out, still had close links to the rather unpleasant Monday Club, but was nevertheless largely retreating from the bad old days of Enoch Powell and, as the entrenched party of government throughout the decade, could neither really afford to alienate big sections of the population.

By the late 1990s, though, the Tories were largely free from overt racism (although a significant portion of its membership continued to be homophobic, as evidenced by the persistence of its Section 28 anti-gay legislation). But it was not acceptable to be racist in either party, if it ever had been, and Labour naturally continued to fully endorse a multi-cultural Britain.

Since then, the Tories have taken some pains to encourage ethnic minorities among its members and MPs, although sheer economic demographics means that they are unlikely to catch Labour up for a long time. But racism is not a word we can easily pin on the Tories any more, despite the best efforts of some of our remaining class warriors to do so. And we have lived in recent years in a world of mainstream politics which, however much it may still be found on Britain’s streets, is mercifully light on racism.

Until now.

But suddenly, it seems there is a modest supply of members on the fringes of the Labour Party who are prepared to endorse a very specific form of racism. No other form is tolerated, just anti-Semitism alone (some examples from Tom Harris here).

And it is important to note this, because its doublethink-justification is a political one: these people kid themselves that it is not racism, but merely criticism of Israel. Zionists, not Jews, you understand.

But the slide is evident from reasonable criticism of Israel – something which pretty much everyone in Labour would sign up to – to hatred of Israel, which they would not. And hatred of Israel is a small step, sadly, from hatred of Jews, the world’s oldest form of racism.

On this insidious subject, the direction of travel is clear: down. But the most terrifying thing is of all that the party’s leadership is stuck: it has shown itself clearly incapable of acting in the manner it needs to to stamp it out. That is, exactly how it acted with Militant in the 1980s. Rooting it out.

And it is not because that leadership itself is racist. It is simple maths.

For Corbyn, known for his dislike of confrontation to start with, has a dilemma: within Labour, there is a very high correlation between members of the hard left and those who are strongly anti-Israel. As the more extreme of these people are expelled, Corbyn is not only expelling some of his own most vocal supporters, but could also cause serious ripples amongst other supporters who might see this as unfair scapegoating, and leave.

Corbyn will not act against the racists because there is too much overlap with the Militant of the 2010s, the Momentum/BDS/PSC crowd. He will not act against the new Militant, so similar in its organisational methods, as Kinnock acted against the old, because they are part of his supporter group. Organisations close to his heart, such as Stop the War, have egged them on.

Furthermore, the anti-Israel cause is very important to Corbyn – ironically, as it is one which has scarcely no resonance among voters – and this critical mass of support could, he knows, help him change party policy and move it mainstream.

The reality is that he is trapped: he cannot risk starting a war with the returning hard left, no matter how ugly a few of them might turn out to be. That would be the end of him and his ideas to change Labour.

But the damage that it will cause to the party in the meantime will be severe. With every new press story revealing evidence of anti-Semitism, Labour will die a little.

That said, there is another reading to be had: it could be that the reaction of the party mainstream to this damage will ultimately do for Corbyn himself. And that is because parties and politicians tend to react when they perceive an existential threat.

This is clearly one.

Rob Marchant is an activist and former Labour party manager who blogs at The Centre Left

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32 Responses to “This kind of racism has not happened in any major party since the 1980s. Discuss.”

  1. James Martin says:

    Rob Marchant bases his whole article on the allegations against the Labour Party and our leadership by Jonathan Arkush, head of the Board of Deputies, and helpfully provides the link to Arkush’s recent statement.

    However, if you are going to use Arkush as a litmus test of whether the Labour Party does have a problem with anti-Semitism you must also have an understanding of his motives, something that if Marchant has he doesn’t want to share with us. But the political motivations of Arkush are very much central to his attacks on the Labour Party. Take this from the Jewish News last year – – where Arkush opposed the Labour Party, the only major political UK party that was led at that time by a Jew, because “…we have a PM [Cameron] and Government who gets it on Israel. Whether or not you are a Conservative supporter, isn’t the [Jewish] communal interest best served by them getting re-elected?”. Ed’s ‘crime’ in the eyes of Arkush had been to have some mild criticisms of Israel and to have made public statements in support of Palestinian nationhood.

    And this is the heart of the problem here. Should anti-Semitism and other forms of racism and discrimination (including Islamophobia) be actively opposed? Absolutely. However, what we cannot allow to happen is to link any support for Palestinian rights and occupation of Palestinian land by Israel to anti-Semitism as those like Netanyahu in Israel and Arkush in the UK so obviously wish to happen. Nor can we allow statements from Arkush to go unchallenged – the actual examples of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, now an organisation of around 400,000 individual members, have been very few indeed (and one of the recent examples in the media is from two years ago when Ed was leader) and we cannot allow our political enemies to claim otherwise. And don’t forget, when Arkush was urging British Jews to vote Tory it was at the time that Aidan Burley was still an MP and who had been secretly filmed in France at a Nazi-themed stag party where chants were made in support of various Nazi figures of the Holocaust. That Arkush ignored genuine anti-Semitism like that because the Tories were less critical than Labour of Israel says it all about his real motivations.

  2. How can we have a smear campaign of accusing the recently elected party leadership of antisemitism without Rob joining in. It comes from a tradition far older than New Labour spin. It dates far back into the likes of the Zinoviev letter and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

  3. Ros Dunn says:

    I think it is quite easy to distinguish between unacceptable and racist anti semitism, of which I have no doubt there are some examples, and genuine and (I would argue) legitimate concerns about the plight of the Palestinian people and the degree to which their appalling living conditions are a direct result of policies adopted and actions taken by the government of Israel. When people criticise Robert Mugabe for having brought Zimbabwe to its knees on the basis of clear evidence, including of his party’s brutal suppression of their rivals, they don’t automatically get accused of racism against all black people. Act against genuine racism whenever you see it; but not against legitimate concern expressed about the often internationally illegal actions of the government of Israel.

  4. john P Reid says:

    don’t know the anti white racism of the labour parties Bernie grant, Martha Osamor and Dolly Kiffin in the 80’s is just the same as the anti white racism of Kate Osamor and Diane Abbott now

  5. Colin Tom says:

    Those who say that there is little or no anti-Semitism in the left and the Labour Party, and that this is all just some smear are being dishonest. What they and Corbyn really mean is: there is but they are willing to turn a blind eye to it. Ultimately they just don’t care.

    The current leader of the Labour Party may not be personally anti-Semitic but it is undeniable that he has spent a large part of his recent political career in campaigns that have harboured anti-Semitism.

    There is a world of difference between legitimate criticism of the policies of the Israeli government and the ranting, frothing tirades against the “international Zionist conspiracy”, the chants of “Zionazi”, the comparisons of Gaza with the Warsaw Ghetto, a comparison made by “the Islington Friends of Yibna” (Patron J. Corbyn) a few years ago.

    Corbyn is plainly indifferent to all this. When confronted by evidence such as attending events staged by the Remember Deir Yassin project, led by the open anti-semite Paul Eisen, Corbyn flustered and waffled, cited his mother’s presence at Cable Street (FFS) and condemned “all forms of racism”.

    Have a look at Corbyn on Press TV in dialogue with Yvonne Ridley and ask yourself: is this man really suitable to leader of the party, let alone PM?

  6. Tafia says:

    what we cannot allow to happen is to link any support for Palestinian rights and occupation of Palestinian land by Israel to anti-Semitism as those like Netanyahu in Israel and Arkush in the UK so obviously wish to happen.

    Is the correct answer.

    Until Israel withdraws back to it’s pre-1966 borders AND starts obeying the UN resolutions then most people couldn’t give a toss if it fell off a cliff into the sea. It’s a renegarde pariah state and needs treating as such – and that is not anti-semitic.

    Apart from which Palestinians are also semites – which makes Israel anti-semitic..

  7. Mike Homfray says:

    But the allegations are not many in number and most of them gained via organised trawls. Hardly some sort of epidemic

    There are some who think that we should not be allowed to criticise the government of Israel or the occupation of Palestinian territory by Israel. There are others who think it must be compulsory to support the Zionist vision of the state of Israel. They class those who do not support Israel as anti-semitic.
    They are wrong.

  8. Richard T says:

    “most people couldn’t give a toss if it fell off a cliff into the sea.”

    You’ve checked with ‘most people’ then?

    Quite a lot of the people I know would regret the loss of the only functioning democracy in the region.

    Still, no law against fantasising about throwing Jews off cliffs, I suppose.

  9. TrT says:

    And of course its nothing to do with Islam….

  10. Dave Roberts says:

    It happens every day on It’s anti white and paid for by The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust.

  11. Tafia says:

    Virtually everyone I know, including a lot of Jews in Manchester (including my uncle) are not the slightest arsed about Israel.

    Still, no law against fantasising about throwing Jews off cliffs, I suppose.

    You are the sort of clown that cannot separate zionism, anti-semitism, Israel and judaism.

    Not all Israelis are jews. Most jews are not Israeli.

    Not all Israelis are semites. Most jews are not semites. Most semites are not jews.

    Not all zionists are israeli, not all jews are zionists – most aren’t.

    Being anti-zionist and/or anti-israel does not make you anti-semitic.

    And we’ll not even go into the open racism displayed against black jews by Israel, nor the open sexism used against passengers by El Al in ordder to placate the demands of ultra-orthodox male jews.

  12. Dave Roberts says:

    Strange this Tafia. I grew up un the fifties and sixties in Wapping and Shadwell in East London right next to Whitechapel which was then still very Jewish and the biggest Jewish community at one time out side of Easter Europe. They were all total supporters of Israel and I can remember June 1967 clearly with meetings in support of Israel and collections of money.

    I still do business with Jews in the property business and there is no lack of support for Israel. They feel more beleaguered now than ever.

  13. Peter Kenny says:

    Of course there is anti-semitism in Labour, as in every other major party, because it’s an aspect of our society. Endemic? No, that’s just an anti Corbyn smear.

    The attempt to link pro Palestinian activism with anti- semitism is also a long standing smear.

    So expel people who are guilty of anti Semitic activity/ statements – that’ll be a handful and no problem for me, a Momentum supporter.

    However, let’s be clear that we know what you’re about!

  14. Richard T says:

    “Virtually everyone I know, including a lot of Jews in Manchester (including my uncle) are not the slightest arsed about Israel.”


    They’re quite sanguine about the prospect of all those Jews – sorry, Israelis – going over that cliff?

    I suspect you may not be talking to a representative sample.

  15. Dave Roberts says:

    Peter Kenny. When you say ” We Know what you are about” Who are you and what do you know? It sounds quite threatening to me.

  16. Tafia says:

    The attempt to link pro Palestinian activism with anti- semitism is also a long standing smear.

    It’s actually a zionist smear. It’s also zionism that deliberately perverted the menaing of anti-semitism to exclusively mean anti-jew.

    It’s not anti-jewish to be anti-Israel – they are entirely different things. Indeed deeply religious jews regard the state of Israel as an abomination as they believe only God can give them Israel and the current state is man-made and even in Israel itself deeply religious jews will not serve in the IDF and 300,000 of them openly oppose the state of Israel (which in a country with a population of 8M is a sizeable minority). And I can line up plenty of jews in Manchester (including in some of the Manchester CLPs) who do not identify with Israel at all, consider themselves British and only British and think Israels attitude to Gaza is disgusting and regularly attend pro-Palestine events and rallies. And indeed, why should a British jew be that arsed about Israel – it’s a foreign country and younger jews in particular just don’t identify with Israel. I was reading in the Times a few months ago that similar is happening in the US where youn American jews no longer identify with Israel seeing themselves as just Americans who happen to be jewish and Israel as a foreign country that they can’t even point to on a map.

  17. Peter Kenny says:

    Hi Dave Roberts – I think it’s perfectly clear what I mean by “we know what you’re about” – the article is a deliberate smearing of Jeremy Corbyn. For example, the word ‘endemic’ – look it up and it would suggest that the Labour Party is basically fascist!

    Similarly the idea that these smears are an ‘existential’ threat to the Labour Party is ridiculous – the last part reveals the motive!

    I’m saying “we’ve noticed what you are doing”. Is that OK?

    No threat is intended, obviously people who smear don’t like it to be called that but there you go!

    Oh, by the way if my next LP meeting does turn out to resemble a Nazi reunion (endemic, after all) I will apologise and be leaving the Party at speed!

  18. Tafia says:

    I rest my case. It is a renegade middle eastern state that couldn’t give a feck what the UN thinks. It should be placed under strict UN sanction until it’s children start to die, an enforced no fly zone and then bombed by western countries air forces.

    Fairs fair after all.

  19. Dave Roberts says:

    There will always be self hating Jews just as there are self hating whites who never stop apologising for slavery and colonialism. They are sad people and must be pitied. On the subject of the Protocols of The Elders of Zion it is on the required reading list of the education systems of most Arab countries and is published by Hamas and Hezbollah.

  20. Richard T says:

    Richard Thomas

  21. Richard T says:

    “It should be placed under strict UN sanction until it’s children start to die”

    You want to calm down a bit, chum.

  22. Tafia says:

    You want to calm down a bit, chum.

    It’s what was done to Iraq with the full support of both a Labour government and two Labour Oppositions. So it’s a perfectly legitimate position to take and one which Labour supported fully at Parliamentary and UN level.

  23. Dave Roberts says:

    Tafia. To say you have lost the plot now begs the question what was the plot in the first place. Your comments are now disgusting.

  24. Tafia says:

    Tafia. To say you have lost the plot now begs the question what was the plot in the first place. Your comments are now disgusting.

    Dave Roberts. What I said is only what we did to Iraq between GW1 and GW2 for exactly the same reasons – ignoring UN resolutions. Those resolutions caused the deaths of thousands of Iraqi infants due to witholding of vital medicines and medical supplies. Not tp mention the bombing.

    Which means you also regard Blair and his supporters (parliamentary and party) as disgusting or you are a hypocrrit. It’s a straight forward black and white position so which is it.

    Unless of course you think Israelis are worth more than Iraqis. In which case you would be racist.

    I have absolutely no problems with sanctioning countries that ignore UN resolutions and also bombing them – and being as the Labour Party doesn’t then you shouldn’t either. But it has to be applied equally across the board without favour.

    The fact you seem to think that Osrael should be somehow exempt what has been done to Serbia, Iraq, Libya and Syria speaks volumes about you total lack of morals. Whats sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

  25. For an anti-Semite like Tafia to profess to know what Jews are thinking really takes some chutzpah!.
    I’m a Jew and can tell him on good authority that he’s talking a load of Bollox!
    I’m nearly 80 years old, and I’ve experienced anti Semitism throughout, both overt and covert.
    I know an anti-Semite when I see one, hear one or smell one, and I can smell Tafia from here!
    But he hasn’t the guts to say so, like a lot of contributors on here. he dresses it up in semantics to cover his shame!
    Half my family were killed by Nazis, not because they were unpatriotic or were lobbing bombs and rockets into Germany, or blowing up buses, but because they were Jews. I don’t need Tafia and his ilk to tell me what I’m thinking.

    Israel would still be in its 1948 borders if the Arabs, with the connivance of the British, hadn’t attacked it on the first day of its existence.
    Every time the Arabs have attacked Israel, they’ve lost more land. Israel, foolishly in my view gave some of it back.
    Israel is a vital bolt hole for all Jews, if ever we are faced again by the ultimate result of the policies of unsavoury racists like Tafia.

  26. Karen H says:

    Tafia, is this your way of saying ‘I am an anti-Semite but it’s okay because my best friend is Jewish’….

  27. Tafia says:

    Michael Weinberg For an anti-Semite like Tafia to profess to know what Jews are thinking really takes some chutzpah!.

    Karen H “Tafia, is this your way of saying ‘I am an anti-Semite”

    There is nothing anti-semitic in what I have written. You are the usual pointless garbage that tries to say being anti-Israel is anti-semite – when in fact that position is total rubbish. You are the same type of people that scream ‘racist’ when anyone criticises immigration.

    You will tow a consistant line or cease to be relevant – if bombing Serbia, Iraq, Libya etc etc for not obeying UN resolutions is acceptable, then it’s acceptable to be done to Israel – after all, all it has to do is obey UN resolutions. If smacking countries like that with crippling sanctions for breaching UN resolutions is just, then it’s just it is applied to Israel.

    And if you think what Israel did to Gaza (and is still doing) is in anyway equal to what was being done to them then you are a cretin.

    Incidentally, I body-guarded the late Leon Greenman on a couple of occasions. Free of charge. And I bet most of you haven’t got the balls to go physically toe-to-toe with the BNP. the NF and C18.

    Michael – with the connivance of the British That speaks volumes about you.

    Just remember – the Haganah (along with Irgun and Lehi) were middle eastern terrorists who murdered British police officers and murdered British soldiers. Scum just like the IRA, the PLO and ISIS.

  28. Frank Monroe says:

    The Ancient Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Romans, Medieval Europeans, etc., all had problems with the Jews. It didn’t start with Labour. In fact if one looks back at the many notable people who have been branded antisemitic, one could conclude that it is an indication of intelligence and courage. The problem is and will remain with the Jews: their selfishness, their expectation to be treated differently to all others, and their ability to deceive and convert the weak of mind and recruit the mercenary; all these characteristics need to be confronted openly and honestly before antisemitism will disappear.

  29. Mr Akira Origami says:

    Is insulting a Khazar racist?

    “The tribes that were to comprise the Khazar empire were not an ethnic union, but a congeries of steppe nomads and peoples who came to be subordinated, and subscribed to a core Türkic leadership.”

  30. Peter Kenny says:

    Mr Munroe, I believe you are a Nazi – “many notable people” – who in heaven’s name could you be talking about?

    The Ancient Egyptians, the Romans etc – OMG, as my son would say!

    Zionism was one political response to anti-semitism. Before the holocaust it was a minority position. Now it’s the dominant Jewish political current, why wouldn’t many people want to get out of a continent where there has been a serious attempt to wipe them out?

    However the homeland was got at the price of the Palestinians exile and occupation. There was the holocaust and there was the Nakba. Where to now?

    People who are dispossessed fight back, people who are attacked tend to attack. The logic of some currents of Zionism is to chuck all of the Palestinians out of the West Bank and Gaza in order to secure the homeland. This is the politics of utter despair.

    To be Jewish and not be Zionist is not “self hating” – this is just trying to pathologise people who see it differently. Similarly I would not wish repressive sanctions on any population – leaders, political elites, yes, but not ordinary people.

    I guess where I stand is the belief that the answer to one people’s oppression should not be another’s, although human history shows it commonly is.

    Again, Mr Munroe, thank you for showing us what A grade anti semitism looks like, it’s a useful benchmark!

  31. Ikey-Mo says:

    There are two related but distinct factors at play here. The main factor is the fight within the Labour Party: the right-wingers in the party are very narked that a left-winger, Jeremy Corbyn, has been elected as leader and that the left is growing within the party. They wish to remove the new leader and defeat the left and are not at all choosy as to the methods used. And their main method is accusing him and the whole Labour left of anti-Semitism. As the Labour right’s aims are shared by the Tories, the Lib-Dems and the majority of newspapers, they have all jumped on this bandwagon.

    The second, and secondary, factor is the Zionist lobby in Britain. It wants at all costs to discredit those — Jews and Goys alike — who reject Zionism and are critical of the conduct of the state of Israel, and does so by claiming that rejecting Zionism and criticising the state of Israel is by definition being anti-Jewish. They deliberately conflate the critique of a political philosophy and of a state with a prejudice against a national/religious group.

    As it is largely on the left that criticisms of Zionism and Israel are to be found, it is obvious that there is a community of interests between the Labour right and the Zionist lobby in discrediting the left by accusing it of ‘anti-Semitism’. The anti-Corbyn brigade are being fed information by the Zionist lobby, often via right-wing muckrakers such as the ‘Order Order’ website.

    It is true that the Labour right-wingers are predominantly pro-Zionist. This is mainly because they are neo-cons or at least Atlanticists, and Israel plays a key role in US foreign policy, which they support. Nevertheless, the driving factor in their anti-Corbyn campaign is not Zionism as such, but a much broader push to get him out and to defeat the left. It’s just that the question of Zionism is the convenient weapon of choice. And of course, the Labour left is not helped by a few crass and ignorant statements on the subject by some of its figures.

    It is possible that the hoo-ha about ‘anti-Semitism’ in the Labour Party might backfire. We all know of Orwell’s phrase that he who controls the past controls the future, but suspending a left-wing party member for a brief Facebook comment about her African and Jewish ancestors of several centuries back could well mark a turning point.

    But there’s another way it could backfire, and this is the one that I fear: a revival of real anti-Semitism. Let us close with the words of Moshé Machover, an Israeli dissident and longstanding critic of Zionism:

    ‘… the Israeli propaganda machine cynically uses the accusation of ‘anti-Semitism’ to deflect and denigrate the growing criticism against its actions. I should point out that, paradoxically, this mendacious propaganda itself has an anti-Semitic implication. By conflating Israel with the totality of Jews and claiming that hostility to Israel is hostility to that totality, this propaganda implies that Israel is acting in the name and on behalf of all Jews. But from this false proposition it would follow that all Jews are somehow complicit in the atrocities committed by Israel, that all Jews are to blame for what Israel is doing to the Palestinian Arabs. So anyone who hates what Israel is doing, but is stupid or naive enough to take seriously that claim of Israeli propaganda, may develop negative feelings against all Jews.’

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