Labour and anti-Semitism: enough really is enough

by Rob Marchant

What with the Cabinet crisis, the shambolic NATO summit and catastrophic Trump visit, not to mention World Cup, it is easy to pass over some events in the Labour Party which could be accurately described as momentous. And not in a good way.

Last week may have been the week where the Corbyn leadership really crossed the Rubicon on anti-Semitism. Or worse, in fact: it took its already highly-questionable position and doubled down.

Perhaps for the first time, serious, sensible and non-partisan people are describing Labour as “institutionally anti-Semitic”. And it’s not hard to see why.

First, there was the installation of ex-Livingstone adviser as chair of the NEC Disputes Panel, the party’s first political (as opposed to staff) filter of anti-Semitism cases once they have been escalated from the party’s Compliance Unit.
You may remember that the post was vacated by Christine Shawcroft, forced to step down after, you’ve guessed it, a row about anti-Semitism. You might also reasonably have thought that the party might be keen to ensure a replacement with squeaky-clean credentials, in the wake of that, the huge backlog of cases and the previous Chakrabarti Report fiasco. But no.

Enter NEC member Claudia Webbe. Webbe was not only Ken “Hitler” Livingstone’s adviser, back in 2005 she actually defended him on record after the shameful “concentration camp guard” episode, when he racially abused an Evening Standard journalist.

As a result of that episode, you may remember, he was actually suspended from office for four weeks, for bringing the London mayoral office into disrepute (incidentally, with hindsight, it has been a terrible indication of the state of Labour on this issue that it has since taken another thirteen years to remove him from the party).

And not just that, Webbe was also chair of a party conference session that, as Progress’ Richard Angell put it, “allowed anti-Semitic tropes to be uttered unchallenged”. She spoke alongside the deeply unpleasant Jackie Walker, still suspended from the party for (alleged) anti-Semitism, pending a final judgement.

And naturally, like her party leader, she has appeared on PressTV, the English-speaking mouthpiece of the Iranian government. Not an organisation well-known for its love of Jews to start with, but currently also busy constructing conspiracy theories around Labour’s current crisis, naturally painting it as a dastardly Zionist plot.

But even this might have been bearable, were it not for the party’s even-worse gaffe, a couple of days later, in “tweaking” the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism.

The IHRA definition, according to the New Statesman, is used in the UK by “the Crown Prosecution Service, College of Policing, the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly, National Union of Students, and 124 local authorities, including scores of Labour-held councils such as Haringey and Greater Manchester.”

Much of it has been adopted. But four key points were not. The net result is, naturally, a demonstrable weakening of the criteria which might deem a comment or an act anti-Semitic.

Labour defends it as an “improvement” – they even add a few extra points which are not in the IHRA. But it is difficult not to see these as a smokescreen, for two obvious reasons.

One, who on earth are the Labour Party to tell Jews what’s anti-Semitism and what isn’t? And two, what is your motivation for changing a perfectly well-accepted definition in the first place?

The second of these has a clear answer: it is being changed because of the long-held obsession among far-leftists that Jews are using anti-Semitism to stifle legitimate criticism of Israel (even though the IHRA definition itself explicitly makes the opposite point, that it’s fine to criticise Israel, as long as those comments aren’t anti-Semitic).

And the answer to the first is equally worrying: of course Labour is not better-qualified than the Jewish community itself to define what constitutes racism against its members. In fact, this goes directly against a cross-party consensus on this matter in the UK: since the Macpherson Report into the murder of black schoolboy Stephen Lawrence, politicians of all stripes have accepted that the best-placed people to judge what is or is not racism are the victims of that racism.

Labour has now broken with this consensus, over its leadership’s obsession with Israel. It is engaging, if you like, in “Jewsplaining”: explaining to Jews that the party knows much better than they do what is a racist comment.

It is difficult to overstate how damaging this lowering of the bar is, after recent months’ successive incidents involving the party and anti-Semitism. Naturally, it has been condemned by the Jewish Labour Movement, Board of Deputies and so on.
Seven years ago, almost to the day, I wrote about how Labour’s tolerance of extremism would one day do for us. The post featured a then only modestly-known backbencher, Jeremy Corbyn, and his defence of hate preacher Raed Salah.

Today, under his leadership, it is now reduced to rewriting definitions so that the extremists will not look so extreme. It is the Ministry of Truth, 2018.

If that were not bad enough in itself, think about what it says about that leadership and the way in which it operates; although it is neither is it terribly surprising, given the literal Stalin apologists (Milne and Murray) present at the top table.

Corbyn’s changing of the definition of anti-Semitism is like an authoritarian head of state about to fall foul of the law, who, instead of trying to win the argument, simply changes the law. It is, essentially, an act of bad faith and of demagoguery.

No, common decency dictates that Labour cannot soften its definition without cementing the view of the Jewish community about its institutional racism.

UIt goes without saying that Labour MPs, if they truly care about their party, cannot let this happen. They should and must take action. If, that is, the “enough is enough” of March’s demo is to be a genuine call to arms for Labour’s moderates, and not just a convenient slogan.

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


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16 Responses to “Labour and anti-Semitism: enough really is enough”

  1. John P reid says:

    This is rightly a dig at Momentum, but you’ve got to accept they’re staying in the party, Yes labour lost Barnet due to it,and yes Chris Williamson stands on platforms with disgraceful people

    But,all those who’ve left becuase they can’t take criticism of Israel are gone, the ones who’ve quit posts or have been ousted,are gone ,they’re not coming back depaite rh m thinking they were

    Momentum have other issues disliking the white working class making assumptions about brexiters, appeasing Muslim Misognistcs and homophobes,

    What wil be worrying if the new diefiniton goes through if pe Le can use it toget away with it,

    But the shutting down of debate the hard left are doing over,over their lack of accepting there are socially conservative gay and black people in the Labour Party or trans who only accept that a trans could be treeted as the gender they now decide to be post operation

    Is no different to the few remaining Blairites trying to stop Brexit or shutting down the criticism of islraels over use of force that isn’t self defence,

    Personally I have a problem with the McPherson definition of the racist incident has to be treated as one if the ‘victim’ feels it is as under innocent till proven guilty if it’s one person word against another, then the accuser doesn’t become the victim until proven and at that stage the accused becomes the perpetrator, of the accused is the victim, before then then the accused is the perpetrator before then, so thats guilty till proven innocent which leads juries to fee lrhat the accused is guilty not matter what based on unreliable view there’s more victims and that leads t omsiacarriages of Justice
    In fact case point, the exact point Stephen Lawrence was called a victim by law was an inquiry outside the 2 prosecutions that decided he was unlawfully killed in 1997
    As some who’s killed can have been killed by accident by self defence or seen to have committed suicide
    The guardian referred to mark duggan as Police victim,that would imply that the police perpetrated a crime against him when he was killed, where a really a jury decided he wasn’t a victim of police action as it was right what the police did as he was killed in self defence

    But lastly yes if it’s decided the Labour Party is institutionally racist, as years ago,it was said police couldn’t be members of the BNP as that was a racist organisation,maybe it should be against the law for police to be members of the Labour Party

    The ministry of truth was used to make other people say what deifinitons meant, so ‘this is a bit different in this case, if say someone said that the Orthodox Jewish idea of separating men and women in seating was wrong and it was felt it offended those who still support it, it could be argued that there was a case someone could believe it ,it’s just it shouldn’t be used in Labour Party meetings
    And if it was tried then women and men in the party, should feel they had the right to ignore it

    At the same time if it was said that the dictionary definition of a woman should be changed from XY chromozone to what ever one decides t ocallthj selves a woman,
    And it was said that if you disagree you’re upsetting trans feelings so you should be forced to say it or be arrested for a hate crime and kicked out of the party, that would be like the ministry of truth from 1984
    Thankfully this last idea hasn’t been suggested to be law or soon to be Labour Party policy, oh wait it has

  2. greggo says:

    Another tiresome piece of garbage by merchant.
    Repeated lies & smears shows that’s all you’ve got left.
    No political arguments no nothing .
    NL is finished, be better Rob if you just f*cked off and started your own party, for like-minded wishy washy progressive bullshitters.

  3. Henrik says:

    Rob,

    Two things: first of all, the extreme Left (and even its slightly softer cousin in the far Left) actively hates Jews. Nothing to do with Israel, incidentally, there’s some sort of Stockholm Syndrome thing going on with extreme Islam (“hey, they hate the West, they must be allies of ours, right?) as well as all the historical legacy – the Doctors’ Plot and so on. That’s not going to change any time soon, especially as the Jewish community is largely seen as being capitalist and middle-class.

    The second thing is rather more cynical; abandoning the Jewish vote is entirely sensible if broadcasting anti-Semitism builds and maintains Labour’s primacy in, um, faith and ethnic communities which explicitly hate Jews. These both massively outnumber the Jewish community and also tend to exercise their franchise in a structured and guided fashion.

  4. E says:

    Good article though sadly preaching to the converted as the majority of Labour Party members will continue to blindly follow the great leader and will continue to see accusations of antisemitism as part of the mythical right wing plot against JC rather than as a genuine cause for concern. As for the moderate MPs, as ever they’ll sound outraged and some will very vocally protest though in the end party loyalty will mean that nobody will resign and once the fuss dies down it’ll be business as usual. The party will continue to tolerate antisemitism in the ranks, the hard left will continue to push policy further to the left and the moderates will appease them. Tragic but true.

  5. Vern says:

    Rob, I think you are preaching to the converted but what I will add is that under Corbyn and McDonell Labour has somehow managed to find the worst examples of humankind and put them in positions of authority.

    They are the opposite of kinder and fairer politics that were promised and promote hatred of anyone with an alternate opinion.

    Politics has become increasingly divisive and hate fuelled and can be traced back to Corbyn’s taking over of the party and the angry sixth formers that are Momentum.

  6. Vern says:

    Rob, I think you are preaching to the converted but what I will add is that under Corbyn and McDonell Labour has somehow managed to find the worst examples of humankind and put them in positions of authority.

    They are the opposite of kinder and fairer politics that were promised and promote hatred of anyone with an alternate opinion.

    Politics has become increasingly divisive and hate fuelled and can be traced back to Corbyn’s taking over of the party and those angry sixth formers that call theirselves Momentum.

  7. John P Reid says:

    A couple of weeks ago I pointed out for all the times Jeremy voted against the whip history proved him wrong, shoot to kill, the Anglo Irish agreement, not banning Al Queda, ETC, one time he was thereatened with the whip being withdrawn was when he wanted a referndum in 2008 for the Lisbon treaty, which some back bench labour MPs proposed and labour said no,with the whip, Despite it being in labours 2005 manifesto

    I now note the ackrbynite momentum bloggers like Owen Jones have re tweeted that Kate hoey and frank field should be deselected ,yesterday for voting with the Tories ,to leave the acustoms union

    Ironic that the Corbynites who were upset a few years ago,when there was talk of withdrawing the whip from Jez, are calling for Kate hoey to be deselected for voting to leave the CU

    When it was in labours manifesto last year

  8. Max Jalil says:

    “appeasing Muslim Misognistcs and homophobes” – so who rely is racist here?

  9. Ultraviolet says:

    “Who on earth are the Labour Party to tell Jews what’s anti-Semitism and what isn’t?”

    Does it make any difference to your answer to that question to know that in making the changes they have, Labour are reflecting the views of the author of the definition in his evidence to Congress in the US?

    https://judiciary.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Stern-Testimony-11.07.17.pdf

    You will see that he explains how the parts Labour has removed are used to stifle legitimate academic and political discussion, and urges Congress NOT to use them.

    Or do you now think the author of the definition of anti-Semitism is anti-Semitic?

  10. Richard MacKinnon says:

    “The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, which is increasingly being adopted or considered by western governments, is worded in such a way as to be easily adopted or considered by western governments to intentionally equate legitimate criticisms of Israel and advocacy for Palestinian rights with antisemitism, as a means to suppress the former.
    This conflation undermines both the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality and the global struggle against antisemitism. It also serves to shield Israel from being held accountable to universal standards of human rights and international law.”

    This is an extract from a recent article published on the website Jewish Voice for Labour’ (https://www.jewishvoiceforlabour.org.uk/blog/global-jewish-statement-on-defining-antisemitism/) and signed by,

    Academia4equality (Israel)
    Boycott from Within (Israeli citizens for BDS)
    Coalition of Women for Peace (Israel)
    Collectif Judéo Arabe et Citoyen pour la Palestine (Strasbourg, France)
    Dayenu: New Zealand Jews Against Occupation (New Zealand)
    Een Ander Joods Geluid (A Different Jewish Voice) (The Netherlands)
    Een Andere Joodse Stem – Another Jewish Voice (Flanders, Belgium)
    European Jews for a Just Peace
    Free Speech on Israel (UK)
    Gate48 – critical Israelis in the Netherlands
    Independent Jewish Voices (Canada)
    Independent Jewish Voices (UK)
    International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
    Italian Network of Jews Against the Occupation
    Jewish Anti-Fascist Action Berlin (Germany)
    Jewish Socialists’ Group (UK)
    Jewish Voice For Labour (UK)
    Jewish Voice for Peace (USA)
    Jewish Voice for Peace members in London (UK)
    Jews Against Fascism (Melbourne, Australia)
    Jews for Justice for Palestinians (UK)
    Jews for Palestinian Right of Return (USA)
    Jews of Color & Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews in Solidarity w/ Palestine (USA)
    Jews Say No! (USA)
    JIPF – Judar för Israelisk Palestinsk Fred (Sweden)
    Jüdische Stimme für gerechten Frieden im Nahost e.V. (Germany)
    Junts, Associació Catalana de Jueus i Palestins (Catalonia, Spain)
    Los Otros Judíos (Argentina)
    Manchester Jewish Action for Palestine (UK)
    Quebrando Muros – Judeus Brasileiros Pela Descolonização da Palestina (Brazil)
    SEDQ Network- A Global Jewish Network for Justice
    South African Jewish Voices for a Just Peace (South Africa)
    South African Jews for a Free Palestine (South Africa)
    Union des progressistes juifs de Belgique (Saint-Gilles, Belgium)
    United Jewish People’s Order (UJPO)-Canada
    Union Juive Française pour la Paix (France)
    Workman’s Circle, Boston (USA)

  11. Tafia says:

    Of course Labour should change the definition. It protects that arch-democrat Seamus Milne.

    PMSL

  12. paul barker says:

    More Hot Air. How far to the Right do Labour have to go before you abandon it ?

  13. Ian says:

    It’s just a shame that Sacha Baron-Cohen makes all his spoof documentaries in America.

  14. John PReid says:

    max jalil, not cure what you mean, as Islam’s a religion?

  15. Landless Peasant says:

    All this anti-Semitism bullshit is just a Right-wing smear campaign intended to damage Corbyn.

  16. John P Reid says:

    Landless peasant Some of those expelled for anti semitism aren’t Corbyn supporters

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