Jewish Labour Movement: There is no trust left


Jeremy Corbyn has apologised for the hurt that the Labour Party has caused to the Jewish people. He has said those who abuse Jews and share antisemitic slurs do not do so in his name. Jeremy Corbyn also leads the Labour Party that is currently disciplining two MPs of Jewish heritage for speaking out about antisemitism whilst in the same breath refusing to open an investigation into a member of the National Executive Committee because he’s a political ally.

These double standards cannot continue. Jeremy Corbyn says no one should dismiss the concerns the Jewish community has expressed about what’s been happening over recent years. Yet overnight there has been a Twitter storm calling for Tom Watson to resign after he spoke out in support of the Jewish community at this difficult time. Jewish Labour activists are told time and time again that antisemitism is a smear, that we are working for the Tories, and that we don’t have our party’s best interests at heart. When Jewish people speak out about antisemitism, it’s because we are a minority community facing racism – nothing more, nothing less.

Jeremy Corbyn says he wants to work with the Jewish community to rebuild trust and drive antisemitism out of the party for good. But what trust is left? In an unprecedented move, nearly 70 British rabbis put aside small differences (like some not believing others to be rabbis!) to sign a letter asking the NEC to put aside Labour’s proposals and simply adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism in full and unamended. The response? The NEC ignores this letter, ignores the Chief Rabbi too, and approves a code of conduct not developed by Jews or experts on antisemitism, and that they know the Jewish community rejects. Then, as a sop, they promise to consult on it. This is entirely the wrong way round.

Spoiler alert: the rabbis aren’t going to change their minds. The Jewish communal organisations won’t – and shouldn’t – accept being considered as an afterthought. No minority community should be treated this way. It completely undermines the Macpherson principle, enshrined by Labour in the Equality Act 2010, that minorities should be able to define hate against them. The Jewish community, particularly those who are the experts in antisemitism such as the Community Security Trust, should be the ones asked to write the code of conduct if the Labour Party wishes to expand on the full and unamended IHRA definition of antisemitism.

Jeremy Corbyn says that the Labour Party has been too slow in processing disciplinary cases. When the leadership of our party met the leadership of our community back in April, they were promised that all high-profile cases of antisemitism would be concluded by the end of July. Ken Livingstone resigning doesn’t count. The end of July has come and gone and there’s been no update with high-profile cases still outstanding. Furthermore, as Dr Dave Rich pointed out in The Guardian, “there have been regular (and often unpunished) examples of antisemitism from Labour members”. This isn’t hard to get right.

Here’s the bare minimum of what should have been announced in the two pieces over the weekend:

  1. The Labour Party adopting the full and unamended IHRA definition of antisemitism.
  2. The cases into Ian Austin and Dame Margaret Hodge being dropped.
  3. Pete Willsman being removed as an NEC candidate.
  4. The Chief Whip withdrawing the whip from Chris Williamson.
  5. The Labour Party setting out clear and tangible actions it will take to overhaul disciplinary process in a transparent and fair way.
  6. The NEC working group on antisemitism standing until the Jewish community once again holds confidence in our party, and the Jewish Labour Movement having a permanent seat.
  7. The party demanding that the Facebook groups and online forums that carry Jeremy Corbyn’s name need to either police their forums better for antisemitism and racism or they should withdraw his name and the party’s name from their titles.

There is no trust left. Words mean nothing. These measures would have been welcomed, and maybe even celebrated, two years ago. But two years on, the Jewish Labour Movement has faced too many calls for our expulsion from the party, our leaders have had too many violent and aggressive threats, and our suggestions – laid out plainly and clearly in our letters to the party – have been ignored too many times. In the mid-nineties, the British public did not trust Labour on the economy. We showed we could be trusted and won our first general election in 18 years, transforming our society for the better. Today, our battle is with antisemitism. The public does not trust our party to deal with this problem, and unless we can do so, we cannot expect to win the trust which is vital to winning the next general election.

“By the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone” is the central value that is written on our membership cards. At what point did the leadership of our party decide that they could solve this pernicious and raging crisis without involving those affected? By doing this, they have acted in a deliberate and reckless manner, making it worse at every turn. According to our community papers, we have already reached the point of no return. Decisive and significant actions, not words, are the only thing that can bring us back from the brink.

Adam Langleben is campaigns officer of the Jewish Labour Movement and a former councillor in Barnet.

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