With Jeremy Corbyn under intense scrutiny from Jewish leaders, re-read Kieron Monks's piece from earlier this month. Can Labour ever regain the trust of the Jewish community?by Kieron Monks / March 3, 2018 / Leave a comment
Bangers and mash. Salt and Pepper. Antisemitism and the Labour party.
Barely a week seems to pass without a new iteration of a scandal that has plagued Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and threatened to tear the party apart.
Labour’s own MP Ruth Smeeth claims that antisemitism has become “normal” in the party. The international Anti-Defamation League has accused of Jeremy Corbyn of “excusing antisemitism.” Prominent Jewish author Howard Jacobsen believes Labour is now an “enemy of the Jews,” and Jewish Chronicle editor Stephen Pollard has denounced a “party of bigots and thugs.”
Each flare-up prompts a fresh bout of hostilities between critics who believe the party is institutionally antisemitic and loyalists who argue the issue is a confected smear designed to undermine the Labour leader.
The truth is, of course, more complex.
Labour cannot and does not claim to be free of anti-Jewish prejudice. Activists, councillors and MPs have been exposed for offences that include praising Hitler, posting cartoons of hook-nosed Jews, and attacking Holocaust victims. Many cases have resulted in suspension or expulsion, and dozens more are going through the party’s disciplinary process.
Yet three separate enquiries have declined to label the party as institutionally racist—as the MacPherson report branded the Met Police—and a comprehensive study from the Institute for Jewish Policy Research found the prevalence of anti-Semitic attitudes was no higher among typical Labour voters than elsewhere on the political spectrum. The party professes to be dealing with fewer than 100 complaints from a movement of around 600,000 members.
Much of the challenge for Labour lies in identifying problematic tendencies within its movement, as antisemitism can be better disguised than other prejudices.
“People are very familiar with the type of racism that is based on skin colour and treating minorities as having lesser value,” says Dave Rich, head of antisemitism watchdog the Community Security Trust. “Antisemitism doesn’t operate like that.”