We all need to fight prejudice—whether in the Labour Party or elsewhere. Nothing is achieved by walking away from the fightby Miriam Mirwitch / March 28, 2018 / Leave a comment
It’s not been easy to be a Jewish member of the Labour Party over the past few days. As anti-semitic messages proliferate online—while their existence is simultaneously denied—some non-Jewish commentators loudly claim that it’s impossible to remain a Labour member and claim to stand against antisemitism.
These claims are accompanied by threats posted on social media to cut up membership cards and leave the Labour Party. While their sentiment is understandable, when they come from non-Jewish activists they feel self-indulgent.
Remaining a member of the Labour Party does not mean that you condone antisemitism. It’s a cruel reality that prejudice exists in our wider society as well as within political movements. This isn’t unique to the Labour Party, nor is it unique to other groups.
We can’t turn our back on the Labour Party, just as we can’t turn our backs on the broader world around us. Our existence is political in itself, and it’s all of our duty to speak out against prejudice wherever we find it, whether in party politics or elsewhere.
To say that Labour membership is synonymous with antisemitism is both hugely unhelpful to Jewish members who are fighting for our rightful place in an anti-racist movement and simply untrue. The voice of a vocal antisemitic minority should not outweigh those of us who are working to create something better.
Nothing is achieved by walking away from the fight. If members who are appalled by antisemitism leave the Labour movement, who remains to speak against prejudice?
For close to a year I’ve become accustomed to receiving abuse via social media. Messages that I’m really an agent for a state I have no control over, must be right wing simply because of my religion and have had positions awarded to me by a global conspiracy are now routine.
But I’m not leaving, and neither are comrades who receive far worse abuse than I. We must not abandon our movement to people who deserve no place within it: a minority who engage in anti-semitic hate speech, who exist throughout the political spectrum. This responsibility sits with everyone. Whether you’re a member of a political party or not, we all must stand against prejudice.
If you are in Lbour, by far the most effective way of supporting Jewish members and ensuring that our movement is free from prejudice is to stay active in it. Speak out if you hear prejudice, whether that be in constituency meetings or on social media, rather than staying silent. Listen to the Jewish community and believe us when we point to instances of antisemitism.
Labour members can report any members who engage in antisemitic speech or any other form of hate speech to the party. Join the Jewish Labour Movement, an affiliate of the Labour Party for over one hundred years, as a supporter.
If you’re not in a political party, there are similar actions you can take in your workplace or school. Staying silent about prejudice only allows it to fester and grow.
One of the most simple things you can do in solidarity as a non-Jewish activist is to message your Jewish friends with words of support. It can feel very alone when your social media feeds are full of abuse. A message of support, even if no reply is received, can go a long way. Being an ally to Jewish members of the Labour Party, or of any political party, means listening to the voices of the community and standing alongside us in solidarity.
Jewish members have a proud history in our party. From Manny Shinwell to Lord Dubs, our community has contributed so much to Labour and socialist movements. Those of us who are members of the Labour Party must fight to protect that link and ensure that every community feels welcome.
I’m proud to be a member of the Labour Party and the Jewish community. We still have a lot of work ahead of us before we eradicate antisemitism from every part of society, not just politics. Labour is built on the values we share collectively and it’s by standing together, and in solidarity with our Jewish comrades, that we will eradicate antisemitism from our movement.