We can all agree that Anti-Semitism, just like any other form of discrimination, has no place in British politics, or indeed society as a whole. Therefore it is very disappointing that Labour have been embroiled in an Anti-Semitism scandal in the last few weeks.
Allegations of Anti-Semitism permeating the party from top to bottom have raised serious concerns about the disciplinary procedures in place to stamp out this kind of wholly abhorrent behaviour. Rightly, members and MPs have spoken out to raise awareness and show solidarity to members of the Jewish community. The sincerity of the Jewish peoples’ grievance and anger about all of this is absolutely not being questioned. There is no doubt that Anti-Semitism exists and is a problem in the Labour party. That is not up for debate. What I do critique, however, are the intentions of some MPs, who seem to be using the issue of Anti-Semitism as a political football.
Jeremy Corbyn met with Jewdas, after being invited to attend an event, which was revealed by the Guido Fawkes blog. This group is made up of left-wing Jews, who are often critical of more mainstream Jewish groups. So, certain critics of Corbyn have jumped onto the bandwagon and criticised him for attending. We’re now in a dangerous territory of non-Jewish politicians, such as MP John Woodcock (who called his attendance at the event “dangerous”), trying to police what views are acceptable in the Jewish community. But you can bet had he have turned down the invite, he would have been berated for “snubbing” an event organised by Jewish people.
Pitting factions of the Jewish community against one another, based on their political beliefs, is not the right way to go about rebuilding trust in the party. I would argue, in fact, that assuming an entire community of Jewish people should have homogeneous beliefs, and then suggesting those who dissent from the mainstream are somehow “bad Jews” is Anti-Semitic in itself. Simply put, fighting Anti-Semitism with more Anti-Semitism is entirely the wrong way to go about rooting out an issue within the party. Non-Jewish people have absolutely no business dictating to actual Jewish people what their views “should” be. Simply put, how dare these people make lists of “good” Jewish groups and “bad” Jewish groups?
So MPs and prominent figures must be very careful of the language they use, at a time when it seems that some Labour MPs would rather Labour lost the next election, than having Corbyn remain as Leader. For example, Labour MP Angela Smith, who branded Corbyn’s attendance at the event “a blatant dismissal of the case made for tackling Anti-Semitism in Labour”. To suggest that just because Corbyn spoke with Jews who do not conform to the more widely held beliefs in their community, means he is dismissing claims of Anti-Semitism is not particularly helpful. At this point, one wonders whether anything he does to take action will ever satisfy the critics in his party. He is criticised for being not taking Jewish people and their concerns seriously, but when he tries to remedy the issue, is accused of meeting with the “wrong” Jews. If Labour is to be a broad church, as moderate MPs request, then they must accept that there are many Jews who support Corbyn (and many who do not).
Then there’s DUP MP Ian Paisley. He was one of the loudest critics of Corbyn’s Labour when he attended the Enough is Enough protest in Parliament Square recently, proclaiming how important it is to root out Anti-Semitism. However days later, he retweeted a racially insensitive and borderline islamophobic tweet by Katie Hopkins. It seems his anti-discrimination stance only applies when it suits him. He later apologised, but it does seem pretty rich of him to be lecturing anyone about tolerance and anti-racism, given his past use of racist slurs against Chinese people.
I’m sure there are many with a legitimate desire to eradicate Anti-Semitism, but I can’t help but feel some are weaponising the issue, to score political points in an attempt to oust a twice democratically elected leader that they disagree with on many issues. I don’t doubt the plight of the Jewish community in this circumstance (I’ll reiterate again): they are the victims of this, and so have every right to be concerned. And bizarrely, there are equally people denying the issue even exists, dismissing it as right-wing smears. It is entirely possible to acknowledge and oppose Anti-Semitism, whilst concurring that certain individuals are using the issue to their full advantage, and their alleged concerns are perhaps not as genuine and consistent as they claim. To use Anti-Semitism as a stick to beat Labour with, rather than coming up with solutions and ways to move forward, is to insult the real victims of this whole scenario – the Jewish community.
In addition, why is media focus only on Anti-Semitism in Labour, when there have been many documented cases of it in other parties? It sends a message that it’s one rule for one party, and one for another. Anyone pointing out that this type of discrimination transcends one party is accused of “whataboutery”, and are told they are trying to deflect. This is not the case, but it does beg the question as to why the mainstream media are engaging in a pile-on against one political party, so close to elections in May, whilst ignoring similar incidents in other parties. Indeed, it’s particularly hard to take seriously the Daily Mail’s apparent new-found tolerance towards the Jewish community, when they orchestrated Anti-Semitic smears against Ralph Miliband.
If we’re to eradicate Anti-Semitism, let’s at least be consistent, ensure other parties take action, and take a non-partisan approach once and for all.