The Labour Party’s antisemitism problem is festering: treat the disease, not just the symptoms, or the patient is doomed
Allegations in today’s Sunday Times and Thursday’s Telegraph have confirmed what we already suspected about the Labour Party’s response to allegations of antisemitism: the party is refusing to deal with the disease. Instead, allegations of antisemitism are ignored, or covered up.
Take the case of Sir Gerald Kaufman MP, for example. On 27th October 2015, Kaufman, whose seniority earns him the title of Father of the House of Commons, delivered an antisemitic speech on parliamentary premises to Labour’s Shadow Minister for Justice and other MPs. He claimed that British Jews use “Jewish money” to subvert the British government so that Israeli Jews can “execute Arab-looking people”. At first, the party tried to ignore the matter. Eventually, Jeremy Corbyn expressed “deep concern” but both Corbyn and the Opposition Chief Whip continue to ignore our calls to take disciplinary action. All they did was to call for Kaufman to apologise, and even an apology was not forthcoming. Case closed, as far as Labour is concerned.
The latest allegations come in the wake of the brave decision by Oxford University Labour Club Co-Chair Alex Chalmers to resign, citing as the reason that “a large proportion” of the Club and student left “have some kind of problem with Jews”. Oxford’s Jewish Society gave some examples and Labour Students, to which Oxford’s Labour Club is affiliated, opened an investigation. Campaign Against Antisemitism immediately offered the help of two of our best investigators, but days after the investigation had opened, it had been shut down: the Labour Party did not want to investigate the problem of antisemitism at Oxford University Labour Club, they instead wanted to investigate the antisemitic conduct of some individual members. As part of a wider investigation into alleged vote rigging in student elections.
Now we know why. According to today’s Sunday Times, the initial investigation by Labour Students uncovered allegations that the Club’s members had condoned antisemitic attacks on synagogues in Paris in 2014, and mocked Jewish mourners of last January’s massacre at a Jewish supermarket in Paris when they appeared on television. They called Auschwitz “a cash cow” and called Jewish students “Zios”. There were plenty more examples, pointing to a “poisonous” atmosphere which would lead to the “long and proud tradition of centre-left Jews in the Labour party” to be “lost for a generation”. Now the investigation by Labour Students has been subsumed into another investigation run by the Labour Party, and its report has been buried.
Labour MPs Michael Dugher and Rachel Reeves have called for the initial report by Labour Students to be published immediately, telling the Telegraph that it “isn’t acceptable for the Party to now wrap serious allegations about antisemitism inside Labour Students into a wider inquiry”. The Telegraph quotes a source within Labour as saying: “The original report was handed to Corbyn’s office and circulated among senior Labour staff but they wanted it to be buried…It plays to a wider issue: everyone knows there is a problem with antisemitism on the left but they continue with impunity, they have a carte blanche under Corbyn. There was an understanding that the Party would endorse the Labour Students’ findings and build on them. But that is not what has happened. They did not like the findings so shut it down.”
What we are seeing is a buildup of very disturbing evidence. Jeremy Corbyn has his own past associations with antisemites. Labour MP Sir Gerald Kaufman was able to make an antisemitic speech to other Labour MPs, including the Shadow Minister for Justice, without even being interrupted. Labour student activists have turned the cradle of the Party’s leadership, the Oxford University Labour Club, into an antisemitic cesspool which the Club’s own Co-Chair could no longer stand. And in response, Kaufman has been protected instead of being disciplined, and the investigation by Labour Students has been buried because it revealed the true extent of the problem.
Antisemitism is a form of rot. It is no good painting over its grotesque symptoms: the disease must be cut out, and that takes bravery and resolve. Those speaking out have shown their bravery, but Labour’s leadership has shown no resolve at all.
Jewish people should feel comfortable in any political party, but in Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, Jews are likely to become an endangered species.