For anyone concerned with Jew hatred, the story of growing anti-Semitism on the left is old. Only, right now in Britain that story has suddenly become new again and is even making headlines. The Labour party, which has been drifting ever leftward for years now, has recently been hit by a series of anti-Semitism scandals.
The issue first began to gain public attention in early February, when the chairman of the Oxford University Labour Club resigned complaining that club members had “some kind of problem with Jews.” The former chairman who is himself Jewish reported how Labour members had hounded Jewish students, referring to them as “Zios”, while also condoning Hamas attacks on civilians, singing gleefully of “rockets over Tel Aviv”. It was further alleged that Labour students mocked the Jewish victims of the 2015 Paris attacks as the funerals were being televised, and had taken to referring to Auschwitz as a “cash cow.” And if anyone doubted how anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism have become interchangeable, a member of the Labour Club committee proposed that all Jews be publicly compelled to denounce Israel or face being ostracised.
As news of this scandal broke, the Labour Party agreed to establish an enquiry and subsequently expanded its scope when reports started to emerge of similar happenings among Labour students at the London School of Economics. Still, many will be sceptical about the likelihood of these investigations going anywhere. After all, in October of last year the party failed to take any real disciplinary action when Gerald Kauffman — a Labour parliamentarian — claimed that “Jewish Money” was buying the British government’s silence over Israel “executing” Palestinians in the streets through “fabricated” stabbing attacks.
The news cycle hard barely moved on from these scandals when it began to come to light that Labour had readmitted several anti-Semitic individuals who had previously been expelled. David Cameron took the opportunity to attack the Labour for readmitting the far-left activist Gerry Downing, who had previously said that the 9/11 attackers shouldn’t be condemned. Downing has also written and spoken extensively on what he dubiously refers to as the “Jewish Question,” yet none of this stopped John McDonnell — now Labour’s shadow chancellor — from sharing a platform with the fringe figure. Indeed, McDonnell was even found to have tweeted approvingly about Downing’s activism.
Labour attempted to quickly bury that story by expelling Downing but, the following week, an even more damning case emerged. In 2014, the party had been forced to eject parliamentary candidate Vicki Kirby after it was discovered that she had decided it would be a good idea to use her Twitter account to unleash a torrent of anti-Semitic abuse; in one tweet sharing her thoughts on Jews having “big noses,” and in another referring to Adolf Hitler as the “Zionist God.”
Kirby’s expulsion turned out to be short-lived. In March of this year, it was found that not only had Vicki Kirby been readmitted to Labour, but she had also ascended to the position of vice-chair of her local Labour party. When the story first broke a Labour spokesman stated that Kirby would only be expelled again if further evidence was found. But as the public outcry grew, the party was left with no choice but to expel Kirby anyway.
Nevertheless, by this point, the damage was done. Jonathan Arkush — President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews — told the Evening Standard, “Frankly, most people in the Jewish community can’t trust Labour.” The Jewish Chronicle went even further, plastering its cover that week with a bold editorial in which it damningly asserted “Labour now seems to be a party that attracts anti-Semites like flies to a cesspit.” And this was followed by senior Labour Party figure Lord Levy stating that the party leadership would need to take action. Otherwise, he would start to question his position as a Labour peer.
Yet when party leader Jeremy Corbyn was questioned about this during a television interview, he angrily snapped back: “Lord Levy clearly hasn’t been listening… I’ve absolutely condemned anti-Semitism, I’ve condemned Islamophobia, I’ve condemned any form of racism… and I’m disappointed that Lord Levy has made these remarks, he knows full well what my views are.” But when it came to Corbyn explaining what he has actually done to confront anti-Semitism in his party, he bizarrely chose to launch into an impassioned account of how he had recently met with a group of Muslim women to hear about the abuse they suffer on public transport. The Labour leader assured listeners he had taken this up with the transport authorities. Good, but what on earth does that have to do with anti-Semitism in the ranks of his own party? If anything, that answer is an indication of how impossible Corbyn finds it to take this issue seriously.
But the problem is it’s much worse than that. Because Labour’s leader has his own long record of befriending anti-Semites. There was the case of Corbyn’s support for the Anglican vicar who claimed Israel was behind 9/11 or the time that Corbyn referred to the blood libel espousing hate preacher Sheikh Raed Salah as a “very honoured citizen.” Perhaps most shocking of all was when during his leadership campaign footage was made public of Corbyn praising Hamas and Hezbollah as his friends, stating that it would be his “pleasure and honor” to invite Hamas and Hezbollah to the British parliament. “So far as I’m concerned that is absolutely the right function of using parliamentary facilities” Corbyn explained. But none of these revelations prevented him from being elected leader of the Labour party.
And so it should be obvious to anyone that the problem of anti-Semitism in the British Labour Party goes right to the very top. If ever that party does choose to seriously rid itself of this scourge, it will need to begin by ridding itself of Corbyn first.