In 2020, the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) will have been affiliated to the Labour Party for 100 years, making it almost as old as the Labour Party itself. Throughout the past century, Jews have played a leading role in my party’s quest for social justice, from Millie Miller, one of my predecessors as the MP for Ilford North, to Lord Harold Lever, who was a pioneer in debt relief for poorer countries, to Lord Alf Dubs today with his work on helping child refugees, this tradition is something to be cherished and celebrated. Yet at the Labour Party’s conference in Liverpool this week, leaflets were circulated attacking the JLM, claiming it ‘acts as a representative of a foreign power’ and that it does not belong in the Labour Party.
The idea of banning a Jewish society isn’t new. Students of the 1970s and 1980s will recall countless attempts to ban Jewish societies in university campuses, accusing Jews of split loyalties between Britain and Israel and seeking to hold Jews to account for the policies of Israeli governments.
Even with such anti-Semitic tropes written in black and white, there are those who continue to dismiss the notion that there is a problem with anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. Small wonder that some Jewish members have cut up their membership cards this week, most notably Parry Mitchell, a member of the House of Lords who was, until recently, a leading figure in Labour’s shadow business team.
In my own constituency, Ilford North, I’ve had countless conversations with Jewish Labour supporters, who question whether they will be able to vote Labour at the next election.
Stalwarts of my local constituency party have considered following Mitchell and others out the door in protest at the treatment of Jewish MPs and the insufficient response of our party and its leadership.
But I am urging Jewish supporters of the Labour Party to join the Jewish Labour Movement.
The Labour Party was founded on the principles of equality and justice. It has a proud history of standing against racism and fascism and it will have a proud future so long as there are those of us prepared to fight for it.
Stand with the JLM and stand with Labour MPs who refuse to give in to the small number of anti-Semites who betray our party’s values and history.
My friends Ruth Smeeth, Luciana Berger and Louise Ellman have been on the receiving end of online abuse, death threats and threats of deselection by Labour members at the next general election. But they refuse to surrender to those who would cheer their departure. Stand with them.
The JLM is arguably more important in determining the future of the party today than at any other point in its history.
Its visible presence in Liverpool this week and the surge in recent applications to become members and affiliates of JLM was a sign of our determination to win the fight against anti-Semitism in our party and in our society.
It has never been more important to join and get stuck in to make sure the Labour Party remains as much a home for Jewish people as it is for everyone else – so that tradition can continue for another 100 years.