Many of us were brought up within a British zeitgeist to censor our own suspicions of anti-Semitic intent. There’s still a temptation to see other people’s accusations of anti-Semitism as an excuse for failure; to try to believe it does no more harm than any form of petit bourgeois snobbery, and to wonder if it’s paranoid to give it brain space.
But now the anti-Semitism is real and we all need to wake up ourselves and others. With some honourable exceptions, I am devastated by the failure of ordinary people to stand up and be counted in calling out the latest and very real manifestation of left wing anti-Semitism in its camouflage jacket of anti-Zionism.
How could people vote for Jeremy Corbyn in the last election? I will adjust this. How could people vote Labour in any constituency where the Labour candidate had not spoken out against anti-Semitism within the party? How could anyone in Britain who pretends to any political knowledge be unaware of Labour’s problems with Jews?
I initiated the Whitewashed Project. It’s the book, which is a collection of unearthed submissions to Chakrabarti’s 2016 Inquiry, the heart of the project, together with a powerful short film, both of which can be accessed via www.whitewashed.co.uk.
We launched in June and have quietly been making breakthroughs in educating people to recognise and stand up to left wing anti-Semitism.
But I am sad to say that in June, before Parliament’s recess, the book, with details of the website and how to view the 35 minute film, was sent to all 262 Labour MPs, in many cases via their own constituents. Less than a dozen acknowledgements have been received from these MPs.
Someone sent the book, together with a passionate letter, to his MP, referencing his mother in law, also a constituent, who came to England as a child on a kindertransport. He reported sadly that he has still not received any acknowledgment at all. Jeremy Corbyn’s copy was sent by two constituents with a covering letter. No acknowledgment has been received.
The continuing silence from Labour MPs is deafening.
There are terrific and supportive Labour MPs; we appreciate them and the work they do more than they can ever realise. I’ll start with John Mann, Joan Ryan and Louise Ellman and there are more. Let’s take them and their opposites, the usual suspects such as Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and Paul Flynn, out of the equation and look at the remainder. The majority of working Labour MPs keep their heads down about anti-Semitism; they don’t say a word. They don’t hit the headlines of the JC or the Jewish News or the Jewish Telegraph, and we don’t hear about them on social media. These people don’t only represent their local constituents; they represent each British person and they are letting us down.
Whitewashed is a serious enterprise; it is absolutely not aimed at demonising Labour but is a significant expose of anti-Semitism within Labour and of how and why left wing anti-Semitism goes unrecognised and is so aggressively denied by its perpetrators.
Contributors to Whitewashed include Baroness Ruth Deech, Howard Jacobson, Dr David Hirsh, and others not so famous but of equal calibre. Many of them are of the left. What they have in common is that in 2016 they wrote submissions to Shami Chakrabarti; their submissions were not acknowledged in the Labour Party’s investigation into anti-Semitism and other forms of racism which she carried out and which was, in Howard Jacobson’s words ‘stillborn’. Each contributor feels that their submission was not taken into account; proof of this is in the book of submissions and in the filmed interviews.
Whitewashed is not propaganda; it is insurance that both now and in the future, the primary evidence is on record.
Any Labour MP, any member of the Labour party, any human being who lives in Britain and who dares to say they stand for social justice, should take note of the hard facts contained within this project, and listen to the overwhelming majority of Jewish citizens speaking out on other platforms. How do they dare to stand before Jewish people who live in Britain and, by saying and doing nothing, condone those who demonise and delegitimise Israel?
Jewish people are waiting for the majority of people in Britain to show their basic decency; to dare to stand up and be counted in opposing anti-Semitism in its current incarnation on the left. It’s not enough to stand on the sidelines and wait for it to burn itself out; it’s not going to happen on its own.
I and many others continue to fight this racism. We have to take on this task because otherwise our future could move towards the French model. Accurate figures are hard to come by, but because of lack of support by the French Government, and much hand wringing and no action, since 2006 about 40,000 French Jews out of approximately 500,000 have left France, many of them for Israel. Netanya has just announced plans to increase its size exponentially, with tens of thousands of new homes. From where are they expecting the new arrivals?
Elements of the left speak out against Israel’s existence and it is not countered vigorously enough. British Jewish people are few and we need the support of every good British person.
We Jewish people have internalised our history; we have learned we cannot rely on ‘the kindness of strangers’ alone. We grew up believing we had enough friends in Britain to make us welcome and that anti-Semitism would not be reborn; but the truth is it has never died but has mutated.
The Jewish homeland in Israel is a given. Proof of its need is demonstrated each and every time anti-Semitism is allowed to poison the atmosphere from the briefest tweet to the mainstream political arena.
There will be screenings of Whitewashed followed by panel discussions in:
- November – New York, Israel, London
- December – Glasgow, Birmingham (Limmud)
For details of the project, how to get tickets, or if you would like to arrange a screening, contact firstname.lastname@example.org