Last night, I decided with a heavy heart, to terminate my Labour Party membership and end my participation in the Jo Cox Women in Leadership programme.
I have watched over the last two years as the Labour Party that I know and love has deteriorated in to a space where antisemites feel welcome, can be openly antisemitic, and face no consequences. The few that have been suspended or expelled have undergone drawn out, unnecessarily long processes to reach that conclusion. Many cases of reported antisemitism haven’t even been looked in to. I have sat, excruciatingly patiently, waiting for the Leadership of the Party to act faster, do more than talk about front bench personal records of fighting racism while continuing to ignore antisemitism.
I stayed with the Labour Party when many of my Jewish friends and family left, feeling it was no longer a safe space for them. I stayed, believing that one should stay and fight for what they believe in, and really believing that this neglect to deal with antisemitism would change.
I submitted verbal evidence to the Chakrabarti inquiry, and told Shami, face to face, of the experiences I have had and how uncomfortable it is to read the word “antisemtism” sprawled across the front pages of the newspapers and appear on headline news, and to sit there thinking “they’re talking about my religion. What does that reader think? Do they agree? Are they anti-Semitic? Do they think I’m making it up? Or do they get it?” I read Shami part of my father’s Labour Party membership resignation letter, and she said she would respond. Of course, two years later, he has seen nothing from either her or our MP, who he also wrote to, voicing his concerns about antisemitism in the party. After 30 years of loyal party membership, he deserved more.
But still, I stayed. I stayed, and I kept saying that this would all pass and that soon, the leadership would wake up and finally get it. I wish “naïve” was all that I have been called for believing this. To be called a “Kapo” by some (for those reading this who don’t know, Kapos were prisoners, often Jewish, in Nazi concentration camps who were assigned by SS guards to supervise forced labour or worse), for staying in the party, is a wound that will cut deeper than many will be able to understand.
I still stayed. I applied for the Jo Cox Women in Leadership programme, which has taught me a lot about self-confidence, about support and about female leaders and leadership, and I have met some wonderful women through it who will make great councillors, MPs and leaders when they are given the chance. And it is almost because of this programme, that I feel like I have reached a limit.
This week, after agreeing that there would be a meeting with the JLC and Board of Deputies to discuss antisemitism in the party and how to move forward, a number of people in the Jewish community from a whole host of contentious and mainstream organisations, received emails from the Leader’s office inviting them to a round table to discuss the same thing the next day.
By doing this, the Leader’s office are trying again, as they previously had done with Jeremy Corbyn’s attendance at the Jewdas seder, to turn the attention from antisemitism in the Labour Party, to infighting and fractures in the Jewish community. For a brief moment two weeks ago, that tactic worked and the news stories were no longer purely about antisemitism, but about who the “establishment” accepted was part of the Jewish community.
To use the same tactic again is something I cannot stand for. I will not be part of a party who pedal the line “we have more in common than that which divides us”, whilst they quite literally seek to exaggerate and highlight the divisions in the Jewish community to divert the conversation away from dealing with antisemitism. No other community in this country would be treated this way by a mainstream political party. Encouraging in-fighting and highlighting divisions to discredit, undermine and divert serious conversations about antisemitism. This is a tactic straight out of a 1930s Germany play-book, and I cannot and will not be part of a party that uses that tactic against a religious minority. Against my community. Against my religion. Against me.
These divisions that the party think they are highlighting and exploiting don’t make us weaker. Our diversity makes us stronger. Our differences are something that we cherish. We come from all kinds of backgrounds, from all over the world, from all different socio-economic backgrounds, and we have a huge diversity of opinion on politics. We are not homogeneous.
But the Jewish community does have more in common than that which divides us, and that is why the tactic of trying to exploit our divisions will not work.
The Labour Party will have to deal with antisemitism at some stage. I hope, for its own sake, and for the sake of the many people in this country who desperately need a Labour government, that it does it soon so that it can one day truly be a party for the many, not the few. But until that day, I cannot be part of a Labour Party that tries to exploit divisions in a community to divert away from a conversation about racism.
- This article is written in a personal capacity