Jemma Levene
Jemma Levene

Antisemitism won’t be rooted out of Labour by accident

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (left) and his shadow cabinet at the Labour Party annual conference (Photo credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire via Jewish news)
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (left) and his shadow cabinet at the Labour Party annual conference (Photo credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire via Jewish news)

The announcement by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) that it is formally investigating the Labour Party to determine if the party has acted unlawfully in its treatment of Jewish people – specifically within its complaints procedures – is a hugely important step which we welcome.

The issue of antisemitism within Labour has spent too long being mired in partisan politics. We hope that this impartial investigation will provide some clarity and hopefully some answers for those on the receiving end of antisemitic abuse and harassment.

The scale of the antisemitism within the party cannot, and should not, be underestimated. Several Labour councillors, and a Labour MP, are currently suspended for antisemitic behaviour, and there are many other party activists under investigation. Based on what our close associates and comrades from within the Party have told us about their experiences, we feel an independent EHRC enquiry is essential and we await the clarity and transparency that the results of the investigation will bring.

We have long argued that the vast majority of Labour Party members and supporters are not antisemitic, but that this should not be used as an excuse for inaction when it rears its head. There should be zero tolerance for any form of racism in any of the main political parties.

Hundreds of cases have been supplied to the EHRC, via the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), of Labour members being antisemitic. This issue has been growing, largely unimpeded, and will not go away by simply being ignored.

Labour’s response to this investigation shows how much work is yet to be done. To deflect from the issue by talking about the funding levels of the EHRC is essentially an attack on the body itself, and undermines the vital work they are about to do.

This video made by Gordon Brown, explaining why the work of the JLM was so vital, was viewed over a million times within 48 hours of being released, and the JLM continues to receive new members and many messages of support.

We encourage anyone who had seen first-hand institutional racism from within the Party to contact the JLM and add their referral to the EHRC.

We truly believe that the poison of antisemitism can be rooted out of the Labour Party, but it won’t happen by accident. We hope that the announcement of the investigation will be the beginning of significant and systematic change.

About the Author
Jemma Levene is Deputy Director at HOPE not hate, an organisation which uses research, education and public engagement to challenge racism. Previously, she worked as Head of Campaigns at Jewish charity SEED, and at the Orthodox Union in New York. She holds an MA (Hons) in Social Anthropology from the University of Edinburgh.