Tackling Labour’s institutional anti-Semitism can’t be done by the Party

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (left) and his shadow cabinet at the Labour Party annual conference 

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

In May following the election I attended a meeting of the NEC Antisemitism Working Group at Labour HQ on behalf of the Jewish Labour Movement. The first time, I was left outside and refused entry to the meeting, giving me my first impression they weren’t interested in what JLM had to say.

I was told that I was invited to listen to Labour’s proposals for tackling antisemitism. I turned up with the JLM Director Ella Rose and was then informed that we were actually giving evidence to the committee – unprepared I ran through the issues, including and specifically stating that full adoption of the IHRA definition was the red line for the Jewish community. I made it very clear what was expected from the party from our community. JLM were one of only two bodies consulted.

Yesterday the same people who sat around that table decided to wilfully ignore us.

They ignored repeated pleas from JLM, one of the oldest affiliates to the party that literally helped build the Labour Party.

They ignored the JLC, Board of Deputies and CST.

They ignored the historic mass protest from British Jewry and allies on Parliament Square.

They ignored an unprecedented display of communal unity from 68 Rabbis ranging from Charedi to Liberal including my Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner.

They ignored the Orthodox Chief Rabbi.

It was reported that one member of the NEC, Pete Willsman accused our Rabbis of being liars and made sweeping accusations about Jews and Trump. He allegedly stated that antisemitism is an invented smear and showed that he has no place in a modern civilised political party. Jeremy Corbyn allegedly said nothing in response to Willsman.

Yesterday the Labour Party’s ruling body treated the Jewish community with absolute contempt.

A key attribute of being on the left is to believe in the good in people.

To believe that people do act in good faith. I wake up in the morning thinking the best of people because this is how a progressive person thinks – however naive some readers may think that to be – this is part of my DNA. And that is how I have approached this process in recent months.

My good faith in this sham is now shattered.

I believe now that there are antisemites right at the top of the Labour Party including some of Corbyn’s closest aides.

I believe that the party has become so factionalised that ideological purity trumps historic anti-racist principles.

The factionalisation has created a situation where decisions are no longer judged on principle but on narrow factional lines.

The decision to adopt the new guidelines creates a get out of jail free card for anti-Semites and that suits certain people, who would undoubtedly fall foul of the IHRA definition of Antisemitism.

The factionalisation has created a situation where decisions are no longer judged on principle but on narrow factional lines.

The decision to adopt the new guidelines creates a get out of jail free card for anti-Semites and that suits certain people on, who would undoubtedly fall foul of the IHRA definition of Antisemitism.

The nature of this kind of decision-making allows immoral and unprincipled decisions to be taken that go against our most basic progressive values.

This intolerable situation blurs all decision making at almost every level and has what led me to conclude that Labour has become institutionally racist.

As an institution it is completely unable to objectively look at issues of anti-Jewish hatred in its own ranks without factional considerations taking precedence.

And whilst we Jewish Labour members are bearing the brunt of this today we now know that if the Labour Party got into similar difficulty with any other minority community it would throw them under the bus too. Ideological purity is paramount.

So what next? Racist institutions are unable to investigate themselves objectively.

Last year the Chief Executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission issued a stark warning that the Labour Party had to do more to prove it was not a racist party.

The Jewish Labour Movement will spend the coming week exploring all options available to it.

  • Adam Langleben is a former Labour Councillor in Barnet and member of the Jewish Labour Movement National Executive Committee
About the Author
Adam Langleben is a former Labour Councillor in the London Borough of Barnet and a member of the National Executive Committee of the Jewish Labour Movement.
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