For some time, Brexit has dominated British headlines. While the effects of Britain’s departure from the European Union will remain central to the political discussion in the United Kingdom, Canadians should track another issue bubbling in British politics, one recently thrust to the fore in the BBC documentary, Is Labour Antisemitic?
Since Jeremy Corbyn became leader, the UK Labour Party has been entangled in a crisis that is now erupting into a full-blown war within the party. Because the implications of Jew hatred are far-reaching – rising antisemitism has historically been a powerful predictor of serious problems in broader society – it is paramount for Brits and freedom-loving peoples everywhere to learn the extent to which antisemitism has permeated the Labour Party structure and understand what that means for democracy in Britain and beyond.
Most concerning is how far Corbyn and his inner circle have gone to cover up and distract from evidence of antisemitism within the party. One Labour official, tasked with investigating some of the more than 800 complaints of antisemitism against party members, shared a damning conclusion with the BBC: if Corbyn were an ordinary party member, according to their rules, he would have been ejected long ago.
While many Canadians can be forgiven for not tracking the rise of Jeremy Corbyn, he may very well be the UK’s next Prime Minister and his perspectives, therefore, deserve closer examination. A long-time member of the Labour Party’s far-left, Corbyn has branded himself as the vanguard of the party’s anti-racism movement. On closer inspection, for all his anti-racist rhetoric, Corbyn has a glaring and potentially catastrophic blind spot: Jew hatred.
Mr. Corbyn keeps questionable company. He counts among his ‘friends’ terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas, organizations he claims represent a future for peace and justice. In 2009, while serving as a backbench MP, he went as far as inviting the terror groups to a parliamentary meeting. That both groups have attacked, murdered, and maimed thousands of Jews and others – and continue to call for the genocide of Jews – seems to be lost on Mr. Corbyn.
In 2012, Corbyn invited Sheik Raed Salah, charged with inciting anti-Jewish racism and violence, to tea on the parliamentary terrace, calling him a ”very honoured citizen.“ That same year, he wrote a letter defending Stephen Sizer, a vicar disciplined by the Church of England for promoting a conspiracy-steeped article on social media entitled 9/11: Israel Did It.
Corbyn has been accused of donating money to Holocaust denier Paul Eisen and staying mute when a speaker with whom Corbyn shared a platform compared Israel to Nazism. Corbyn also questioned the removal of an antisemitic mural in London on the basis that he did not see the conspiracy-fuelled antisemitism it unambiguously depicted.
In 2014, the Labour Party leader had the dubious distinction of laying a wreath at the gravesite of one of the perpetrators of the infamous 1972 Munich massacre, during which 11 Israeli Olympic athletes were murdered by Palestinian terrorists.
These examples are neither slips of the tongue nor a string of unfortunate lapses in judgement. They are part of a pattern that is indicative of Corbyn’s toxic worldview and his attempt to provide succour to party members veiling their antisemitism as ‘legitimate’ criticism of Israel.
For decades, the Labour Party had been the so-called natural political home of most British Jews. In the short time Corbyn has been at the helm, Jews have become increasingly marginalized, harassed, and pushed out by the antisemitism that now pervades the party structure. Bureaucrats tasked with dealing with antisemitic incidents have been intimidated and silenced, while top party officials continue to proclaim, despite growing evidence to the contrary, that they are taking the matter seriously.
In a democracy, no one should be excluded from a political party based on their race, religion, or ethnicity. It is deeply troubling that a growing number of Jews feel unwelcome in the Labour party. The rise of Jeremy Corbyn and other populists on the fringes of the European left and right is deeply unsettling and has provided oxygen and a soapbox for conspiracy theorists and racists of all stripes.
Thankfully, Canadians have so far been mostly spared this venom. Our government has taken substantive measures to counter antisemitism, including recently adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism and incorporating it into its anti-racism strategy. Despite these positive developments, Canadians of goodwill must never be complacent nor turn a blind eye to dangerous currents that have taken hold elsewhere.
Shimon Koffler Fogel is President and CEO of the
Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA)