The party needs to root out antisemitism and stand up for Palestinian rights. Labour’s leader must do both
They were 10 words that shook Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party. This week the party’s ruling body accepted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism and the accompanying examples in full, including that it can be considered antisemitic to claim the “existence of a state of Israel is a racist endeavour”. This ought to have ended Labour’s summer of madness. Yet it seems that Britain’s political season will begin as the holidays started: with finger-jabbing rows about how racist or not the Labour leader is. Some Labour MPs say Mr Corbyn can’t solve this crisis because he is the problem. Mr Corbyn has made mistakes, and he has apologised for some of these. British Jews’ trust in his Labour party is at a historic low. Some of the criticism is fair, some of it is unfair. At the heart of the problem is that two issues are being conflated: one is the crisis in the Holy Land; the other is the safety and security of Jews in the UK.
The Labour party is not antisemitic, but there are pockets of Jew-hatred within it. Online these have festered, often unchecked. Bigotry cannot be acceptable among Labour members. The defence of anti-Zionism cannot be invoked when using antisemitic tropes. Mr Corbyn must stop supporters turning a denial of antisemitism into a kind of leftwing principle. His ally Peter Willsman made unacceptable remarks and is unfit, at present, to sit in judgment on others on the NEC. There is a kneejerk and wrong response by sections of the left to see a factional attack behind every claim of antisemitism. The fear and anxiety felt by many British Jews is not to be belittled. Labour must be a reliable ally in fighting prejudice and Mr Corbyn’s party ought to be a protective, not hostile, environment.