A challenging time
TO BEGIN WHERE WE ALL AGREE – we are battling the Tories, who will use whatever ammunition they can to attack us during the local election campaign rather than defend their pitiful record.
Equally there are some in the PLP who dislike Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. A poor result in the elections will facilitate their replacing him with somebody more right wing.
Recent attacks on Jeremy Corbyn must be seen in this context. The Board of Deputies of British Jews, and the Jewish Leadership Council, both with links to the Tory Party, and which have other reasons to dislike Corbyn, have assumed a leadership role in these attacks.
Yet it would be a mistake, I believe, to conclude from this that all accusations of antisemitism in our party are false, or part of a conspiracy against the leadership. Yes, we have less antisemitism in our party than do right wing parties, and less than in the general public. Yes, many allegations are clearly false, especially where, as in many cases, it’s actually Jewish members who have been targeted.
But anybody who uses social media will attest that antisemitism is found on the left. Some people may just be ill-informed, when they inveigh against "the Rothschilds" or other shadowy figures who control everything from the banks to the media.
And while the attack on Jeremy Corbyn over his misplaced defence of the antisemitic mural in East London was disproportionate, unfair, and brought up years after the event, Jeremy Corbyn has admitted it was a mistake to defend it. Similarly, while Christine Shawcroft's over-hasty defence of a holocaust- denying Facebook post may have been motivated by honourable intentions, it was clearly an egregious mistake for which she has paid a heavy price.
Jeremy’s apology recognises that antisemitism does exist in our movement, and it has not always been challenged as forthrightly as it should. It’s important we show those in the Jewish community who are natural allies, but who otherwise might be swayed by the protestations of the Board of Deputies, that we take these concerns seriously, as we do with all racism.
More heartening was the reaction to Jeremy Corbyn's attendance at the Jewdas Seder. Right wingers in parts of the Jewish community, along with some non-Jewish MPs who weighed in objectionably, saw this as another opportunity. But most reasonable people, whether Jews or non-Jews, have been supportive, asking, “Why shouldn't Jeremy celebrate a festival of liberation with socialist and anti-fascist Jews?” And while the attempt to draw a distinction between "good Jews" and "bad Jews" is offensive, this demonstration of diversity among Jews is welcome.
Jeremy said he learned a lot from those young Jews in Jewdas. Now our whole movement has to learn from this group, who take antisemitism seriously, and who combine the fight against it with a fight for all who are marginalised.