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The JC Comment Blog

The JC Comment Blog No.9 — Let my people stay

We need the Jewish Labour Movement now more than ever, argues Daniel Sugarman

    I am a member of the Jewish Labour Movement.

    I cannot say that I agree with everything the JLM does, or everyone they campaign for, but when I renewed my membership earlier this year, the uppermost thought in my mind was “those poor b*****ds deserve all the help they can get.”

    After all, they have been attacked from all sides. On the one hand, they have faced a series of attacks from the far-left, a force growing daily within Labour.

    But on the other hand, they have also received a great deal of criticism from within our community, from people who are unable to understand how – given the cesspit of antisemitism the party appears to have sunk into – many of them can remain a dedicated part of Labour.

    I am not a Labour party member myself (any more), and the latter issue, of community criticism, is something I have been guilty of as much as anyone.

    It has often seemed to me as if, in the wake of every particularly outrageous case of antisemitism within Labour, you could be assured that the Battle of Cable Street would be brought up twice. Firstly by Jeremy Corbyn, who would use his parents' attendance at that ultimate example of Jewish-Left intersectionality as proof of how he, apparently, was strong on antisemitism. And secondly by the JLM, which would use it in the context of remaining connected to Labour, with the slogan “we stay, we stand, we fight.”

    I have often found that highly frustrating – and said as much. There are also times when I have talked to JLM members who are still very much involved in Labour itself, and have wanted nothing more than to ask “are you mad? Overwhelming examples of antisemitism, a leadership that is apathetic at best and complicit at worst, and still you stay? Why? Why on earth are you still in this party?”

    Police charging anti-fascist protesters at Cable Street
    Police charging anti-fascist protesters at Cable Street

    I still don’t understand how moderate MPs can stay – because I believe that, if a solid block of them were to leave, it would achieve something. It would strike a mortal blow at the ugly strain of hard-left politics which has captured the Labour party. It would be a rallying call to the tens and hundreds of thousands who feel politically homeless.

    But this week’s protest outside Parliament demonstrated just how important it is to have a group like the JLM – and how its withdrawal from Labour would be a terrible move for the community as a whole.

    Monday night’s demonstration at Westminster was a major challenge to the far-left’s narrative. For two and a half years they have shrieked, spittle flecking the corners of their mouths, that all the countless cases of antisemitism recorded — both in this newspaper and elsewhere — are just part of a smear campaign to discredit Jeremy Corbyn. A few days ago, well over a thousand Jews stood together and threw their attempts to deny that antisemitism back in their teeth.

    Inevitably, their response was to say that the protest was politically motivated. These were all “Tory Jews”. Of course, as was clear to anyone present with eyes, ears and a functioning brain, many of the Jews there were not Tories. They were lifelong Labour voters, furious at how the leadership of the party for which they had campaigned for decades had been immersed in antisemitic filth. Many of them were JLM members.

    At the side, in a small huddle, were members of Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL), a far-left group of anti-Zionist Jews set up last year as a direct challenge to the JLM. Already, despite being a tiny minority, they are being treated as the voice of all Jews by the far-left.

    Can you imagine what the situation would be like if the JLM packed up and left? We would see the JVL elevated to being regarded as the authoritative voice of Jews on the Left, rather than representing the minority, extreme view, they actually do. Do we, as a community, really feel comfortable with handing them that easy victory?

    So I will remain a member of the JLM. I will support their attempts to combat antisemitism in their own party. And while I may at times be critical, rather than suggesting that they should all leave Labour I will be saying, “Let my people stay.”

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