What is the Labour party's best course of action following the resurgence of anti-Jewish racism in its ranks? I propose to provide a partial answer to this question. But, before I do, let me say that the recent alarums triggered by the public antics of left-wing "activists" will have done some good if it forces Labour's political elite to confront this question.
We all know about Comrade Gerry Downing, whose Socialist Fight website wrote effortlessly (Aug 22, 2015) about "why Marxists must address the Jewish Question concretely today." We all know about Comrade Vicki Kirby, whose tweets included the promise to "never forget and … make sure my kids teach their children how evil Israel is!" Downing has now been kicked out of the Labour party, while Kirby's membership is suspended. All well and good, you might say. But it isn't well and good at all. Why should Downing and Kirby be punished, but not, say, Richard Burden (MP for Birmingham Northfield) or Andy Slaughter (MP for Hammersmith) or Clive Betts (MP for Sheffield South-East), three Labour stalwarts who have been at the forefront of the BDS campaign, and who only last week led a brutal parliamentary defence of the right of local councils to pursue "ethical" procurement policies aimed at the Jewish state?
In other words, we need to move the debate on from the micro to the macro. We need to put aside the well-thumbed guide-books of the past, which taught that anti-Zionism was not antisemitism. It wasn't - then. But it is now. We also need to put aside the ludicrous British Best Practice Guide (Combating Antisemitism) recently launched by the Government in alliance with the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism. I have read this farcical pamphlet. Its boast - that "a significant programme of work has been undertaken with generally positive outcomes" - is a joke in poor taste. The publication contains not one discrete proposal for tackling anti-Jewish racism. I shall now attempt to remedy this deficiency.
The problem that Labour has with widespread antisemitism in its ranks is rooted deep within its history. Some of you might recall Christopher Mayhew, the Labour MP who, in 1946, became parliamentary under-secretary to Ernest Bevin at the Foreign Office, and who, in 1969, founded the Labour Middle East Council.
"There is no doubt, to my mind," Mayhew confided to his diary in 1948, "that Ernest detests Jews." But Mayhew's attitude to Jews was hardly any better. "I never felt it was right to ask us to impose on the Arab world hundreds of thousands of Jewish immigrants," he told the BBC's World Today programme in 1968. As Aberystwyth university's Dr James Vaughan (to whose excellent recent article on Mayhew in Israel Affairs I am indebted for this reference) has explained, in the 1970s Mayhew had no qualms about employing Nazi imagery as a means of slandering Israel and its Jewish supporters worldwide. Mayhew came to believe that Zionism was a racist creed.
I know that what I am proposing is a political bloodbath
As Dr Vaughan rightly observes, Mayhew "succeeded in transforming the way in which the Labour Party engaged with the Israel-Palestinian question but, in so doing, he unwittingly helped to create, within mainstream Labour politics, a coalition between anti-Zionism and the far-left."
It is this mésalliance that Labour, and its current leader Jeremy Corbyn, must now urgently address. Corbyn and Labour's National Executive Committee must decide, now, whether or not they wish this coalition to continue. It may be that they do. In which case Labour can only honestly project itself as an anti-Jewish party and must live with the political consequences of this decision.
But, if they do not, the coalition must be broken up. This means that the party must expel from its ranks not merely all those who explicitly seek the demise of Israel as a Jewish state, but also those who espouse BDS, which has precisely the same objective.
I know that what I'm proposing amounts to a political bloodbath. But I humbly submit that the time for bloodletting has now come. Let the British enemies of the Jewish people form their own political party. They should not be permitted to hide behind the coattails of others.