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The Jewish Labour Movement is fighting our friends and propping up our enemies

Jeremy Brier believes the JLM is profoundly wrong to try to win votes for Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party

    Jeremy Newmark, National Chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, speaking on Sky News about Jeremy Corbyn's stance on anti-Semitism within the party
    Jeremy Newmark, National Chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, speaking on Sky News about Jeremy Corbyn's stance on anti-Semitism within the party (Sky)

    This isn’t about party politics. I was once a member of the Labour Party and grew up in a Labour tradition. There’s a proud history of Jews on the Left. There is no doubt that Labour was (and may again be) a great political party and, even though I made the transition to being a Conservative some twenty years ago (a kind of teenage rebellion marginally more preferable to my family than hard drugs), I have always respected my Labour friends. In normal circumstances, I would respect an opposing candidate from the Jewish Labour Movement.

    But these are not normal circumstances. In this General Election, by virtue of both its leadership and membership, the Labour Party presents itself as a threat to the Jewish community. Its leader has flirted with so many antisemitic activists it could make a prudish man blush. Taking tea with Raed Salah (“a very honoured citizen” according to Jeremy Corbyn, even though Salah openly spreads the blood libel); welcoming to Parliament his "friends" in Hamas (committed by its Charter to genocide of the Jewish people) and, to pick another from the enormous list, taking multiple payments from Iran’s Press TV. 

    Mr Corbyn has presided over an internal party culture where antisemitism has been normalised, where barely a day goes by without councillors spouting off about Jewish money or Jewish influence or Jewish big noses - and even when Labour commissioned an inquiry into antisemitism, it appeared to be a whitewash. Labour ended up in the clear and Shami Chakrabati ended up in ermine.

    The rest of his team follow suit. Only this weekend, John McDonnell (who could be Chancellor of the Exchequer) stood in front of hundreds of activists in Trafalgar Square under a Communist Hammer and Sickle, the flag of Bashar al-Assad, pictures of Stalin and Palestinian Flags. The JC reported the crowd chanting: “Labour friends of Israel no more”. Well, quite. And I haven’t even mentioned Ken or Diane or Galloway or the students' unions that would all have a voice at Jeremy’s top table. 

    Even in this grim context, I can just about understand why sitting Jewish Labour MPs stay and fight their seats. It’s their job, their life. No doubt they are secretly hoping Labour will be annihilated and they can have decent careers once again in a reformed party, with a leader that believes in things like, er, the state having an army.

    However, it is different and deeply unedifying when Jewish communal leaders make an active choice not just to stand for this Labour Party, but to do so against prominent Conservative friends of the Jewish Community in relatively marginal seats. That was the decision of two well-known members of the “Jewish Labour Movement”, Jeremy Newmark and Mike Katz, who will fight Mike Freer (Finchley & Golders Green) and Matthew Offord (Hendon), two non-Jewish men who have done more than almost anyone else in Parliament to represent the Jewish Community. Both have been highly vocal on shechita; on antisemitism; on Holocaust issues; both have been tireless in their support for Jewish schools.Mr Freer has even written about standing up for the “principles of the Jewish Community” against a Labour Party “overwhelmingly hostile to Britain’s Jewish Community”.

    Mr Newmark and Mr Katz – who make much of standing up for the Jewish Community – seek to uproot our supporters and champions, whilst propping up a party led by a ragtag of Jew-baiters. Oh sure, they will say, they are concerned about fighting Conservatives; about the NHS and austerity. But then why not be brave and stand in Wales or Essex or deepest Cornwall?  If they really wanted to both fight Conservatives and represent the Jewish people, then why did they not seek to add to the pro-Jewish voices in Parliament rather than cancel them out?

    The answer is that Labour wouldn’t have them anywhere else but Golders Green and Hendon. Knowing that its vote would otherwise haemorrhage out of NW London, Mr Corbyn must be delighted that these two have taken it upon themselves to try and “kosher” the Jewish vote. In so doing (and whether they support Mr Corbyn or not), Mr Newmark and Mr Katz are just doing Jeremy Corbyn’s bidding. They are devoted to fighting for the very kind of seats which will hand him power.

    But don’t worry. When Prime Minister Corbyn introduces his first Act boycotting all Israeli products, I’m sure that the new Jewish MPs, Jeremy Newmark and Mike Katz, will be first in line opposing it.

    Oy Vey. With friends like these, does the Jewish Community really need enemies?

    Jeremy Brier is a barrister who stood for the Conservatives in the 2010 election

    See all our Election 2017 coverage here

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