Ella Rose

Actually dealing with Labour antisemitism would endanger Jeremy Corbyn's lifelong dream

Outgoing JLM director Ella Rose says genuine action could mean expelling some of the Labour leader's allies


GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 22: Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn meets with asylum seeker brothers Somer Umeed and Areeb Umeed at Possilpark Parish Church on August 22, 2018 in Glasgow, Scotland. Jeremy Corbyn met with asylum seeker families in Glasgow threatened with eviction by Serco and called for such services to be delivered by public bodies. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

November 21, 2018 10:27

In 1923, shortly after Poale Zion’s 1920 affiliation to the Labour Party, Leah L’Estrange-Malone became Chair of Poale Zion.

A former Communist Party member, she was the first woman to lead what is now know as the Jewish Labour Movement. Among her various achievements, she successfully persuaded the Labour Party to adopt a policy of increasing the accessibility of birth control. I have no doubt that as a Jewish woman in 1923 she faced antisemitism, misogyny and sexism.

The question therefore is why countless Jewish women have had the same experiences nearly 100 years later?

The last few years have been exceptionally hard for Jews within the Labour Party. Within every section of the party, from constituencies (CLPs) to the Parliamentary Labour Party, antisemitism has been given a free pass — time and time again. 

Constituencies have debated the existence of antisemitism and ignored the pleas of Jewish members. It has been claimed (documented in official minutes) that the Jewish Labour Movement has links to Isis. CLPs have tried to get JLM expelled from the party — the party that we helped to build. 

Chris Williamson MP has shared platforms with those accused of antisemitism time and time again. Compliance cases sent to the party by desperate Jewish members have been covered up, whilst malicious cases against Jewish MPs have gone ahead.

A member of the National Executive Committee (NEC) believes that our rabbonim are “Trump fanatics”. This is all before we even mention Jeremy Corbyn and his honoured “friends”.

Throughout all of this, the JLM has fought antisemitism politely in meetings and in protests alongside our community. Nothing has changed.

Since Iain McNicol left and Jennie Formby took over, it appears to have got exponentially worse. We’ve been promised actions, only to be met with political obfuscation and a lack of moral leadership. 

It has led to only one conclusion: antisemitism is a problem that the Labour Party does not want to solve, and it does not care about the impact it is having on its Jewish members.

I am incredibly proud of the work that the JLM has done over the past few years. Alongside fighting antisemitism in Labour, we have created a yearly calendar of events, empowered activists across the country and built a movement fit for the 21st century.

It’s been challenging and rewarding, empowering and exhausting, and I’m honoured to have played a small role in a long and impressive history of activism. 

So where does the Jewish community go from here, with the Labour Party mired in a crisis they do not seem to want to get out of?

Mr Corbyn’s words are not enough. Actions are needed that will put his entire life’s dream, the rise of the political far-left, in danger, as it will involve the investigations and potential expulsion of comrades such as Pete Willsman and Chris Williamson.

There cannot be one rule for the comrades, and one rule for everyone else. The left need to learn that when Jewish people speak out against antisemitism, we do not do so for political gain, but rather because we are the victims of racism. 

The Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council will not compromise on wanting Labour to be a place of safety for Jewish people, and why should they?

The ball is firmly in the court of the Leader of the Opposition, and he can start by following up with the Jewish community from their meeting in Spring, and coming through on his promise that the high-profile cases of antisemitism would be over by August.

The Jewish community does not need to change to suit the Labour Party, rather it is the Labour Party that must live up to its founding values, or risk letting down the country it seeks to represent.

Ella Rose is the former director of Jewish Labour Movement and a deputy for Bushey United Synagogue

November 21, 2018 10:27

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