Rosa Doherty

Don't be grateful Emily Thornberry condemned the abuse Rachel Riley faced over Labour antisemitism

Tweets from senior Labour figures now and again will not fix the party's toxic behaviour towards Jews, says Rosa Doherty

January 11, 2019 10:41

Yesterday, Emily Thornberry tweeted her support for Countdown’s Rachel Riley, who is Jewish, and has been increasingly outspoken on left-wing antisemitism and, by extension, has been abused and told she is trying to smear the Labour Party.

Ever lifted a rock in playground only to chuck it back down when the insects come running out? That was Thornberry’s replies.

The attacks on her might be the reason, 99.9 per cent of the time this happens, Labour’s senior figures tweet nothing at all.

And yet the fact that someone close to the Corbyn machine –which has allowed this problem to manifest - actually said something, had some of us feeling grateful. This is understandable but it is wrong.

No one from a minority group experiencing institutional racism should feel grateful or happy when just one person - in a whole line of people who could make a difference - tweets their support.

It is time to stop pretending. Solidarity tweets every now and again mean nothing.

Of course it’s good. Well it isn’t bad. But good is all it is and on its own it will result in nothing.

Left-wing resistance triumphed over the BNP and Oswald Mosley on Cable Street. That legacy isn’t honoured by one person making a statement that they oppose the abuse of a Jewish woman.

I wasn’t always such a Debbie Downer. I’ve covered Labour’s antisemitism crisis from the beginning. I’ve been to the events, I’ve sat in unreported-on meetings.

I have always been the one at the JC who defends positive action in good faith. I understand it must be hard, genuinely, to admit fault with the activism over your lifetime. I don’t believe in slamming doors.

It’s important, especially in times of conflict and in breakdowns of relationships of all kinds, not to reject genuine attempts of understanding from the other side.

Rejection only deepens the divide and entrenches the hurt and pain. Whatever side you may be on, however wronged you feel.

But when it comes to Labour and the Jewish community, it has been the break ups of all break ups.

Labour continues to act like the hard done by partner, emotionally void, unavailable and indifferent to the damage it has done.

A relationship that once flourished, got through good times and bad is today toxic. The Jewish community has been hurt - I fear almost beyond repair and that pain is visceral.

And yet Labour does nothing with the power it holds. If Luciana Berger, one of Labour's own MPs was not offered support by the leadership amid the announcement of a criminal investigation into violent antisemitic threats made against her, what hope is there for the rest of us?

That is why one tweet from Ms Thornberry in support of Rachel Riley won’t cut it. It is like getting a text from an ex’s mum to say ‘sorry’ that her son was such ‘a pr**k.’

It sooths for just about a second but that is it.

It is inconceivable that yesterday, other Labour MPs, including the leadership were unaware that a TV presenter celebrating her 10-year anniversary chose to speak about Labour and antisemitism instead of the achievement of her tenure.

There is a wilful refusal or perhaps worse, a conscious decision from the top, to turn a blind eye to the racism Jewish people are experiencing which goes against every tradition of the party.

Worse, it has allowed racists to feel they found a home. Only the top can kick them out.

January 11, 2019 10:41

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