I couldn't put a Labour poster in my window, I didn't want my neighbours thinking I condoned antisemitism

Martin Bright describes how Jew hate drove him from the party

July 19, 2018 10:18

At the last local elections, I just couldn’t face putting a Labour poster in my window. I didn’t want my neighbours in North London to think I condoned the antisemitism that was eating the party from the inside.

Shortly afterwards, I cancelled my Labour membership. I no longer felt comfortable funding hate, while playing no active part in my local party to oppose it.
For a while, I have saluted those who did stay to fight the rising tide of extremist politics in the Labour movement, but the latest developments make me question how anyone of good conscience can remain.

This week, the Labour Party took the extraordinary step of publicly announcing itself as a party that will tolerate antisemitism as defined by internationally accepted norms.

Its refusal fully to accept the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of antisemitism is an act of open hostility towards the Jewish community.

To stay now would be like remaining in Ukip to lobby for a second Brexit referendum — a position of principle, perhaps, but a futile one.

I understand the recent actions of the Netanyahu government are deeply shocking to many in the Labour Party, as they are to many British Jews and to many Israelis. But Labour’s National Executive Committee knows it would be quite possible to adopt the IHRA definition and pursue an active campaign of opposition to Israel’s policies.

The refusal to do so is an ideological pose and a conscious provocation. It is not good enough to state that the Labour Party accepts that antisemitism is racism. This is just doubletalk: the party political equivalent of “I’m not a racist, but…”.

When an unprecedented coalition of rabbis signed a letter of condemnation, it should have sounded alarm bells, but the Labour leadership is deaf to such concerns. Now I hear prominent Jewish Labour supporters not just talking about leaving the party but leaving the country. How serious does this need to get before people realise that the game is up?

How can Mr Corbyn look at himself in the mirror after being called an antisemite and a racist by Margaret Hodge, the woman who faced down the BNP in Barking? And yet, I have no doubt Dame Margaret will be written off as just another Blairite Zionist. Being an anti-fascist is no longer enough of a credential for Mr Corbyn’s Labour.

I’m sure there are those in the Labour Party who believe this is a fringe issue. There are others who believe the centre-right of the party, as represented by Labour Friends of Israel, has had its time in the sun and a pro-Palestinian stance is more in line with the party’s new direction.

Still others believe the whole issue of antisemitism is a smear against a man with an impeccable record of campaigning on racism.

I fear these positions are just different versions of denial. Antisemitism has always been an acceptable vice on the extreme left and extreme right of British politics, but the rise of Mr Corbyn has seen it enter the mainstream.

I’m proud of this country’s record on antisemitism. I’m proud of the Kindertransport. I’m proud that Jewish people felt welcome here over the decades when they suffered persecution elsewhere in the world and I am grateful to the contribution the community has made to British public life.

I used to think antisemitism was dead in this country: a residual, ancient superstition akin to a belief in witchcraft. But I was wrong: it was just sleeping.

It is to Jeremy Corbyn’s deep shame that he has allowed antisemitism to be unleashed within a major political party for the first time in modern British history. That is his legacy.

July 19, 2018 10:18

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