If Labour cannot combat racism then we are nothing


May 04, 2016 11:20

Antisemitism is racism, it has no place in society and therefore no place in the Labour party and I can guarantee that it will always be challenged. It is for that reason that I confronted Ken Livingstone for his grotesque comments last week.

To consider Hitler as anything other than a racist, genocidal despot is historically untrue. Britain – including many Jews – fought against the Nazis for our vision of democracy and paid a high price for doing so. We will not allow any rewriting of the history of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party’s racist ideology.

Shining a light on antisemitism and other racism tends to flush out the cockroaches and so it has been little surprise that I have received extensive abuse from racists and antisemites. I have been asked who my paymasters are, had my loyalty challenged and been told that my work on child abuse and on antisemitism is an elaborate cover for sinister conspiracies.

Some people are claiming that they’ve never seen antisemitism in all their time in the Labour party. The emails I can show them will make it quite clear that overt antisemitism is alive and well.

All true Labour supporters will not flinch in trying to combat this curse but there is a loud and vocal minority, some sadly in the Labour party, who are delighting in trying to re-write history. Never have so many experts in history emerged as quickly as last weekend, each armed with cuttings from Wikipedia or obscure websites. Ironically the most cited websites are run by American white supremacist Holocaust deniers. I know people are shocked at the level of anti-Jewish hatred and Holocaust revisionism that is going on and so now is the time for leadership. Having poked the hornets’ nest we must now rip it from the tree.

My advice is to keep it simple. Nobody should be indulging in an academic debate about definitions of antisemitism. We have the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry's MacPherson definition of racism, which sees it through the eyes of the victim. The Jewish community now need to say to the Labour party, “this is your problem, sort it out now and forever”.

British Jews need not panic nor be worried about their position at home in the UK. Decent people in this country abhor antisemitism, as my constituents' response to last week demonstrates. At the parliamentary level, my All-Party Group Against Antisemitism has helped secure changes in the approach taken by the police, by government, by the CPS and many other institutions.

We already have a parliamentary inquiry by the Home Affairs Select Committee and an inquiry into antisemitism at Oxford Labour Club led by Baroness Jan Royall. I have full confidence that she understands the issues and look forward to reading the findings of her report due this summer. Now, we have a second Labour inquiry into antisemitism . The details are sketchy. I want to see the terms of reference, all the names involved and full details. I wish to know to whom the inquiry will report and what the steps are for implementation. The inquiry must have the total confidence of the Jewish community if it is to have value.

Labour excels when it speaks out on the principles we hold – upholding workers’ rights, defending the NHS and promoting the interests of everyone in society. We are best when we are passionate and vocal in our campaigning. These are Labour values, throughout our history and we have always underlined our support for the rights of Jewish people. If Labour cannot combat racism then we are nothing – and racism always includes antisemitism. If we cannot do that now, then we have no reason to exist. Now is not the time for Jewish supporters to desert the fight. More than ever before Jewish Labour supporters must stand up and be counted.

When I was growing up, it was ingrained in me that I must always stand up to racism. For 110 years my family have done this in the Labour party. At every point shoulder to shoulder with Jews. I give you this promise. We are the majority in Labour and we will not concede one inch to the antisemites and their apologists. It is for each political party to clean up its own mess. That is why swift, decisive and unequivocal leadership is required. It is now or never.

John Mann is the Labour MP for Bassetlaw and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism and the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism

Corbyn's Labour - what you need to know. Don't miss the special issue of the JC, out this week

May 04, 2016 11:20

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive