Rhea Wolfson

Jeremy Corbyn is not antisemitic, he's one of the most principled people in politics

Rhea Wolfson, a Jewish member of Labour's governing body, dismisses Jonathan Arkush's attack on the Labour leader

June 01, 2018 10:19

Jonathan Arkush has never spoken for me, nor for many other young, progressive Jews. He certainly does not speak for me today. I’ve had the honour of working closely with Jeremy Corbyn, one of the most principled people in politics.

As a former member of the Jewish Leadership Council Board, I can’t be dismissed as as someone on the fringes of the Jewish community, as many of my friends and comrades have. 

Arkush’s claims are entirely without foundation. The evidence he cites? Jeremy’s criticisms of the actions of the Israeli government.

Criticising the actions of the Israeli government is not antisemitic. As a Jewish person who is critical of some Israeli government policies, I find this suggestion deeply offensive. Many of us are aware that there is a political discourse that surrounds Israel and the Occupation that is toxic and sometimes crosses the line into antisemitism.

However, to dismiss campaign groups as a whole shows a lack of intention of actually challenging and changing this behaviour. 

Many Jews who are trying to work towards a better discourse and a more effective movement are branded as self-hating and traitorous. We saw this recently when Mr Arkush accused Jewdas, a Jewish group, of antisemitism. 

Criticising the Israeli government’s actions does not mean you are denying Israel's right to exist. Jeremy has been clear that he is committed to working towards a just and viable settlement of the conflict, with a secure Israel alongside a secure and viable state of Palestine, as set out in Labour’s manifesto.

Mr Arkush’s conflation of antisemitism with criticisms of the Israeli government undermines the fight against antisemitism and distracts us from challenging this evil in our society.

But this isn’t to say that antisemitism doesn’t exist within the Labour Party. It does and Jeremy made his commitment to eliminating it absolutely clear.

A working group has been reviewing party procedures to identify how they can be made more efficient and robust. Our new General Secretary Jennie Formby reported on our work at the last National Executive Committee meeting, which was received positively. I look forward to bringing our final recommendations.

When I have faced antisemitism, whether within or outside of our movement, Jeremy has been an ally, Jennie has been an ally, as have many other Labour comrades.

Jeremy outlined in his Evening Standard article how antisemitic tropes have been promoted by some on the left within, even though these views violate our principles and undermine our struggle for a just society. 

Antisemitism exists on the left, as it exists in society but this does not mean antisemitism is more of a problem on the left.

As the Community Security Trust’s report on antisemitic incidents in 2017 makes clear, antisemitism is extremely prevalent on the far right.

The personal attacks made by Mr Arkush are not only entirely untrue, they are also deeply counterproductive to this process.

If Jonathan Arkush wants to see antisemitism eliminated, he should be working with us to achieve that, instead of making outrageous personal attacks. 

The conversation in our community has been toxic in the past few weeks. Many left wing Jews have grown up struggling to find our place in the community. We’ve found places in youth groups or other organisations or built our own communities, but now that fight is feeling insurmountable. Recently I’ve seen my friends cast out, subjected to daily abuse and even told they just aren’t Jewish. 

This level of vitriol doesn’t allow for well-meaning or constructive conversation; without which we stand no chance of truly eradicating the evil of antisemitism in our society.

Anyone who knows, has met, or worked with Jeremy Corbyn, as I have, knows that he does not have a prejudicial bone in his body, and is utterly committed to tackling antisemitism, as he is all forms of discrimination and oppression, which he has fought against all his life.

My commitment to Labour is unwavering and I am proud of the work that Jeremy is doing to tackle antisemitism in politics and wider society.

June 01, 2018 10:19

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