Another shameful episode

May 18, 2016 20:41

If Labour was seeking the most efficient way to appear not to care about antisemitism in its ranks, it could hardly have done better than to ban publication of its own report into that antisemitism.

It is worth reflecting for a moment on what happened on Tuesday. In February, Baroness Royall was asked to inquire into allegations of antisemitism at Oxford University Labour Club. When her report found that the incidents had indeed taken place, Labour’s NEC then refused to publish the body of her findings.

As if that was not bad enough, Baroness Royall’s most important conclusion was simply perverse, finding that OULC does not have a problem with “institutional” antisemitism — only with its “culture” of antisemitism.

Is that supposed to be better? This entire episode shames Labour, from the incidents themselves through to this week’s attempted cover-up.

But there is more. Shami Chakrabarti’s independent inquiry is the peg on which the hope that Labour is serious about tackling antisemitism is supposed to hang. Yet on Monday we learned that the “independent” Ms Chakrabarti is now nothing of the sort, having joined Labour on her appointment.

And her inquiry is not limited to actual allegations of racism within the Labour Party — of antisemitism, in other words — but will examine racism generally, including Islamophobia, despite there not being a single allegation of the latter.

Add to that the unsuitability of the inquiry’s vice-chair, David Feldman — a signatory to Independent Jewish Voices whose evidence to last year’s All Party Inquiry Into Antisemitism insouciantly dismissed almost all accepted definitions of antisemitism — and it is difficult to see how Ms Chakrabarti’s inquiry is not tarnished before it has even begun.

There is also the behaviour of communal bodies such as the Jewish Leadership Council and the Board of Deputies to consider. The antisemitism problem is a matter for the Labour Party. It is Labour’s responsibility to acknowledge it and its responsibility to deal with it. It is both demeaning and misguided for the Chief Rabbi reportedly to offer to give evidence, and for the JLC and Board to involve themselves in these internal Labour Party affairs. They are being played. Their endorsement of Ms Chakrabarti on her appointment is already proving unwise. Their only role should be to react when her report is published — although, on this week’s evidence, no one should hold their breath for that.

May 18, 2016 20:41

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