No time for rest — this battle is far from over

'There is no time for feelings of vindication. There is only anger and determination'

October 30, 2020 10:35

As I write, hundreds of political and legal analysts are digesting every word of the 129-page EHRC report.

For someone such as myself the report is far more personal. I am battered and bruised after years of intense struggle. There is no sense of vindication here, although I appreciate some may look on it this way. I am too tired to even feign a victory dance. I am just angry. Angry that this happened at all.

When I was evicted from the QE2 building during the Palexpo in 2017, two of those involved were Tony Greenstein and Jackie Walker. Two months later those same two individuals stood by a doorway and barred me from entering a fringe event at the Labour Conference in Brighton. Because I was fighting antisemitism I was viewed as an enemy by elements of the Labour Party and treated as such. Despite being a member, I had nobody to turn to – as we now know, Jeremy Corbyn’s office was interfering in the complaints process. Inside the party apparatus I was viewed like a leper.

In 2017 my daughter was 16 and had just sat her GCSEs. At the time, the only conversations we had on her future were about which university she would choose. In 2019 she changed direction completely and has since volunteered as a lone soldier in the Israeli Defence Force. She is no longer living in the UK.

I cannot be sure that the Labour antisemitism earthquake that hit British Jewry during 2018-2019 is responsible for my daughter’s change of heart but nor can I dismiss the possibility. In Jewish households throughout the UK we all felt the roots beneath our feet shake. Who is to say what long lasting effects this has had on our sense of the UK as our ‘home’?

I was reporting on antisemitism in the party long before most. In autumn 2015, after Corbyn’s leadership victory, it felt like a lonely and uphill struggle. Few wanted to see the truth. We are diaspora Jews – we do not like to be seen to be rocking any boats.

It took far too long for some in the community to wake up and realise the dangers that antisemitism on the left poses and the problems that pro-Corbyn elements presented for us as Jews in the UK. There was ignorance about how antisemitism has masked itself and naivety over how quickly it spreads. Until spring 2018, a sense of “it will pass” or “it can’t happen here” was still the order of the day.

And now it is done – or is it? What we did win is a historical record. A damming report on the Corbyn years and the party’s handling of antisemitism under his leadership.

But as someone who is more interested in the “why” and “how” antisemitism is on the rise globally rather than the legal disciplinary processes of a political party, I feel that whilst welcome and important, it is not yet time to celebrate.

Antisemitism is on the rise because we allowed it to happen. We sat in silence as it embedded itself throughout left wing political circles. We argued over whether an obsessive hatred of Israel could be seen as Jew-hatred and we dismissed conspiracy theory as the foolish hobby of a few fringe outliers.

Labour has been publicly put in its place but what of the unions? How about the vast majority of universities across the UK, who refuse to accept the IHRA definition? Does our community possess both the understanding to realise the battle is not done and the courage to accept the boat must be rocked even further? I am not sure it does.

I apologise if some feel I am raining on the parade but as British Jews we must learn that this battle will be a long one. So no, there is no time for feelings of vindication. There is only anger and determination. Anger that we find ourselves battling the oldest hatred once again and determination to see it through until the end.

October 30, 2020 10:35

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