Labour grandee Peter Hain's comments linking the party’s antisemitism crisis with the plight of the Palestinians has been condemned by leading Jewish Labour figures and organisations.
In a statement, apparently seen as being important by Jeremy Corbyn, Lord Hain — who served in the governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and is a former Middle East minster — accused Labour of both alienating Jewish members and “doing nothing to advance the debate on Israel/Palestine, let alone justice for Palestinians”.
Written alongside Daniel Levy, a former adviser to Israeli Labour governments, the 3,000-word intervention also suggested Labour’s stance on antisemitism “sadly and ironically” has empowered apologists for “totally unacceptable Israeli government attacks on Palestinians and the steady throttling of their rights”.
Labour peer Lord Mendelsohn said: “At best it is a distraction from the only process which has the necessary independence and carries the confidence of the remaining Jewish party members and the Jewish community as a whole in the form of the EHRC statutory investigation.
“But its error is that Lord Hain and Mr Levy are simply wrong that the only way to solve the antisemitism crisis is by linking it to support for the plight of the Palestinians. Rightly, no other racism is set such a similar test.
“This sort of conditional solidarity is what has led to where we are now. The party is no longer able to solve the problem on its own.”
Sources say Lord Hain’s arguments, which included the suggestion it is legitimate to challenge Zionism and question whether a two-state solution is the best route to peace, are being taken seriously by the Labour leadership, which is looking to calm the crisis over anti-Jewish conduct.
Lord Hain is said to believe his intervention could open a wider political debate about Israel and Palestine without undermining Mr Corbyn’s leadership.
The statement acknowledged a “real and troubling rise in incidents of antisemitism in the Labour party” along with “a specific form of poisonous left-wing antisemitism that highlights global conspiratorial capitalist cabals and class enemies.”
But it also stressed critical debate is needed on what is happening in Israel/Palestine and this is crucial to any party committed to internationalism, international law, and universal rights.
But the Jewish Labour Movement responded: “Experience has taught us that the Labour Party, its leadership do not wish to listen to either JLM or the Jewish community on how to tackle anti-Jewish racism.
“Despite the best efforts of the report, it is deeply disappointing therefore that Lord Hain has taken the same approach in calling for the NEC to adopt a statement on antisemitism on which neither JLM or Jewish communal organisations have had any input.
“It is not for Labour, or its peers, to define anti-Jewish racism. Neither in this form or their unilaterally adopted ‘Code of Conduct on Antisemitism’.
“The party is now subject to a statutory investigation by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission because the regulator believes that unlawful acts may have been perpetrated by the party against Jewish members.
“In just the past few days, the Labour Party has failed to show any decisive leadership on dealing with the allegations against both Lisa Forbes MP, Rupa Huq MP, or make any progress toward meeting the six tests set by the Jewish community.”
Lord Hain and Mr Levy also wrote: “Denying the painful Jewish history that led to Israel’s establishment, or the attachment most Jews feel to the largest Jewish community in the world — Israel — does not advance the legitimate struggle of the Palestinians to achieve their full rights and freedoms in the face of Israel’s occupation and discriminatory policies. Labour must and can lead two struggles simultaneously — against antisemitism and for Middle East peace and justice.”