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Fears over Labour activists' mental health

The campaign trail is proving to be hugely draining for many Jewish Labour activists

    Concerns have been raised that young Jewish Labour activists campaigning ahead of next week’s local council elections could be “mentally scarred” by the abuse they are facing for canvassing for the party.

    One veteran campaign organiser, who asked not to be named, said the current campaign ahead of the May 3 poll was proving to be hugely draining for many Jewish activists across the country.

    “We are talking about young people, some of whom have just reached their 20s, who have  spent the last couple of years having to attend local party meetings at which their very identity as a Jewish person has been brought into question by some of the extreme far-left elements in our party.

    “Now, these very same young people are out and about knocking on doors often in areas with some of the largest Jewish communities.

    “In some cases they are literally being screamed at on the doorstep by angry Jewish voters who are sick of what they see as a serious problem with antisemitism in the party.

    “It’s not easy arguing a case for voting Labour while also saying you understand why someone is so angry about antisemitism – but that’s what these young people are having to do.

    “And then, in some cases in front of their own families, you have the very real issue of young Jewish Labour men and women being openly attacked by relatives for continuing to campaign for Labour.

    “I have genuine concerns about the impact of all of this on some of these young people. I fear that once the campaigning for the current elections calms down, there will be some young activists who have been left mentally scarred by all of this.”

    On Tuesday, Joan Ryan, the Enfield North MP and Labour Friends of Israel chair, told the JC she had made a deliberate effort to attend a canvassing session in Barnet in order to stand alongside “brave Jewish Labour candidates”.

    She said: “It is understandable that there’s a lot of anger out there over antisemitism.

    “That’s why I’m here to show my support  and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with my young Jewish comrades.

    “It’s why myself, people like Wes Streeting, Ruth Smeeth, Luciana Berger and many others are still out there standing alongside the young activists.

    “But the solution is not to walk away as that would only leave a vacuum for those who are deeply antisemitic to control the party.

    “That’s exactly what we shouldn’t do. We can win this fight. We have got to keep the pressure on Jeremy Corbyn.”

    Ms Smeeth, the Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent North, had spoken of her own fear for young Labour activists at last Tuesday’s antisemitism debate in the Commons.

    The Jewish MP said: “I am speaking not just for me, but for the young Jewish people I meet across the country who are beginning to fear they do not have a place. These are young people who are braver, tougher and better than I could ever be — the kind of young people who make us feel that our future is in safe hands, but right now they do not feel safe.”

    One MP told the JC: “I’ve never known the political climate to be as fractured and as hostile as it is during this current local election campaign.

    “And right at the front of the queue, facing the worst hostility imaginable, are the young Jewish activists who are still making the case for voting Labour – often on the doorstep to Jewish voters who can’t believe they are even trying.”

    A Labour councillor said: “I think these young activists are getting it both ways. There’s the crap going on in the party, and the crap they are getting on the doorstep.

    “But I think if there is a glimmer of hope it’s the impact of last Tuesday’s Commons debate on antisemitism.

    “I’ve noticed how several of my own young campaigners were actively inspired by the speeches from people like Luciana and Ruth.

    “It was ‘they are not running away from the party – and neither therefore am I’.”

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