Why is the British Jewish leadership appeasing Antisemitic events?
It has taken a while to put these thoughts down on an Op-Ed, but not as long as it takes to get through to the offices of the Jewish leadership, but we've been speaking about this for decades.
Here in the United Kingdom, we have a very small Jewish population. In the 2021 census, they were around on average, 270,000 Jews people living in the UK. And there are around 50,000 US people in London.
Eye on Antisemitism are based in London and so a lot of what we talk about and events we go to with regards to anti-Israel propaganda, are based in London. However, we deal with many people outside of the London area who have been attacked whether physically or online by those who are Antisemitic. However, we haven't had a serious conversation within our community about why there is an increase in groups being hosted and sanctioned who are not only Antisemitic but delegitimise Israel.
Here is a statenent we wrote of how our Jewish leadership have totally ignored a British organisation they work with hosting under the IHRA definition an Antisemitic organisation B'tselem
With all the organisations that are well funded, only one calls itself a U.K.Jewish leadership organisation stating that they represent the whole of the Jewish community within the UK.
There is only one organisation that deems itself to be the voice of the Jewish people in the United Kingdom. There is only one organisation that will take on board points of view from those that they politically agree with, and ignore the other public Jewish voices that disagree if on the right politically.
Ken Livingstone's tenure as leader of the British Labour Party's Oxford branch from 1979 to 1981 was a period of great hope for Jewish members. They believed that under his leadership, Antisemitism would be eradicated. However, this was not the case and the disappointment and bewilderment felt by many Jewish people remained. Following Livingstone, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair took up leadership roles in the Labour Party, yet neither were able to combat Antisemitism effectively. Even when Livingstone was elected Mayor of Greater London in 2000, there was still no sign that he could influence any change. His comments about Jewish people led to widespread criticism and further disillusionment among Jews who had once held him in high regard as a leader.
Jewish anxieties had already been heightened when the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the British Labour Party in 2015 cemented the facts that Jews were in trouble. All Jewish leadership organisations still believed that Anti-Zionism was not Antisemitism so how would they deal with Corbyn who was Anti-Israel for decades? we, and an organisation called Campaign4Truth believe that anti-Zionism is Antisemitism is anti-Judaism.
Despite apparently being a lifelong activist against racism and injustice, Corbyns past support for Palestinian rights and criticism of Israel raised questions about his commitment to Jewish communities in Britain. Although he has tried to assuage these concerns with positive gestures, including attending Holocaust Memorial Day services and expressing regret for any actions that might have caused hurt or offence, many British Jews remain sceptical about his leadership. Corbyn was consistently over decades at demonstrations against Israel, so how was the Jewish leadership going to tackle his views if they even didn't believe that all forms of antiZionism was Antisemitism? This was further compounded by reports that there were still pockets of Antisemitism within the party which Corbyn had been unable to eradicate despite his apparent efforts. This was a worrying development for both British Jews and their leaders who believed that Corbyn's current leadership of the Labour Party was not conducive to tackling Antisemitism head-on.
The opposition Labour Party had to take decisive steps towards ensuring equality and fairness within its ranks if it wanted to restore faith in its ability to protect British Jews from hatred or discrimination based on their religion or ethnicity.
Luciana Berger, a Jewish female Labour MP, left the party due to its delay in addressing Antisemitic invective from some of Jeremy Corbyn's supporters. Other Jewish Labour members displayed by Ms. Berger and other Jewish Labour MPs, such as Dame Louise Ellman and Ruth Smeeth, was extraordinary and never seen before in removing themselves from Labour but all never spoke openly stated that being anti-Israel was Antisemitic before Corbyn became leader. Nevertheless, it was clear that Jeremy Corbyn's leadership was not successful in eradicating Jew-hatred within the Labour Party or society more generally. This failure meant that there was an urgent need for a new Labour leader with the necessary experience to ensure that all forms of discrimination against Jews was challenged head-on within the party and beyond.
Luciana Berger, a Jewish MP in the UK Labour Party, had to be given police guard at the 2019 Labour Conference due to ongoing Antisemitic threats. In addition, Tom Watson, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party at the time refused to attend an Israeli conference in 2018 as he felt it was his moral obligation not to support what is seen as a form of occupation by some. Jeremy Corbyn had been accused of not doing enough to tackle Jew hate within his own party and this had been reflected in declining public opinion polls on him and Labour’s leadership.
But it wasn't just inside the Labour Party, our British Jewish leadership organisations, were extremely supportive of Labour, and indeed members of staff were part of the Labour Party. We even saw Jewish members of labour campaigning for Jeremy Corbyn, yet speaking about antisemitism in other places and how it must be eradicated and still separating the notion that being anti-Israel was Antisemitism. You cannot have the Jewish people without Israel. That is where our roots are that is where we are born. That is where we came from. Judaea, from the land of Israel.
This had been especially concerning for many Jewish voters, who have a long history of support for Labour and valued the work of their MPs and activists in representing them. This sentiment was expressed by Labour MP Wes Streeting when he said ‘it is not enough to say we are anti-racism if we are not taking action against antisemitism’. Although interestingly Streeting still campaigned for Corbyn during the election campaign period against the Conservative leader Boris Johnson.
The Labour party had been accused of allowing a malign campaign which focussed on Corbyn’s support for Palestinian rights rather than genuine criticism of his leadership to take hold within the party, and this had caused significant upset within the Jewish community in Britain.
This led to organisations such as Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) forming to offer an alternative voice within the party which criticised their approach towards the IHRA Antisemitism definition but also defended Corbyn from false accusations. The issue had become more prominent since Richard Kuper wrote an open letter condemning Jeremy Corbyn's handling of Antisemitism in May 2019 and this sparked further debate over how best to tackle it both within and outside of politics. The issue seemed complex, but there was widespread consensus that any form of racism or Antisemitic language should be challenged regardless if it relates to Israeli or Palestinian justice issues. Despite this consensus, it would seem that the current leadership hadn't yet eradicated Antisemitism from British politics due its failure to adequately address these issues with sufficient vigour when they first arose. The main difference between our beliefs that delegitimising Israel, delegitimising a right-wing government in Israel, even though the Israeli people voted for them, and the notion that they believed anti-Israel behaviour was not antisemitism had put Jewish people in a much more vulnerable and dangerous position.
This is particularly apparent when looking at the Labour Party and its supporters, who have repeatedly failed to address issues of Antisemitism within the party. Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis noted that “the overwhelming majority of British Jews are gripped by anxiety” due to a “repeated institutional failure to properly address Jew-hate.” Jewish groups who say they represent all Jews in the U.K. such as the Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council have also had their calls for action fall on deaf ears, with Jeremy Corbyn's leaderships response which was described as "too little too late" in some quarters.
In the face of an intolerant culture, outdated ideology, and UK Antisemitism problems that have been ignored for too long, some of the UK’s keenest supporters of Jewish rights have stepped up to address the situation. We hear an awful lot of Sir Alfred Dubs, on interviews on the media who was at the forefront of campaigns for Jewish refugees during WWII, he warned that “we can’t keep making impossible promises with no action” in order to solve this Antisemitism crisis. It appears then that despite its best efforts, British Jewish leadership failed to adequately tackle the issue.
While much progress was possibly made in recent decades in terms of promoting tolerance towards Jewish communities and cultures within Britain, it is clear that much more must be done if we are to truly eradicate Antisemitism . The recent attack on Mirviss highlights how far we still need to go before we can even begin talking about a resolution to this issue.
Alex Scott, former branch chairwoman of the British Labour Party, was subjected to a hate-filled attack by white supremacists. Kirby and Samuel were two of the protagonists who posted a poster depicting Nazi leader Adolf Hitler as a 'Fuehrer' alongside Scott's image
The British Labour Party was dealing with a miasma of conspiracism, illiberalism and anti-Semitism under their leader, Jeremy Corbyn. This was in stark contrast to their past leadership, as all three past prime ministers were philo-Semitic and the last leader, Ed Miliband, was Jewish. Antisemitism was never a major issue for the British political parties, with all three major parties having had Jewish leaders and cabinets containing far more Jewish ministers than Canada. In April 2016, Richard Kuper said that there was a "coordinated, willed and malign campaign to exaggerate the nature and extent of Antisemitism " in the Labour Party.
Labour MP Wes Streeting criticized the party's record on Jew hatred, but denied that Jeremy Corbyn, the opposition leader and current Labour chief, was himself antisemitic. Deputy leader Tom Watson then spoke out against antisemitism and called out Corbyn's lack of action. Since Corbyn's nomination as party leader in 2015, he has been under fire from some members, lawmakers and Jewish leaders for not taking enough action against antisemitism in the ranks.
British Jews considered their leader Jeremy Corbyn to be Antisemitic, and many would consider leaving the nation if he were to be elected Prime Minister.
The underlying reason for the formation of the Israeli state was due to persecution, rather than colonialism. The traditional enemies of Israel in the Middle East have expressed anti-Semitism since the formation of the Jewish state in 1948. Today, the current leaders of Persia, which is now called Iran, have expressed their own form of Amtisemitism and have expressed their determination to wipe Israel off the map.
The British Labour Party had again been accused of institutional failure in addressing anti-Semitism, leading to an official inquiry into anti-Semitic behaviour and support for terrorism amongst some of its members under Corbyn and those still in the Party. This inquiry was conducted in response to the growing fearmongering of Jeremy Corbyn's opponents, who were desperate to undermine his support among Jews and non-Jews alike. The Jewish Chronicle readers were largely uninterested in the inquiry, which was conducted by the party's national student organization, and focused on two staunch Corbynites from Oxford University Labour Club.
The issue of Antisemitism amongst Oxford Labour students needed to be investigated and addressed, as the Amtisemitic crisis was tearing the UK Labour Party apart. The problem was not only present in Israel, where Oxford Labour had not been the largest party in some time, but also amongst UK Jews, who were increasingly turning away from the Labour party. Jon Lansman's Jewish identity and Antismitism issues was at the core of his left Labour politics, and so he welcomed an investigation. Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters were attempting to address the issue, yet the events demonstrated that more needed to be done.
Chris Leslie, Britain's chief rabbi, Tom Watson, Luciana Berger, and other Jewish female Labour MPs have spoken out against the leadership of Labour, Jeremy Corbyn, and the culture of intolerance created by his outdated ideology. They highlighted the Antisemitism, racism and anti-Jewish invective hurled at them by Corbyn supporters. These individuals and the Labour Friends of Israel called for action to be taken to combat the racism and intolerance in the Labour party.
Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was constantly criticized for Labour’s delay in adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism. Indeed, it took a
Few Jewish pro Israel demonstrators outside Labour HQ to spend a day pushing
Labour to adopt opposing The JVL who
Stood up for Corbyn saying that we were only
There to support Israel.
Alfred Dubs, who escaped the Nazis in 1939, said Labour should have acted quicker, but said that Mirvis’ criticism was “unjustified and unfair.” Ken Livingstone, who was the leader of the Greater London Council, was widely credited with introducing far-Left anti-Semitism into Oxford Labour. Alex Scott-Samuel’s situation is an example of this.
Scott-Samuel is a fervent Jeremy Corbyn supporter and a major antagonist of Luciana Berger, a former branch chairwoman in the British Labour Party. Scott-Samuel has been on an internet television show hosted by a conspiracy theorist and Holocaust denier, where he has claimed that the Rothschild family is behind the neoliberal influence in the U.K. and U.S. Luciana Berger had to have a police guard at the Labour conference last year due to the escalation of antisemitic threats. The issue is not one of racial antagonism, but a political one of anti-Zionism, which conflates Israelis and Jews and takes Israeli rhetoric at face value.
In Europe, Jews are the target of one-sided attacks by Muslim youth gangs. This has been a problem for some time, but recently it has become more serious. In the UK, there have been allegations of anti-Semitism within the current Labour Party as remnants of Corbyn fans still sit in Parliament has said that the scale of it has been “dramatically overstated for political reasons”. Serge Cwajgenbaum of the European Jewish Congress has argued that the issue is not just one of anti-Semitism within Labour, but rather one of violence against Jewish targets by young Arab youths across Europe. This violence is a spill-over from anti-Zionism, which is a problem in both the UK and other European countries.
So where do we go from here? We need a stronger Jewish leadership one that does not encompass umbrella organisations that bring over Antisemitic organisations that delegitimise Israel. We need a leadership that speaks for all the voices of the Jewish people in the United Kingdom. We need a leadership that is supportive of those who stand on the streets against Antisemitic protests and against anti-Israel propaganda. We need a leadership that understands that if we have a difference of opinion politically that we will be heard. We need a leadership that doesn't make pitiful Twitter statements against a democratically elected government of Israel to show that indeed, the leadership of the Jewish people of the UK support the People's choice of their choice. We need a leadership to understand the anti-Zionism is Antisemitism is Anti-Judaism. Whether they're are from the political Conservative right or the left. And we need a leadership that stops and eradicates any organisation they work with that brings over to the U.K. other NGOs that totally ignores the IHRA definition of Antisemitism and they do it quickly.