Many articles have been published about Jeremy Corbyn's prominent role in not preventing – and occasionally also promoting – antisemitism in the British Labour party. His support of extreme antisemites has been well covered in media. Its main element, among a number of others, was declaring that the genocidal antisemitic terror organizations, Hamas and Hezbollah, were his “friends and brothers.” He also invited them to the House of Commons. But there is more.
The interference of Corbyn’s office in the investigations of antisemitic incidents within Labour was condemned in the Equality Human Rights Commission, (EHRC) report saying: "The committee found that Mr. Corbyn’s office unlawfully, ‘politically interfered’ with almost two dozen cases of alleged antisemitism.”
One aspect of Labour’s antisemitism – that has received insufficient media attention -- concerns the collateral damage resulting from Corbyn's attitude toward antisemitism within the party he led. This concerns the huge number of abusive messages that some leading Jewish elected representatives in the party received. If he reacted at all, he did so only nominally.
To highlight this in a rather simple way, one can focus attention on the extremely unpleasant experiences of the four female Jewish MP’s that were representing Labour when Corbyn became party Chairman in 2015. This will give insight into the antisemitic vilification and extreme hate some prominent Jewish party members had to endure during Corbyn’s leadership.
Already in 2016, MP Ruth Smeeth - who lost her seat during the 2019 parliamentary elections – said that she had received more than 25,000 messages of abuse. She called on Corbyn to name and shame the worst perpetrators who claimed to be acting in his name. Corbyn did not react.
There is no proof that the hate messages came primarily from Labour members. They might have originated partly in the 'fascistoid' extreme right as well as in its leftist mirror group of Jew haters. For lack of better terminology, one could call the latter group “progressive perverts.” Furthermore, one has to consider that one person can send many messages. Yet had there not been the negligent and often passive attitude to antisemitism of Corbyn and his immediate environment, this massive flow of Jew-hatred surely would not have happened.
Most of the antisemitic communications against Smeeth were on social media, primarily Twitter and Facebook. Calls also came to her office as well as emails. One of the messages received referred to her being hung from the gallows. The torrent of verbal hatred began in June 2016 when Smeeth walked out of the press conference in which the extremely unprofessional report by Shami Chakrabarti – soon to join the House of Lords on Corbyn’s recommendation - discussing antisemitism in Labour was presented.
Smeeth related that she was verbally assaulted there by a Labour activist and Corbyn supporter "who used traditional antisemitic slurs to attack me for being part of a 'media conspiracy.’" She related that "the leader of my own party stood by and did absolutely nothing." Nevertheless Smeeth remains in the Labour party until today.
Another female Labour MP, Luciana Berger, was also a major target of antisemitic hatred. She left the party in February 2019. In an article in that year, Berger mentioned that in 2014 a member of the neo-Nazi national action organization was jailed for sending Berger an antisemitic tweet. Following the verdict, the police told her that she had received 2500 hate messages in just three days. This happened while Corbyn’s predecessor Ed Miliband -- who is Jewish -- was Chairman of Labour. Another antisemite was jailed for sending Berger an antisemitic tweet after the murder of Labour MP Joe Cox in 2016.
One far right activist received a two-year prison sentence after a campaign of antisemitic abuse against Berger in which she was called "evil, filthy Jew bitch" and compared to a rat. Berger also received messages that she should kill herself so that "an actual Labour MP can take your place." Berger was given police protection when her party held its annual gathering in Liverpool, the locality of her constituency. She received hardly any support from Corbyn.
In October 2019, another Jewish female MP, Louisa Elman, quit Labour. She had been a member of the party for 55 years. In a letter she said she had been "deeply troubled by the growth of antisemitism in Labour in recent years."
"The last remaining female Labour MP, Margaret Hodge, has told Corbyn to his face that he is an antisemite. She has said the leadership under Corbyn was dishonest” in their claims of having a zero-tolerance approach to antisemitism. She went on to say that antisemitism has gripped the party, but that: “it [antisemitism] is just one element that reflects the culture of the politics of the hard-left approach to the world.” Hodge added: “It’s a culture that’s characterized by a complete intolerance of anyone that doesn’t share their view.”
She revealed in December 2000 that she receives tens of thousands of abusive tweets a month. Research by Community Security Trust (CST), an antisemitism monitoring organization, found there were about 90,000 mentions of Hodge’s name or Twitter handle, including retweets and shares, during October and November. Some, however were positive or neutral. It found that 22,000 individuals had been involved. CST has collated a dossier of abusive tweets against Hodge. One message called her “a backstabbing, evil old wrinkled pedo lover.” Another said she had “spent the war in Switzerland selling … steel to Hitlar [sic] to burn Jews”.
Corbyn's promotion of genocidal anti-Israelism and his negligence and passivity. created the infrastructure for the extreme attacks on elected representatives of Labour. When discussing Corbyn's place in history of contemporary British antisemitism, his role in helping to create the environment in which such massive attacks on a few Jewish MPs occurred should be added to the many other negative factors in judging him on this issue.
After his expulsion from the Parliamentary Labour party, Corbyn announced that he is launching a global peace and justice project. This initiative by an antisemitism promoter, who has been entirely passive when massive hate attacks affected prominent Jews in his party, is another major act of Corbyn’s extreme hypocrisy.
Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld is the emeritus Chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He has been a strategic advisor for more than thirty years to some of the Western world’s leading corporations. Among the honors he received was the 2019 International Lion of Juda Award of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research paying tribute to him as the recognized leading international authority on contemporary antisemitism. His main book on the subject is: The War of a Million Cuts The struggle against the delegitimization of Israel and the Jews and the growth of New antisemitism.