Exposing UK Labour Party MP cowardice
Exposing UK Labour Party MP cowardice

One would have thought that by now everything has been said on the widespread, multifaceted and complex antisemitism in the UK Labour party. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) – a public body – has recently decided to investigate the antisemitism in the party. It is only the second time in history that a British party is being investigated by this commission. The previous case concerned an enquiry into the small crypto-fascist British National party in 2010.

This time the investigation concerns a party which according to some polls may even win the next elections in a political landscape which is splintering. Once the EHRC report will come out, it is likely to show that the report written three years ago on antisemitism in Labour by Shami Chakrabarti, now a Labour member of the House of Lords, at the request of party leader Jeremy Corbyn was a model for incompetent investigations.

One would have expected that the decision of the EHRC to start a full investigation would finally have convinced the Labour leadership to take dealing with antisemitic incidents more seriously. There are still however indications to the contrary. A three person committee, appointed by the party’s National Executive Committee decided to recommend reinstating the suspended MP Chris Williamson. He had suggested the party was “too apologetic” about antisemitism. Yet the protests against his readmission were so major that he had to be suspended again after two days.  

One of the three members of the panel which investigated Williamson was Huda Elmi who represented his constituency. When the EHRC announced that it was investigating Labour, she called for its abolishment. 

The Jewish Chronicle summarized Williamson's relationship to the antisemitism in Labour as follows: 

1.    He has repeatedly sought to downplay or dismiss antisemitism in the Labour party.

2.    He has repeatedly supported and defended individuals who have made deeply controversial and sometimes overtly antisemitic statements.

3.   He has gone out of his way to attack one of the Jewish community’s key representative organizations.

Until recently one could only guess about the cowardice of many Labour MPs who oppose the antisemitism in the party but did not come out against it. This topic has now been elucidated a bit by MP Ian Austin who quit Labour in February. He addressed the umbrella body of British Jewry, the Board of Deputies. Austin said there that "it was not good enough for the party’s MP's to tell him privately that they were opposed to antisemitism - or even to send tweets saying they were attempting to take a stand on the issue.” 

About their relation to Corbyn,  Austin said that some of these MPs were “even serving as part of his front bench team, even in the shadow cabinet, actively helping him become Prime Minister.” He added: “Surely they know in their hearts he has allowed the party to be poisoned by racism and extremism and that he himself has said things which are racist themselves. He is unfit to lead the Labour Party and certainly unfit to become our Prime Minister.” 

Lord Falconer is a former senior Labour minister. He stated recently that there are probably thousands of antisemites in the Labour Party. This is the first time that a number of this magnitude is mentioned by a prominent Labourite. Falconer also introduced the ‘Pete Willsman acid test: "I said 14 days ago that it would be an acid test of the Labour Party’s disciplinary process whether it dealt with the Pete Willsman case within 14 days. The 14 days are up today.” Falconer concluded that the party had failed the test. Willsman, a member of the party’s National Executive Committeel had claimed that the allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party were total lies. He had said: “One of these things about antisemitism is that they’re using that to whip people up. They’ll use anything – any lies. It’s all total lies and they just whip it up.’ (…)" 

Falconer wrote: “If Pete Willsman remains a member of the NEC it is impossible to see how any Jewish person could have confidence complaints of antisemitism …would be dealt with properly by the Labour Party when they are happy to tolerate as a member of their ruling body someone who regards most of the complaints of antisemitism as lies." Falconer had intended to conduct his own investigation inot antisemitism in Labour before the EHRC announced its inquiry.

Another former Labour Minister, Lord Hain published a 3000 word statement together with Daniel Levy, a former advisor to Israeli Labour prime ministers. They wrote that the antisemitism crisis of Labour has led “to empower apologists for totally unacceptable Israeli government attacks on Palestinians and the steady throttling of their rights – allowing those apologists to scale new heights in their dishonest attempts to label criticism of such Israeli policy as ‘antisemitic.” Hain and Levy argue that is legitimate to challenge Zionism and question whether a two state solution still remains the best route to peace.  

It is clear that the authors think that by acknowledging the antisemitism within Labour, they can justify their attack on Israel. Not explicitly mentioning the Palestinian Authority’s financial rewards for those who murder Israelis and Hamas’ calls for genocide of Jews fit indeed the attitude of Labour’s current leaders. 

The above is just a small selection of in Labour’s multiple new interactions with antisemitism. At the pace they come many new developments are likely in the coming weeks.