I’m Jewish and I’m voting Labour. Honestly, I can’t believe this is a statement that even needs writing. We have a Labour Party run by an anti-fascist who’s put his money where his mouth is in terms of action. And his party seeks a genuine alternative to the status quo of neoliberalism, austerity and gross inequality.
Since Jeremy Corbyn came to power, those that oppose him have tried every trick in the book to find the key to smearing him. For a while, nothing stuck. Then came the antisemitism ‘crisis’. And relentless pressure, a complicit establishment media that has been happy to ‘distort’ the facts, gross repetition, and a witch hunt eventually worked.
Now it’s got to the point where many people automatically associate Labour and the Corbyn project with antisemitism. As I wrote in August:
recently a charity event for the children of Gaza was cancelled due to “antisemitism fears”. I’ve seen a screening of Jeremy Hardy’s film about Palestine cancelled. It’s got to the stage where shouting “Free Palestine! Free Gaza!” feels like a subversive, rebellious act. It’s shaken me awake and made me realise that keeping quiet isn’t an option anymore.
So let’s cover the basics, again
I’ve written about being Jewish and supporting both Corbyn and Palestine on several occasions. And Nancy Mendoza’s Canary piece also summed up a lot of my feelings about being Jewish and opposing both antisemitism and political Zionism. I’ve also written about how anxious these types of article make me; and about the toxicity of social media and how Jews like myself are made to feel like our opinions aren’t valid or that somehow we’re not allowed a voice.
But this tweet from Ian Saville – aka the ‘Socialist Magician’, and a friend’s dad – got me thinking and made me realise how important it is that people like me speak up and regularly use whatever platforms we have to get this message out there:
I am a Jewish member of the Labour Party working hard to bring about a Labour Government. I have decided to tweet this message daily between now and December 12th. (Day 2 – out canvassing in marginal. Many positive doorstep chats)
— Ian Saville (@iansaville) November 10, 2019
Now I’m not a member of any political party. But unless people like me, Ian, and the Jewish woman on Question Time last week speak up, the myth that Jewish people won’t vote for Corbyn will continue to be the dominant narrative.
An existential threat
In July 2018, three Jewish newspapers ran joint front-page stories claiming Corbyn’s Labour Party is causing an “existential threat” for Jewish people, saying:
The stain and shame of antisemitism has coursed through her majesty’s opposition since Jeremy Corbyn became leader in 2015.
As I wrote at the time:
I had my own existential crisis. I started asking whether I had a right to join in the debate. I questioned my own legitimacy and asked myself whether I was a fraud to claim my Jewish heritage in order to write articles about antisemitism.
I’ve also never denied that there is antisemitism on the left. Whether it’s George Galloway’s comments about Tottenham, statements linking all Jewish people to Israel, or the Labour candidate who had to stand down due to his “Shylock” comment (and I’m sorry, but claiming ignorance and blaming education is pathetic – if you knew enough to make the reference, you knew what it meant), real antisemitism exists. And we need to call it out each and every time it happens and make it clear that there’s no place for it in any progressive social movement.
Meanwhile, there is a horrific rise in antisemitism – just not in the Labour Party. There’s the antisemitism where the far right desecrates Jewish graves with swastikas, and there are open attacks on Jewish people in the streets. This is real and utterly terrifying. But unlike the manufactured crisis, it’s got nothing to with critiquing Israel or supporting Palestinian freedom.
An existential crisis
But this election has caused me another existential crisis. It’s just being Jewish has nothing to do with it. My existential crisis is purely to do with living in Cornwall in a Conservative/Liberal Democrat marginal.
In 2017, Lib Dem candidate Andrew George lost by just 312 votes. And I remember being so angry that Labour voters didn’t vote for him. After all, George isn’t a typical Lib Dem. He opposed many of the coalition’s austerity measures and brought in a private member’s bill to try and get rid of the bedroom tax.
But things change. And I can’t do it this time. I can’t bring myself to put a tick in that Lib Dem box and I can’t encourage anyone else to do the same. The party under Swinson has lunged further to the right. Swinson has used every available opportunity to undermine Corbyn. And the party’s campaign so far has been so full of gross manipulation that any thought of tactical voting has disappeared. It’s also that manipulation that’s always led to people believing that they can’t vote Labour in Cornwall – that Cornwall will always be a Lib Dem stronghold. The last election, however, showed this wasn’t the case. That’s why Camborne & Redruth and Truro & Falmouth are both key Labour target seats now. As Alana Bates, the Labour candidate where I live, stated:
We don’t have to vote for the same old tired choices. Now we have a real choice – it’s time to be hopeful.
I’ve had so many conversations with people who don’t want to vote Lib Dem but don’t feel they have any choice. So it’s time we all made that shift. Because if all the people who want to vote Labour actually voted Labour, it could make a difference.
I’m voting Labour
I support Corbyn and I’ll vote Labour. But it’s important to remember that an election doesn’t give us real political power. It’s easy to get caught up thinking ‘my vote matters’ – especially when you live in a marginal constituency.
Ultimately, I’m voting for a Labour government because I believe it will make a real difference to millions of people across the world. From all of us who’ve suffered under the vile and heartbreaking austerity measures of Conservative-led governments to people being bombed with weapons sold by UK companies, a Corbyn government will make an immeasurablely positive difference to people’s lives. A vote for the Lib Dems, however good an individual may be, just won’t do this.
I’ve spent my life going to demos where Corbyn has spoken. I’ve spoken at meetings in parliament on Kurdish rights that Corbyn hosted long before he led the party. With a few exceptions, he’s one of the best MPs we’ve got. And the chance to see him running the country needs to be taken.
There’s still a but…
But – and it is a big but – this doesn’t mean supporting parliamentary democracy. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be looking at alternatives. And even if Corbyn wins, we need to be looking at ways of dismantling the power of Westminster and putting that power back in the hands of our communities – something Corbyn does say he wants to do.
I take inspiration from the Kurdish freedom movement, from the principles of direct democracy and a political system that puts women and ecology at the heart of everything that it does. These are the systems I’d like to see us build in the UK – new ways of working that could build a better and more empowering society for all of us. We’re not going to get there by 12 December, though.
I won’t stop fighting for these new and better ways of doing things. But people are dying under the Tories. I’m also terrified for my future, my child’s future, and the future of millions of strangers under the Tories.
This is why, as a Jewish person who believes parliamentary democracy is fundamentally flawed, I’m supporting Labour and I’ll be ticking that box come election day.
Featured image via YouTube – This Morning
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