One desperate attack last night highlighted a key obstacle Long-Bailey needs to overcome

Rebecca Long-Bailey
Ed Sykes

During last night’s Labour leadership debate on BBC Newsnight, the contest’s weakest candidate Emily Thornberry claimed progressive frontrunner Rebecca Long-Bailey had failed to push for tougher action regarding allegations of antisemitism in the party. And this desperate attack highlighted a key obstacle that Long-Bailey needs to overcome if she’s going to defeat her opponents.

The antisemitism debate continues

For years, the opponents of outgoing leader Jeremy Corbyn have pushed the highly misleading idea of an antisemitism ‘crisis’ within the Labour Party; and mainstream media outlets have put out “misleading”, ‘distorted’, and “inaccurate” coverage exaggerating the scale of allegations. The scourge of antisemitism exists throughout society (though particularly on the far right), and Labour insists that antisemitism and all forms of discrimination are totally unacceptable. Accordingly, the party has taken consistently firm action against such racism in recent years. Allegations of antisemitism in the party reportedly relate to around 0.06% of the party’s 500,000+ members. And antisemitism among Labour supporters may have actually fallen under Corbyn’s leadership. Corbyn himself is a peaceprize winner who has fought against antisemitism all his life.

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Corbyn and his supporters have nonetheless faced constant right-wing smears which have weaponised and amplified antisemitism allegations to undermine his public popularity. This is a tactic that the pro-Israel right has been using heavily in recent years to attack Corbyn and other left-wing allies of the occupied Palestinian people. A number of prominent Jewish left-wingers have vocally opposed this propaganda campaign.

But the smears aren’t going away just because Corbyn’s stepping down as Labour leader. The right-wing Board of Deputies of British Jews (BoD), for example, has now pushed all Labour leadership candidates to back a highly controversial list of demands. Many Jewish left-wingers have firmly opposed this divisive list – which, as Jewish Canary editor Emily Apple has written, essentially asks Labour to “ignore socialist Jews” and “Jews who don’t support the actions of the Israeli state”.

The smear campaign worked, and is still alive

At last night’s debate, Thornberry claimed that she and right-wing favourite Keir Starmer had frequently called for “regular reports to the shadow cabinet” about antisemitism allegations. She added “I don’t think Rebecca did”, and Long-Bailey responded: “I did, I think you’ll find”. Long-Bailey also referred to her support for the BoD’s recent demands, saying:

As leader I will be signing up to the 10 pledges. I would expect my shadow cabinet and all those within it, all our members and MPs within Parliament to follow my lead on that

Out of all the leadership candidates, Long-Bailey has made the most progressive policy pledges so far. But her support for the BoD’s exclusionary demands has disappointed and alienated many Jewish and non-Jewish left-wingers. One petition (which almost 5,000 people had signed at the time of writing) asks Long-Bailey to change tack and reject the BoD pledges. A new poll, meanwhile, suggests that a large majority of Labour members and left-wingers believe that antisemitism allegations against the party have been “wildly exaggerated by the right-wing media and opponents of Jeremy Corbyn”.

It’s understandable that Long-Bailey wants to appeal to as many people as possible and avoid the smears that hit Corbyn. But she herself has expressed awareness of the need to fight back effectively against Britain’s hostile billionaire press and its establishment allies. Indeed, because of the key role this toxic coalition has played since 2015 in turning voters against Jeremy Corbyn and Labour, she has argued that “a rebuttal unit” is necessary to resist the propaganda. Her support for the BoD’s demands, however, suggests capitulation rather than resistance.

Capitulating will only strengthen the right-wing assault

Long-Bailey’s left-wing policies are promising. But last night’s debate highlighted a big problem for her; despite her capitulating to the BoD demands, her opponents are still coming after her with charges of ‘being weak on antisemitism allegations’. And as long as she and others fail to fight back, the smear campaign will continue.

Capitulating didn’t help Long-Bailey to appease the right; it only helped to alienate people on the left whom she should be appealing to. So if she wants to turn things around, she desperately needs to start fighting back against the propaganda.

Featured image via screenshot, with additional content via Press Association

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  • Show Comments
    1. “As leader I will be signing up to the 10 pledges. I would expect my shadow cabinet and all those within it, all our members and MPs within Parliament to follow my lead on that.”
      Handing over Labours internal discipline procedure to an outside organisation, which at best will erase any true left wing activists from the party and worse will facilitate the Zionist Apartheid endeavour.
      A deal breaker for me and my membership of Labour, so sad.

    2. Me too. Corbyn paid a heavy price for not defending himself (and us) and was widely seen as weak because of it. And now it appears that all the candidates have capitulated to the JLM, membership of which, by the way, is open to non-Jews and non- members of the party.
      One comrade has taken the step of submitting herself to the Compliance Unit for anti-semitism due to the fact that she supports human rights for Palestinians. A good idea except that not one of the eight complaints I have made to party about the activities of anti-Palestinian bigots in the party has been acknowledged, let alone responded to. It seems that the party is only interested in hearing from Israel supporters.

    3. ‘Consistently firm action’. Yeah, right, that’s why the Equality and Human Rights commission are investigating the party. Racists rarely see themselves as being such, hence the blinkered views of those like the above two posters. When the majority of the UK public and the EHRC see your behaviour as racist and unacceptable, it’s a good sign that your behaviour is racist and unacceptable. Stop hanging around echo chamber forums and Twitter feeds and speak to the general public and see what they perceive the Labour Party activists to be.

      1. Well, well, well, the same person who defended racist Gammons is also trying to give credibility to the “antisemitism” smears. How interesting that it is racist right wingers who bang on about non existent antisemitism on the left and ignore it on the right.

      2. What do you call the jewish community who support JC and Labour party
        This is the safest country in Europe for the Jewish community thanks to JC and Labour party
        Do you accept vexatious claims of anti semitism are hate crimes and should be prosecuted or at the very least members should be suspended pending expulsion
        Have you visited the Jewish Voice for Labour website, excellent source of information and evidence of vexatious claims of anti semitism by certain individuals and groups
        I look forward to the day they are brought to book

      3. Racists like Zionists you mean? True, they deny their racism in spite decades of evidence. Zionism is a racist creed in its essence. It asserts that the whole of Palestine should be Jewish. What then should happen to the Palestinians? Of course, Golda Meir said they don’t exist. Non-people, just as the Jews were to the Nazis. 2,178 people have been accused of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party out of 500,000. How good’s your maths? That’s 0.04%. And you call that “industrial”,Only dupes of the racist Zionist lobby believe the nonsense that Labour is “institutionally racist”. Israel is. The evidence is before your eyes.

    4. Many people, if not most, who have been expelled from the Labour Party for “antisemitism” are themselves Jews who have criticized Israel. You must stand up to bullies, When you appease a bully, you encourage them.

    5. “In recent years”? No, much longer than that. Decades. This Zionist lobby is highly successful. It works like this: if you criticise Israel or Zionism, you are an anti-Semite; if you are Jewish (eg Chomsky) and you criticise Israel or Zionism, you are a pathologically self-hating Jew; and if you are accused of anti-Semitism and deny it, that is proof you are anti-Semitic.
      The propaganda trick of the “new anti-Semitism” was worked out long ago. The idea is to switch the accusation of anti-Semitism from its customary source, the far-right, and attribute it to the left and liberals. Because these people have concern for the rights of the Palestinians, they threaten Israeli interest and are therefore, so the Stalinist logic goes, “objectively” anti-Semitic. Accusing those who have been historically enemies of racism of racism is the Zionists’ way of deflecting criticism of Israel and preventing solidarity with the Palestinians. It has been very potent. Look at the damage it did to Corbyn, one of the most consistent anti-racists in the modern world.
      Long-Bailey’s problem is simple: naivety and cowardice. She is naive enough to think the Zionists care tuppence about racism. They are racists. To the core. They simply use racism for propaganda purposes. In this regard, The Holocaust Industry is essential reading. The cynicism of the Zionists is bottomless. L-B imagine the Zionists can be placated. They can’t. They can only be faced down, exposed and defeated. This is where cowardice comes in. There has to be no fear of offending Zionists. They will be offended by the merest hint of criticism. The evidence has to be presented and the arguments made: Zionism is racism. It is not a belief in a Jewish State. It is a belief in the superiority of Jews and in a Jewish Palestine. The whole of Palestine. That is racist by definition. It implies genocide, ethnic cleansing or Bantustans for the Palestinians. L-B has no way out but to say this. If she refuses, she will play into the hands of the Zionists and they will destroy her. They won’t even wait for her to make a mistake, they will invent it. They will find a pretext to accuse her of being anti-Israeli and from there it will be as short journey to labelling her a full-blown anti-Semite. She will have no defence. The only defence against these vicious and malicious people is attack. They are strong only because their opponents adopt weakness as their position. Out of a misplaced will not to offend Jews, they comply with Zionist racism. L-B can’t delay. If she does not change her stance she will be a prisoner of the Zionists and will have to tailor everything she does and says to their demands. The bureaucracy of the Labour Party has been infiltrated by Zionists who are intent on destroying it as a party which stands for equality for all people. The assumption of Jewish exceptionalism and superiority is taken for granted by the Zionists. If L-B does not face that down now, it will be too late. She will never be able to say a word in defence of the Palestinians and Labour will be finished as a party of equality. Of course, that is what the Right want. They want to destroy socialism and social democracy and make Labour what is was under Blair, an ersatz Tory Party. L-B has a short time to find her intellectual and moral courage.

    6. That fake antisemitic smear campaign certainly was a powerful political tool of the Hard Right.
      It worked so well this fake political issue.
      Labour candidates can’t think of an response to combat it.
      This was the issue that did them in.
      No response?
      No political smarts.
      The real democracy now is found out on the streets with a placard.

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