represents less than 0.1 per cent of Labour’s membership of more than half a million.
While Corbyn stressed that “one is too many”, the statistic puts the ongoing smear campaign into sharp focus:
- Political commentators have been engulfing the airwaves with allegations that Labour has a widespread antisemitism problem.
- The editors of three mainstream Jewish newspapers recently branded Labour an “existential threat” to Jewish people in Britain.
- The corporate press has bombarded the public with such negative coverage for months.
A Jewish study into antisemitism in 2017 also puts the debate into perspective. While the report from the Institute for Jewish Policy Research emphasised that antisemitism is prevalent across society, including on the left, it concluded that:
On the political spectrum, levels of antisemitism are found to be highest among the far-right
As well as contextualising the allegations, Corbyn came down hard on anyone with antisemitic views:
Our party must never be a home for such people, and never will be. People who dish out antisemitic poison need to understand: you do not do it in my name. You are not my supporters and have no place in our movement.
“A racist state”
The Labour leader then clarified concerns about his party’s use of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism. While adopting the definition itself, Labour amended the following example it provides of antisemitism. This example asserts that claiming “that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour” is antisemitic as it denies Jewish people the right to self-determination. In the Guardian piece, Corbyn addressed people’s criticism of this:
Our actual differences are in fact very small – they really amount to half of one example out of 11, touching on free speech in relation to Israel. It is unfortunately the case that this particular example, dealing with Israel and racism, has sometimes been used by those wanting to restrict criticism of Israel that is not antisemitic. The Commons home affairs committee acknowledged this risk when it looked at the IHRA examples.
A Jewish Corbyn supporter laid out the problem to Channel 4, pointing out that the example removes the right of Palestinian people to define racism against them:
[It says] while I, as a Jew, should have the right to define opression [and] antisemitism against me, the Palestinian people shouldn’t have the same right to call the state that kills them a racist state. So I think that’s not a fair or a reasonable solution to the problem.
Such an example is open to abuse, as the author of the IHRA definition has for years acknowledged.
Battling the press
With a single Labour statistic, Corbyn has exposed the antisemitism smear campaign. Antisemitism does exist within Labour, which it must take seriously. But it’s a small minority holding such views.
As well as fighting antisemitism, we need to battle the mainstream press, which has already twisted the Labour leader’s words in the Guardian into more negative coverage. Corbyn is a genuinely progressive politician on the brink of government. The path was never going to be easy.
– Campaign with Free Speech on Israel.
Featured image via Sophie Brown/ WikiCommons