Over 200 Jewish Labour supporters just sent a powerful message to the resigned Blairites

Chuka Umunna, Chris Leslie and Luciana Berger
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On 20 February, over 200 Jewish Labour members and supporters sent a powerful message to the eight MPs who resigned from Labour. Now part of a new centrist faction, Luciana Berger, Chuka Umunna, Chris Leslie and others cited antisemitism as a key reason they quit being Labour MPs.

“Crucial ally”

Another resigned MP, Joan Ryan, said she opted for the new pro-Remain, pro-austerity group mainly because of a “scourge of anti-Jewish racism” that she claims has “infected” Labour under Jeremy Corbyn.

But, in a letter to the Guardian, other Jewish Labour supporters said that, on the contrary:

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We believe that the Labour party under the progressive leadership of Jeremy Corbyn is a crucial ally in the fight against bigotry and reaction. His lifetime record of campaigning for equality and human rights, including consistent support for initiatives against antisemitism, is formidable. His involvement strengthens this struggle.

The letter continues:

It is in this context that we welcome the Labour party’s endorsement of freedom of expression on Israel and on the rights of Palestinians. Labour is correct to recognise that while prejudice against Jewish people is deplorable, criticism of Israel’s government and policies can and must be made.

“Disproportionate focus”

The Jewish Labour supporters noted the rise of xenophobic governments:

We note the worrying growth of populist rightwing parties, encouraging racism, Islamophobia and antisemitism. In Britain the far right is whipping up these prejudices, a threat that requires a resolute and energetic response. But instead we have seen a disproportionate focus on antisemitism on the left, which is abhorrent but relatively rare.

The Labour supporters are right to be concerned. Far-right leader Jair Bolsonaro recently took the presidency in Brazil. Within a day of being in office, Bolsonaro used executive powers to transfer the regulation of all indigenous land to a sector of government the Guardian characterises as “controlled by the powerful agribusiness lobby”. He also lamented that the “Brazilian cavalry wasn’t as efficient as the Americans, who exterminated their Indians”.

Viktor Orban, meanwhile, runs a far-right government in Hungary that has consistently exploited antisemitic tropes to shore up support among xenophobes. This includes painting Jews as “money-grubbers”, seeking to celebrate World War II-era regents who presided over the murder of Jewish people and marginalising Jewish people to promote an exclusive Christian culture. Yet Theresa May’s Conservative Party has no problem sitting in an official EU alliance with far-right regimes that failed to condemn Orban’s government in an EU vote. In fact, David Cameron set up the Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists in Europe in 2009, which includes Poland’s far-right Law and Justice party.

The facts

By contrast, neither the Labour leadership, nor its MPs, have joined such alliances. That said, there are instances of antisemitism from Labour councillors and members. Councillor Damien Enticott, for instance, claims he was hacked, despite social media accounts in his name posting antisemitic posts such as “Hitler would have a solution to the Israel problem” over three years.

But, given the relentless media coverage and attacks from Corbyn’s political opponents, the broader context is important. And the evidence supports the 201 Jewish Labour supporters who say that antisemitism on the left is “abhorrent but relatively rare”:

  • Accusations of antisemitism involve around 0.1% of Labour’s 540,000-strong membership.
  • An academic report found widespread ‘distorted, inaccurate and misleading’ coverage of Labour and antisemitism across the corporate media.
  • A Jewish study into antisemitism in 2017 concluded that, while antisemitism is an issue on the left, “levels of antisemitism are found to be highest among the far-right”.
‘Without merit’

In September 2018, renowned Jewish intellectual Noam Chomsky went further than the Labour supporters who wrote to the Guardian. The author of over 100 books on issues ranging from linguistics to geopolitics said that the antisemitism allegations were part of a “disgraceful” campaign to dispose of Corbyn:

The charges of anti-Semitism against Corbyn are without merit, an underhanded contribution to the disgraceful efforts to fend off the threat that a political party might emerge that is led by an admirable and decent human being, a party that is actually committed to the interests and just demands of its popular constituency and the great majority of the population generally

The ‘left’ should have higher standards and condemn any antisemitism and racism from its ranks. That said, it’s safe to say that the sheer volume of what academics have called ‘misleading’ coverage of Labour and antisemitism is predominantly a smear campaign. The British establishment cannot win the battle of ideas so they must try and stain the movement in another way.

The 201 Labour supporters argue that the British media and political class has flipped reality. They’ve painted the Corbyn-led movement – not as an ally against all forms of racism – but as a regressive force. We must join these Jewish Labour supporters in unapologetically correcting the record.

The letter was signed by:

Prof Elizabeth Dore
Prof David Epstein
Prof Gene Feder
Mike Leigh
Prof Mica Nava
Prof Michael Rosen
Prof Donald Sassoon
Prof Avi Shlaim
Gillian Slovo
Prof Annabelle Sreberny
Walter Wolfgang
Prof John Yudkin
John Abraham
Kate Adams
Rebecca Amiel
Ruth Appleton
Tasha Barlow
Graham Bash
Dr Shereen Benjamin
Jeremy Bernhaut
Frances Bernstein
Dr Jon Berry
Cllr Jo Bird
Rica Bird
Frank Black
Jay Blackwood
Pamela Blakelock
Alice Bondi
Tony Booth
Jenny Malca Brown
Peter Buckman
Andy Burkitt
Erica Burman
Samuel Burrowes
Keith Burstein
Rose Challands
Brian Chinnery
Eve Cina
Andrew Clifford
Emma Clyne
Jonathan Clyne
Mike Cohen
Ron Cohen
Amnon Cohen
Ruth Cohen
Kathy Cohn
Rita Craft
Judith Cravitz
Prof. David Curtis
Mike Cushman
Miriam David
Steven Davidson
Hilary De Santos
Alan Deadman
Greg Douglas
Elizabeth Dresner
Linda Edmondson
Ros Edwards
David Einhorn
Mark Elf
Michael Ellman
Prof Debbie Epstein
Javier Farje
Pia Feig
Jack George Field
Arye Finkle
Nick Foster
Roisin Francis
Esther Freeman
Debbie Friedman
Danny Friedman
Kenny Fryde
Carolyn Gelenter
Mike Gerber
Vicki Gilbert
René Gimpel
Prof. Jane Ginsborg
Claire Glasman
Murray Glickman
David Goldberg
Paul Goldman
Simon Goodman
John Goodman
Peter Gorbach
Tony Graham
Rosalind Grainger
Alice Gray
Ilse Gray
Elleanne Green
Heinz Grünewald
Ash Hardenne
Alison Harris
Jeanne Heal
Prof Susan Himmelweit
Andrew Hornung
Katharine Hoskyns
Mike Howard
Jonathan Hyams
Selma James
Lin James
Riva Joffe
Ann Jungman
Michael Kalmanovitz
L Sasha Kaplin
Stephen Kapos
Jenny Kassman
Richard Keidan
Monash Kessler
Jenny King
Godfrey King
Katherina Kohler
Simon Korner
Dr Agnes Kory
Debbie Krantz
Richard Kuper
Jon Kurta
Prof Frank Land
Michelle Laufer
Pam Laurance
Daniel Laverick
Mike Layward
Dr Sydney Leaman
Joanna Leigh
Jessica Leschnikoff
Cllr Leah Levane
Rachel Lever
John Lipetz
Robert Lizar
Ruth Lukom
Simon Lynn
Deborah Maccoby
Dorothy Macedo
Nikki Mailer
Jenny Manson
Jessica Manson
Helen Marks
Stephen Marks
Gillian McCall
Jeff McCracken-Hewson
Terence McGinity
Ros Meadow
Rita Mendelson
Dr Heather Mendick
Angie Mindel
Prof David Mond
Diana Neslen
David Nissen
Gary Ostrolenk
Jonathan Parish
Susan Pashkoff
Helen Pearson
Jacob Prager
Caroline Raine
Reuben Ramsay
Roland Rance
Tom Reed
Jenny Richardson
Siôn Rickard
Prof Marion Roberts
Prof Jonathan Rosenhead
Benny Ross
Carolyn Roth
Richard Saffron
Esther Saraga
Ian Saville
Monika Schwartz
Josepha Scotney
Mike Scott
Amanda Sebestyen
Glyn Secker
Jenny Secretan
Irene Sedler
Marian Sedley
Ruth Selwyn
Brian Shade
Janet Silver
Liz Silver
Ludi Simpson
Pam Singer
Mark Smithson
Stephen Solley QC
David Sperlinger
Ruth Steigman
Dr Alexandra Stein
Adrian Stern
Martin Stevenson
Benny Talbot
Deborah Talmi
Inbar Tamari
Norman Traub
Tessa van Gelderen
Daniel Vulliamy
Brian Warshaw
Sam Weinstein
Charlotte Prager Williams
George Wilmers
Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi
Debbie Windley
Roy Wolfe
Miriam Yagud
Dr Gillian Yudkin

Featured image via YouTube, 1, 2 and 3

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