The sound of Yiddish songs once used to ring out across Eastern European communities for centuries. One such song, Oyfn Pripetshik, contains within it a bitter truth that encapsulates the pain and darkness that has stalked the Jewish people since their conception, the fourth verse states:
“When you grow older, children,
You will understand by yourselves,
How many tears lie in these letters,
And how much lament”
The history of the Jewish people is one of tears, lament and abject pain. The letters of the Torah have been consecrated and built upon the tears of Jews subject to persecution of the most heinous kind ever seen in the history of man-kind from the Babylonian captivity to the Nazi menace, not a century has gone by without some form of catastrophe befalling the Jewish people. We must heed the warning of Oyfn Pripetshik and ensure that on Thursday, we ensure, as a proud multi-cultural, multi-racial and diverse British people, that we do not unwittingly become accessories for anti-semitism.
It is essential to highlight very clearly incidents of anti-semitism present within the Labour Party and to take-on those who wish to continue deflect from these incidents by calling them anti-zionism or criticisms of Israeli foreign policy.
For a man who claims to have ‘fought against racism and discrimination for all his life’ Jeremy Corbyn certainly seems to have blind spot against defending Jews from anti-semitism. The examples of this are numerous and staggeringly regular to be mere coincidences. Corbyn has defended Steven Sizer, the open anti-semitic vicar, who indulgently believes in the ‘Jewish lobby’ and Jewish conspiracies. Corbyn has supported Paul Eisen and the DYR that has openly espoused holocaust denial and anti-semitic canards. He has written a forward to JA Hobson’s Imperialism and called it ‘a great tome’ without recognising that Hobson was an avowed anti-semite who sought to blame Jews and Jewish ‘financiers’ for imperialism. He has been ‘present’ at a wreath-laying ceremony for the perpetrators of the Munich Olympic Massacre; a brazen act of anti-semitic violence. Indeed, if one claims that these incidents are isolated, then they are either misguided or Jeremy Corbyn seriously needs to reconsider the things he reads, defends and visits. I for one refuse to believe that an MP lacks the sensitivity and information to be able to not associate himself with anti-semites.
The Jewish Labour Movement’s report on anti-semitism within the Labour Party makes for harrowing reading suggesting that even beyond the leadership, the poison of anti-semitism has infiltrated every level of the Labour Party. Whether this be from parliamentary candidates such as Faiza Shaheen claiming that the Munich Massacre ‘might not have been anti-semitic’ to individual members being called ‘Tory Jews’, being told to ‘shut the f*ck up Jew’ or being jeered for taking on anti-semitic canards such as those that claim, with absolutely no evidence, the existence of a Jewish lobby. The rest of the report is as harrowing and to detail every abuse faced by Jews within the party would be impossible, but, for those that seek to defend the Labour Party from these charges, surely, the question must be, how is it possible that there can be so many incidents of anti-semitism with such ferocity and consistency for this not to be a problem within the Labour Party?
A common response is to deflect to the Conservative problem of Islamophobia but, this does not deal with the fact that there is evidence of an institutional abetting and head-turning against anti-semitic incidents in the Labour Party. With the exception of Baroness Warsi, who, with all due respect has political disagreements with the current Conservative leadership, there does not seem to be such a grass-roots insurrection or reporting of Tory Islamophobia. Of-course, many will argue there is an under representation of Muslims within the Labour Party and hence there is far less frequency of such incidents, however, this merely highlights the Labour Party’s predicament.
The Jewish labour movement has been a critical part of socialist thought in the United Kingdom and around the world. Jews have often taken a front line in labour politics and yet, they are now being openly derided, shunned and discriminated against with a party that so many Jews have contributed so much towards.
Anti-zionism or anti-semitism
An argument a lot of those set on defending Jeremy Corbyn will make is that Corbyn criticises Israel and this is misinterpreted by the media as being anti-semitic. Aside from the above truths where he has open accosted himself with known anti-semites, this line of argument also brings with it a historical hangover that itself is anti-semitic.
Just replacing the word ‘Jewish’ or ‘Jew’ with the words ‘Israel’ or ‘Zionist’ is not enough to expunge oneself of anti-semitims. Indeed, this is something that many in the Labour Party have done such as Richard Burgon screaming ‘zionism is the enemy of peace’. Now, while I cannot personally seek to say that when Burgon says zionism he means Jewish, the extension and link is very clear. The belief that Zionism, a movement for a Jewish homeland, came about through insidious means is something that has permeated anti-semitic circles for decades. The Soviets spread a conspiracy in the 1950s that Zionists has a vested interest in the elimination of European Jewry. Many Islamist preachers across the Arab World continue to spread anti-semitic canards under the guise of there being a Zionist conspiracy. When you consider that most of the conspiratorial nonsense spread about Zionism derives from the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the very beginning of anti-semitic conspiracies, it is clear that the link between being Anti-Zionist and Anti-Semitic is itself rooted, at least at some level, in anti-semitic hoaxes.
I refuse to believe that the United Kingdom is a nation where anti-semitism is tolerated. We have stood at the forefront of fighting for social justice and against discrimination wherever we may see it. At this election campaign, many are considering holding their nose and voting for the Labour Party because of what they appreciate as injustices within our society or because of annoyance with the government’s position on Brexit. I implore people to however consider the plight of Jews who are terrified of a Corbyn Premiership not only due to the above evidence, but also due to the weight of history that has burdened the Jewish people with a justified fear for their safety. As Oyfn Pripetshik puts it, the letters of the Torah are written in tears and lament; I plead with people to sympathise with this sentiment and not to vote in a way to become accessories to anti-semitism.