As a Jewish Labour member, I'm sick of anti-Semitism being used as a political weapon against Jeremy Corbyn

For years now I’ve travelled across the UK to report from far-right, fascist and neo-Nazi rallies. I’ve seen the real threat that faces Jews in the country, those who wear swastikas as badges of honour. Where was your concern for my community then?

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The Independent Online

It’s become an all too regular occurrence, waking up to headlines reporting that anti-Semitism in the Labour party is now an endemic problem, and that bad feeling against Jewish people in the party is on an upward trajectory.

As a Jewish Labour Party member, they are stories that should have me alarmed. I know from experience just how dangerous anti-Semitism can really be: vast swathes of my ancestors were lost to the murderous hands of the Nazis, and observant Jewish friends of mine have been harassed and attacked on British streets. I’ve read the slurs, faced the trolls, had neo-Nazis shout abuse in my face. 

And yet it’s not just anger against bigots that hits as I scan story after story, but frustration towards those trying to use an all too real threat facing my community for their own political gain. Since Corbyn’s election as Labour leader, unsupportive MPs, campaigning groups and journalists have been desperate to paint him and the movement who support him as anti-Semitic fanatics, despite knowing it’s really not the case. 

I could tell you about my own experiences, how I’ve never experienced or witnessed anti-Semitism inside the party – but that’s just what I’ve seen, non-Jewish defenders of my religion will claim. My experiences, and those of countless other Corbyn-supporting Jewish members who I’ve spoken to, aren’t reflective of what’s really going on, apparently.

Just a few months ago, I found myself sat in the Channel 4 News studio, tasked with discussing anti-Semitism under Corbyn. Sat opposite me was John Woodcock MP, desperate to tell me it’s the “hard-left” who are “associated [with] Soviet Russia” with anti-Semitic views infiltrating the party who were responsible for stirring up hatred. 

Now, we only need look at the most high-profile of cases to see that anti-Semitism is by no means a product of Corbyn’s supporters. Naz Shah, MP for Bradford West, was rightly suspended for sharing anti-Semitic posts on Facebook, not a Corbynite but a backer of Yvette Cooper in the last leadership election. Ken Livingstone, similarly sanctioned for his remarks about Hitler, has been a party grandee for decades. An insurgent? I think not. 

Woodcock pointed me towards “a rise in anti-Semitic incidents” within the party, without having a single statistic or figure to back it up. It’s an answer I hear time and time again, and for those of us – Jewish or otherwise – committed to fighting anti-Semitism, enough is enough. 

It’s tiring and it’s frustrating, but moreover it’s frankly dangerous. 

For years now I’ve travelled across the UK to report from far-right, fascist and neo-Nazi rallies, and the counter-demonstrations that take place alongside. I’ve seen the real threat that faces Jews in the country, those who profess hatred for Jews and our religion, who wear swastikas as badges of honour, who’ll salute like a Nazi in front of your face. Where was your concern for my community then?

Jeremy Corbyn's campaign team tackle accusations of anti-Semitism

It’s not just the distinct absence of those MPs in Labour who now claim to be at the forefront of the fight against anti-Jewish prejudice that’s striking, but the presence of those they now claim to be British Jewry’s biggest threat. 

It’s the left, and Corbyn’s supporters, who’ve put their bodies on the line time and time again to protect us from these racist organisations.

That’s why these cries of anti-Semitism make a mockery of a real and present danger. Corbyn’s commitment to fighting discrimination and prejudice has been well documented for decades. His supporters are those who’ve stood alongside him. Accusing these people now of peddling prejudice is nothing but political point-scoring at its worst. It undermines real hatred, and waters down the impact of calling out anti-Semitism when it rears its ugly head. 

I’m not saying Labour members haven’t experienced anti-Semitism inside the Labour Party, and of course, a progressive movement like Labour should hold itself to higher standards than other organisations. Those few who blindly label all incidents of anti-Semitism as anti-Corbyn slander and restrictions on critiquing Israel need to listen to the voices of victims and let conversations about Judaism and Israel be led by Jewish members: we are here and we know how to speak. 

This isn’t to say I don’t value the concern, but I want to make a few things perfectly clear. Anti-Semitism is not a problem particular to Labour; using the words “Judaism” and “Israel” interchangeably is just as (if not more) common on the right as on the left. 

Oppression, discrimination and Jewish identity are complex; the relationship between our religion and the state of Israel is constantly debated; disagreements will happen inside our community. Let us lead these discussions. Don’t quickly take sides simply to advance your faction, angle or personal interests. 

And if you’re truly concerned about fighting racism and anti-Semitism, I look forward to seeing you stand alongside us in meetings and on the streets. 

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