The first thing I thought when I woke up yesterday, after a night of struggling to sleep, was “the EHRC report is released today”, “how do I protect myself?” and “how can I help protect others?” Why? Because in the age of the antisemitism storm in the Labour Party, the digital world has been nightmarish for so many Jews.
The failure to deal with antisemitism in Labour has created an entirely toxic environment for Jewish people both in, and outside, of Labour online. An environment where Jewish people have to pick a faction, and ascribe to a constructed version of “the truth”, or be viciously attacked and character assassinated. I, like many other Jews, refused to conform to “one truth” about the complex crisis in Labour, and paid dearly for it.
I have been told I want Palestinians to die, despite being part of a Jewish anti-Occupation movement. I have been called a kapo, despite actively fighting racism and antisemitism. I have been libelled, I have been dogpiled, I have been doxxed. I have been accused of being an antisemite by fake Jewish “allies”, and I have been accused of being part of the “witch-hunt” against Jeremy Corbyn.
The worst it got was when far-right antisemitic trolls, who claimed to be fighting antisemitism in Labour, posted antisemitic abuse, anti-Black abuse, and my personal information online. I sat with my rabbi and had to explain the maelstrom to a police officer after I felt I was in danger – and I know of Jewish MPs whose experiences resemble mine. I also know of Jews who have been stalked and had personal information posted online by trolls for criticising Corbyn – and Jewish MPs who have suffered similarly.
Despite this, I still expressed my views and I still made my voice heard – along with many other Jews. However, after a traumatic election campaign, and the release of a dossier which showed more factionalism in the party earlier this year, I left Labour for the second time in three years. I tried to push the saga out of my mind – I felt a sense of relief. I, like many other Jews, had sacrificed too much of my mental health, and too much of my energy. Yet the discourse has returned.
As a journalist, I can’t really avoid Twitter – it’s a key tool of the trade, for better or for worse. Likewise, for many Jewish Labour members, social media is a key part of political organising in the modern world. But there are some ways to protect yourself – there are tools in one’s arsenal that can be deployed.
Limiting Twitter usage, muting certain topics, turning off notifications for accounts that haven’t verified their email addresses, turning off replies, blocking trolls and their networks, making your Twitter account private if necessary, and calling the police if needed. Short of coming off Twitter altogether, these can really help.
And all of this has become necessary because the failure to address antisemitism in Labour has radicalised people on all sides of the debate – with little care for what happens to Jews in the process. Jews have become pawns in a political and media frenzy; “lifelong” anti-racists will gaslight Jews over racism to protect Labour’s image, and MPs presiding over the government’s racist policies will say they care about Jews to attack Labour. The welfare of Jews, whatever their political views, has become a mere footnote in the scandal – pulled from pillar to post, with no clear end in the future.
The coming days and weeks will be hard. As yesterday showed, the issue is far from over – and it’s likely the factionalism in Labour will escalate after Corbyn’s suspension. All I, and other Jewish people, can do is resist this intimidation and try to weather the storm.