With so many curious things happening in politics in this country, you can be forgiven for not paying attention to the circus that Great Britain’s opposition Labour Party has become. The party, with which most British Jews traditionally identified, seems intent on alienating them.
The problems revolve around party leader Jeremy Corbyn, and Labour’s refusal to adopt the definition of anti-Semitism set out by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) — whose definition is accepted internationally.
Corbyn has worried British Jews since he became opposition leader in 2015, when he dragged a comfortably centrist party sharply to the left. Under Corbyn, who has called Hezbollah and Hamas his “friends” and is fighting accusations of harboring anti-Semitic sentiments, Labour has come under intense scrutiny in the media over anti-Semitic rhetoric by its members. In 2016, an inter-parliamentary committee accused Labour of creating a “safe space for those with vile attitudes towards Jewish people.”
Last month, Labour’s ruling body and leadership endorsed a code of conduct that excluded several of the IHRA examples of anti-Semitism, including accusing Jews of “being more loyal to Israel” than their own country; claiming that Israel’s existence is a “racist endeavor”; applying a “double standard” on Israel; and comparing “contemporary Israeli policy” to that of the Nazis. Party members apparently felt such definitions would chill criticism of Israel. The party has deferred a vote on adopting the full code until September.
Meanwhile, Britain’s three highly competitive Jewish newspapers last week published a joint front-page editorial warning of the “existential” threat to British Jewry that a government led by Corbyn would pose. They did so “because the party that was, until recently, the natural home for our community has seen its values and integrity eroded by Corbynite contempt for Jews and Israel. The stain and shame of anti-Semitism has coursed through Her Majesty’s Opposition since Jeremy Corbyn became leader in 2015.”
As if to prove the necessity for the full definition of anti-Semitism, a Labour politician in Scotland accused the three Jewish newspapers of working on behalf of the Mossad. Mary Bain Lockhart, councilwoman for the Scottish Labour Party, also wrote in a Facebook post: “Israel is a racist State. And since the Palestinians are also Semites, it is an anti-Semitic State. It is time we stopped propitiating.”
And if you’re keeping score, the Labour Party recently suspended a counselor for sharing a post saying that it is a Jewish ritual to drink blood. While it’s comforting to know that Labour apparently thinks a blood libel is a step too far, it’s also clear Corbyn’s party is no longer a home for the United Kingdom’s Jewish community.