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BY BLOC 01/05/2016
Like all forms of racism, we deplore anti-semitism. It is an evil which has led to some of the most horrific crimes in history and one which we must continue to fight against. However, we are greatly concerned that the term ‘anti-semitism’ is currently being entangled with anti-Zionism and that it is being misused for cynical, political point- scoring.
Zionism is a purely political ideology and criticising it does not equate to anti-semitism. The Jewish Socialist Group have claimed ‘those who conflate criticism of Israeli policy with antisemitism, whether they are supporters or opponents of Israeli policy, are actually helping the antisemites.’ We have been highly critical of the abhorrent behaviour of the Israeli state towards Palestinian people; this anger is in no way directed towards Jewish people. In much the same way as perfectly valid criticism of the Saudi state is in no way Islamophobic. The danger with the current narrative is that criticism of the Israeli state and foreign policy will end up with cries of anti-semitism - allowing them to continue with their murderous regime. No state or ideology should be above criticism; Israel and Zionism cannot be considered exceptions to this rule.
There have been widely repeated claims that the Labour party has a huge anti-semitism problem but these only seem to have occurred since Jeremy Corbyn became leader. We are fearful that the current accusations are being used as a tool to create a wedge between the Labour leadership and the rest of the party, eventually to push Corbyn out. The main source of the attacks seem to be coming from the Conservatives, pro-Conservative media outlets and perhaps most worryingly, opponents of Corbyn from within the Labour party itself.
Ken Livingstone’s comments, whilst factually correct, were clumsily expressed and largely irrelevant. Someone of his political experience should have known better and chosen his words more carefully. However the way that MP John Mann responded couldn't have caused the Labour leadership more problems if the Tories had planned it themselves. Mann knew the cameras were rolling whilst he shouted insults at Livingstone. If Mann’s concerns were genuine and not simply political posturing, why not raise them in private with Livingstone, or raise a formal complaint to the party? This is not the way anyone in a political party should conduct itself at any time, let alone the week before an election. It seems far more likely that Mann saw an opportunity to prove himself as a hero to his fellow Blairite MPs by exploiting Livingstone’s comments in the most dramatic way possible. To again quote the Jewish Socialist Group: ‘the current fearmongering about antisemitism in the Labour Party is a conscious and concerted effort by right-wing political forces to undermine the growing support among Jews and non-Jews alike for the Labour Party leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, and a measure of the desperation of his opponents.’
We reiterate: we abhor all forms of racism but we also want to ensure they are all dealt with consistently. If there are any examples of any form of racism from members of the Labour party these need to be dealt with quickly. Perhaps then the Conservative party could hold itself to the same standard. The party has peddled the line that Labour has an ‘anti-semitism problem’ shamelessly over the last few days. But let’s took a look at their own record.
In the 1960’s the party launched a campaign with the slogan ‘If you desire a coloured for a neighbor, vote Labour’ (that was the PC version). But we don’t even need to go back that far to see their dubious record. Just last week, Boris Johnson claimed Barack Obama has an ‘ancestral dislike’ for Britain because he is ‘part Kenyan’. Yet those were not the worst of his comments. The same Boris Johnson who is the favourite to become the next Prime Minister once referred to black people ‘piccaninnies’ with ‘watermelon smiles.’ There has been no suspension from the Conservative Party.
Zac Goldsmith has based a large part of his mayoral campaign around attempting to associate Sadiq Khan with Muslim extremism. This reached a ludicrous peak with David Cameron criticizing Khan for meeting with ‘Islamic State supporter’ Suliman Gani- a man who later revealed himself to have been a pro-Conservative campaigner.
Finally, just last year, Cameron’s ally Oliver Letwin found himself embroiled in a racism row which the media have been more than happy to forget. It emerged he had written a memo to Thatcher in the 1980s which said black people spent their money on ‘discos and drugs’ and have ‘bad moral attitudes.’
Which party really has a problem with racism? Corbyn has been criticised for acting too slowly on anti-semitism – yet both Shah and Livingstone were quickly suspended. All three aforementioned Tories are still prominent members of the party. Jeremy Corbyn has spent his entire life fighting all forms of racism, and last week supported holocaust survivor and refugee Lord Dubs in his amendment to allow 3000 unaccompanied child refugees into Britain. David Cameron and the Conservatives voted against it.
Those of us on the left should continue to stand up to racism and fascism in all of its forms; we must also continue to ensure that double standards are not applied. The treatment of Palestinian people by their Israeli neighbours must not go unquestioned. This is something which is recognized by the majority of people around the world. If Labour members are found to make racist remarks, expel them without hesitation; maybe the Conservatives could follow suit.