27 April 2016

Naz Shah is a symptom of Labour’s festering anti-semitism problem

By Stephen Pollard

As editor of the Jewish Chronicle, you might imagine my (professional) heart leaps every time an anti-semite emerges from the Labour woodwork. It’s good copy, after all.

You’d be wrong. It’s not simply that it’s deeply disturbing to see so much evidence of the continuing life of a hatred that many of us had hoped would, after the Holocaust, have had the decency to die out.

It’s more that my heart sinks at the thought of yet another week when we have to report, and dissect, the latest example of Jew hatred in the Labour Party. Planning our next issue, on Monday I half-intended, as a joke, to run a story headlined ‘No Labour anti-semite revealed this week’.

I planned too soon.

Most of the recent instances of Labour anti-semitism have been low-level – ordinary party members, students and such like. That’s not to diminish their importance, because they show a problem the left has yet to fully acknowledge, let alone deal with. But although there’s a fundamental worry about a party whose culture is such that anti-semites are drawn in, it’s been difficult to argue – thank God – that Labour’s anti-semitism is more than some isolated examples.

Until now. The emergence of a series of social media posts by Bradford MP Naz Shah is deeply sinister. These included recommending a plan to forcibly transport “Israelis” from Israel to the US (you can be sure she didn’t mean Israeli Arabs), a call for “urgent action” because “the Jews are rallying”, and tagging a picture of Martin Luther King with his quote “Never Forget That Everything Hitler Did In Germany Was Legal” with the hashtag “Apartheid Israel”.

As I write, Jeremy Corbyn says he has spoken to her. And that’s it. That is the sum of his response to a Labour MP spewing anti-semitic poison less than two years before being elected.

UPDATE: Eventually, after 2 days, Naz Shah was suspended at 4pm today, when the furore from decent Labour members was too great to ignore.

Is it any wonder some of us worry that it might be Mr Corbyn himself who is the real problem here? I do not suggest the Labour leader is an anti-semite, although when he chooses to describe representatives of Hamas and Hezbollah – organisations that boast of their aim to kill all the world’s Jews – as “friends”, one has to wonder what is going on in his mind.

No, the issue is that when he defines himself as being opposed to all forms of racism, he seems to think anti-semitism is somehow a different case.

Look at his response to his own brother a couple of weeks ago. Jewish Labour MP Louise Ellman was being interviewed about previous anti-semitic incidents within the Labour Party and stressed the need for Mr Corbyn to do more to deal with hatred of Jewish people within the party.

Mr Corbyn’s brother Piers then tweeted that this was “rubbish”. He went on: “All Corbyns are committed antiNazi. Zionists can’t cope with anyone supporting rights for Palestine.”

No one had mentioned Israel. It was Piers Corbyn who had introduced Israel into a discussion of anti-semitism, for no reason other than to attack the idea that it needed to be tackled.

A few days later Jeremy Corbyn was asked if he agreed with his brother’s tweet. He replied: “We’re opposed to any form of racism. We’re investigating allegations of anti-Semitism but I wouldn’t call it a crisis. We as a party are taking resolute action.” Pushed further, he went on: “No, my brother isn’t wrong. My brother has his point of view, I have mine and we actually fundamentally agree. We are a family that were brought up fighting racism from the day we were born. My mother was at Cable Street.”

Imagine a series of incidents within the Conservative Party in which activists had said Pakistani men and women were disgusting and harboured secret anti-British agendas. And then imagine that David Cameron’s brother had said that they were right to have said this because of the Kashmir dispute. Then imagine that Mr Cameron had backed him, saying: “No, my brother isn’t wrong”.

But this is the position of the real life leader of the Labour Party.

In a move I never conceived I would see, the President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews (the body which represents Britain’s 260,000 Jewish people) felt he had no choice but to issue a statement attacking the leader of a mainstream party for his “deeply disturbing” attitude to anti-semitism.

There is something appalling going on in parts of the Labour Party. Two weeks ago my own newspaper revealed that activists within Mrs Ellman’s local Labour Party have been targeting her quite explicitly because she is Jewish.

One non-Jewish member of her party said that when he had defended Mrs Ellman from anti-semitic abuse at a meeting he was physically threatened.

That followed the expulsion of a member who said the country needs to consider “the Jewish question”, and the suspension – for a second time – of the deputy chair of Labour’s Woking constituency party, after her tweets that Hitler was a “Zionist God” and that Jewish people have “big noses” re-emerged.

I could list many more examples, such as the allegations of anti-semitic behaviour by members of the Oxford University Labour Club, but you get the picture.

This is from people who join a party because they think of themselves as progressive. Like Mr Corbyn, they wear their anti-racism as a proud badge.

But not when it comes to Jews.

It is true that some of this predates Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. Yet as leader, the most he has been able to do is say a few words about hating all forms of racism, only suspending people when the media kick off.

But when it comes to dealing with the first Labour MP to have been exposed, he won’t even do that. And his spokesman tells us that although her words are anti-semitic, she is not. Go figure.

It’s not as if this is very subtle. For some of these Labour anti-semites, it’s a given that Jewish people control over the media and business. It’s popular at the moment in such circles to talk about how the Rothschilds really run the world.

But Labour’s deeper problem is not with the individuals who are being revealed one after the other. It’s that an anti-semitic mindset is par for the course in much of the Left, as exemplified by the hatred of Israel, and only of Israel; which, of course, just happens to be the Jewish homeland. So no matter what abuses may be carried out by the likes of China, Zimbabwe and Saudi Arabia – objectively and in number far beyond any mistakes made by Israel – it is only Israel that is the target of the boycott movement.

Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour defines itself as “anti-imperialist”. So if you, too, are anti-imperialist, nothing else matters. That is how the party leader justifies regarding Hamas and Hezbollah representatives as “friends”, despite their penchant for murdering Jews (and Muslims, and everyone else).

And it means a willful blindness about recognising anti-semitism when it is staring you in the face, let alone dealing with it.

Which brings us back to Labour’s response to Naz Shah. Or rather, its lack of response.

Stephen Pollard is editor of the Jewish Chronicle.