It was Rebecca Long-Bailey’s turn. The hapless shadow BEIS secretary (just typing that now gave me a shudder) was the latest to be wheeled out to make some grandiose yet ultimately content free statement on behalf of the Labour Party on the subject du jour, namely how a). anti-Semitism was no longer going to be tolerated within the Labour Party and b). quite how this was going to happen being as vague as the government’s Brexit negotiation strategy. She unintentionally summarised Labour’s whole current problem with anti-Semitism with this “Thick of It” worthy statement: “We do take a zero tolerance approach to anti-Semitism but that hasn’t always been enforced as effectively as it should have been.” Rebecca, here’s the thing: if a rule isn’t enforced effectively, then you can’t count your approach to it as zero tolerance. That’s where the “zero” in this equation fits in.
Although I sort of hate to admit it, Brendan O’Neill got to the heart of the matter perfectly in the Spectator the other day: Corbyn’s excuse that he didn’t notice the anti-Semitism in the mural exposes more than the leader’s office considered when they released it. Had that been any other religious or racial group being defamed on a mural, it would have taken Jeremy Corbyn all of six milliseconds to have registered every conceivable slander in the picture. But looking at a painting containing what can only be described as text book, stereotypical anti-Semitism, according to his own admission the whole thing passed him by. It didn’t register with him whatsoever. Again, this all to be directly inferred from Corbyn’s own words on the matter.
The real question here is why the whole of the Labour frontbench have such a massive problem in dealing with this issue when tackling racism is a core tenet of their belief system. Even if they aren’t that sensitive to anti-Semitism, can’t they just imagine it was a mural depicting stereotypical racist slurs against black people and then just apply the same feeling? What I’m asking here is, why can’t they even fake feeling bad or at least semi-sensitive about this topic in any remotely buyable way?
There are loads of things I disagree with the Labour frontbench about. Which is why I find it so odd that something I agree with them on, that racism is something we should continue working to eliminate from society as diligently as possible, is being transgressed by them and thus grinding the whole thing to a halt and could even be the catalyst for a spilt in the party. Even I would find something sad about that being the case, even if it created a change I thought was long overdue.
Cory Bin says
To be honest Nick, I’m really disappointed in Corbyn. It was disgraceful for him to have condoned that mural and I do think that there are pernicious elements in Labour that are anti-Semitic (I’m thinking particularly about that chap you shared the video of on Twitter).
I think Corbyn should sack that useless Rebecca Long-Bailey. His entire frontbench is a sham to be fair. Laura Pidcock, Lexiteer who said she wouldn’t be friends with a Tory MP, Clive Lewis, who has used derogatory language towards women and who left the frontbench over their position on Brexit and has now re-joined it despite that position not having changed…. ect.
I’ll be honest it has put me off voting Labour in the local elections. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll go with that very able, incredibly stable, inVinCable, Mr Vince Cable.
I don’t seriously believe Corbyn thought his position was anti-Semitic. When I was young, anti-Semitism was mentioned in the same breath as Nazis killing 6m Jews. Now it’s used more freely whereas in the past calling someone anti-Semitic was as bad as calling them a paedo. Probably worse, as paedophilia was known to be going on but hushed up.
The question is: What does Corbyn do now? Does he accept that he was wrong in the past, and treat anti-Semitism (as we now understand it) as he does racism? Because we’re talking history now. It’s the present that affects his reputation. Or does he retreat into pro-Palestine rhetoric as a way of excusing his affiliations. If the latter, he won’t (or shouldn’t) last.
Huw Jones says
One of the problems with this whole debate is that no one says what they mean:-
Anti-Semite means someone who is against people, Jews Arabs etc from the Middle East, and is a racial term, that probably (for example) does not include all Jews.
Jew is a religious term which probably does not include all Israelis, or many UK citizens who may be hurt by anti-Semitic slogans
Israeli refers to people who live in Israel, but includes many people (Jews Arabs and others) who live in Israel but oppose the Israeli Government.
The inexactitude of all the terms (those above and others) used means that whatever anyone says about, for example the Middle East is almost bound to cause severe offence to someone. It would be wise to avoid headlines, sound-bites or conversations on Twitter when discussing these issues, but to stick to media where arguments can be set out in full, and with appropriate care.
Labour’s problems probably stem from this general muddle. There have been members of all political parties, who have from time to time been highly critical of actions by the Israeli Government (as have many Israelis and Jews living in the UK) but there are some particularly ardent Zionists, who take any attack on the Israeli Government as an attack on Judaism itself. (Even though the unfortunate politicians in the Israeli Government are simply trying to balance the pressures of the moment against the ideals of Judaism) Criticism of the individual actions of politicians is not necessarily criticism of the organisation in which they work or of the ideal which they try to represent.
Labour’s ability to deal with anti-Semitic criticism have been increased by the combined effect of the Milliband membership reforms, and the creation of Momentum which has vastly increased the membership of the party, to include groups which may have been genuinely and aggressively anti-Semitic and others who are simply politically naive and who may at times sound unintentionally aggressive. This does not mean that the bad people should not be quickly identified and curbed or excluded. but it does mean that doing so may not be a simple matter. IT is difficult to have zero tolerance of someone who you don’t yet know.
As for the mural, it was a political cartoon aimed at Bankers, one which appeared to portray particular people, including a couple with Semitic features.But some of the most successful bankers (and Nobel prize winners in other fields ) also have Semitic features. While, I don’t doubt that some people have been hurt by this cartoon, (I get hurt by some of the radio or TV representations of the Somerset (or Welsh) accents – as my family are from both sides of the Bristol channel – but people will laugh at whatever they laugh at. You don’t want to worry about the mural, unless it is known that the artist was an anti-Semite, or that the sponsors of the cartoon were ant-Semitic.
In the end, no one has to vote Labour if they think that Labour is anti-Semitic, the Liberal Democrats. Greens, Nationalists etc all offer an alternative,