We Cannot Allow Anti-Semitism To Take Root | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

We Cannot Allow Anti-Semitism To Take Root

Comment Editor Alex Cirant-Taljaard criticises the lack of condemnation from Corbyn concerning anti-semitic behaviour in the Labour Party

I have been a card carrying member of the Labour party since 2013, meaning I have been privy to some of the most ludicrous goings on in recent British politics. Non-Labour members have no idea how hard it was to be part of the party when Ed Miliband, bless his heart, was in charge. With the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader, however, I believed we had finally become the party we were supposed to be - a true voice for the many, a beacon of hope in an otherwise bleak landscape. Sadly, things have not panned out exactly as I had hoped.

There exists within the Labour party a contingent which, while small, represent beliefs completely at odds with the ethos of the party. I am of course referring to those who espouse anti-semitism. As a party, and I think more generally as a society, we should be stamping out anti-semitism wherever it rears its head. But we are not - and that is the crux of the problem.

As a party, and I think more generally as a society, we should be stamping out anti-semitism wherever it rears its head

It is not only the anti-semites who are tarnishing the name of the Labour party, but also those who refuse to see that there is still a problem within our ranks. By no means is Jeremy Corbyn anti-semitic. He has consistently rallied against discrimination of every kind and, unlike most politicians, has been doing so even when it wasn’t in his best interests. However, I think he has dropped the ball when it comes to anti-semitism. While I don’t think he should step down as leader, because he is still the best hope this country has, he does need to do more to cull the party of anti-semitism.

Corbyn has, to his credit, recognised the problem, and I believe him when he says he will do everything in his power to stamp out anti-semitic behaviour in the party. But what has really frightened me is the amount of party members who refuse to listen to Jewish voices within the party when they tell them a problem still exists. As someone who is on the left of the Labour party, I can tell you first hand that anti-semites are among us. In fact, the more left-wing sections of the party usually have the biggest problem with anti-semitism. This is down to two things; firstly, their position on the state of Israel and secondly, and in my opinion worst of all, their belief that Jewish people are inherently materialistic and capitalist.

The first point, about Israel, largely manifests in lefties not taking anti-semitism as seriously as they do other forms of discrimination. I know this, because until shamefully recently, I think I was guilty of this. Blinded by my anger over the treatment of Palestinian citizens, I sidelined the needs of the Jewish community in the UK. Thankfully, I can now say I have learned from the error of my ways. However, many still cannot seem to separate individual Jewish people from the actions of Israel. But, much like you would not blame individual Muslims for the actions of the Saudi government, or individual Christians for the crimes of Anders Breivik, so you shouldn't ignore the plight of individual Jewish people. Even worse are those who believe that the British Jewish community are somehow in cahoots with the state of Israel, forming a weird international Jewish cartel. This, obviously, is completely nonsensical.

What has really frightened me is the amount of party members who refuse to listen to Jewish voices within the party when they tell them a problem still exists

However it is those in the second camp who alarm me the most. And it is possibly more important to talk about them, especially given the mural that Jeremy Corbyn wrongly supported demonstrates my point. In the mural, individuals with stereotypical ‘Jewish’ features (i.e. hooked nose), are shown sitting around a table built on human remains, essentially ruling the planet. Since the 1940s a weird stereotype has arisen about Jewish people, claiming they are somehow behind every atrocity of the 20th and 21st century, and

that they control the world through multinational corporations. I’m a socialist, and I think that capitalism is a plague on the world (even as I’m typing this on my shiny HP laptop), but do I think that Jewish people are responsible? No, obviously not, that is ridiculous anti-semitic Alex Jones-esque conspiracy weaving, on par with the dehumanising rhetoric of the Nazi party. It doesn’t belong in the Labour party.

There is something else I have noticed many Labour party members saying recently as well. Something along the lines of “but the Tories are anti-semitic too!”. Yes, the Conservative party have a problem with anti-semitism. In fact, according to a recent YouGov poll, its significantly worse than Labour’s. However, just because the Conservatives are anti-semitic, and just because many on the right have been cynically using the situation to score political points, doesn’t mean we can ignore our own problems. Before we can counter the Conservative’s, we must put our own affairs in order.

Rather than shouting people down for bringing up something that makes us uncomfortable, we should listen, and reflecting earnestly on our past action

Which brings me to my final point. Anti-semitism, believe it or not, is not Labour’s only problem. In fact, in every corner of the Labour party there are people openly discriminating against those who they are supposed to be protecting. There is a centrist contingent in the Labour party who are staunchly transphobic. There are those using the Brexit result to argue anti-migrant positions, and others using it to justify deeply classist rhetoric about those who voted Leave. Every party has problems. How we measure ourselves as a party should be our reaction to those problems. Rather than shouting people down for bringing up something that makes us uncomfortable, we should listen, and reflecting earnestly on our past actions. And, every now and then, we should remember that we are on the same side. If you’ve joined the Labour party its because you want a better future for this country. But if we want to make the world better, we need to start with ourselves.

2nd Year Social Policy and Political Science student, Olympic pole-vaulting hopeful and massive liar (@alexjtaljaard)



Published

3rd April 2018 at 9:00 am



Share