Against the resort to denigration of Israel’s critics
JfJfP statement on accusations of antisemitism in the Labour Party
From the Executive Committee
May 04, 2016
We are deeply concerned about the proliferation in recent weeks of sweeping allegations of pervasive antisemitism within the Labour Party.
Criticism of Israel is, supposedly, the cloak under which this antisemitism lurks. Precious few instances, however, have been unearthed. Where they have been, the party leadership has taken decisive action against the individuals involved.
The leadership has also set up an independent inquiry, under the chairmanship of a respected human rights campaigner, to investigate whether there is a systemic problem of antisemitism in the party, and if so to recommend procedures to root it out. We do not see how any political party could do more.
We are equally concerned by the way in which such accusations are deployed politically – whether by sections of the press, opponents of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party, the Conservative Party, or by those seeking to delegitimise criticism of the Israeli government. The current climate is quickly coming to resemble a witch-hunt, in which statements and associations, some going back years, are being taken out of context and put under the microscope.
As a Jewish organisation, we naturally share the concern about possible antisemitism in any political party, but we believe people should be implacably opposed to all forms of racism, including anti-Arab racism and Islamophobia.
We are therefore dismayed by a lack of parallel attention to other forms of racial and religious bigotry, particularly given the current climate of growing Islamophobia across Europe. We note that the Conservative leader, David Cameron, recently referred to desperate Arab refugees as “a swarm” and “a bunch of migrants”. We also note that the Conservative Party voted down en masse an amendment to a bill in Parliament a few days ago to allow 3,000 child refugees into Britain, whereas the Labour Party gave total support to the amendment.
The battle against antisemitism and the campaign for Palestinian rights are both undermined whenever strong opposition to Israeli government policies is branded as antisemitic. It is clear to all of us who campaign for Palestinian rights, and who call Israel’s illegal policies of occupation, land theft and repression by their right names, that the more public opinion turns against those policies, the more our opponents resort to denigration in an attempt to discredit us.
Those who are not Jewish are called antisemites. Those of us who are Jewish are called “self-hating Jews”. It would be ludicrous if it were not so serious. We urge people of conscience not to succumb to the intimidation of being called antisemites and to continue to support Palestinian rights.
JFJFP wishes to acknowledge the Independent Jewish Voices Statement on Allegations of Antisemitism in the Labour Party, which we drew on in preparing our own.