Letter to The Guardian, 16 April 2019
The new complaints procedure allows action to be taken against antisemitism while protecting party members’ right to criticise Israel
“The Jewish Labour Movement has voted to give MPs “a scorecard to show members who had done the most to address the problem [antisemitism in the party]”, and decide who to support on that basis. (Labour activists may ‘work to rule’ over antisemitism, 9 April). The JLM has also called for monthly details of complaints and action taken, and even wants the complaints procedure overseen independently.
That is pushing legitimate concern about prejudice into demands for special treatment. Behind it is the tendency to perceive criticism of Israel as antisemitism – the stronger the criticism, the stronger the perception.
The new complaints procedure allows action to be taken against antisemitism while protecting party members’ right to criticise Israel. The details provided so far show that it is working. That should satisfy fair-minded people.
Between April 2018, when the procedure was instituted, and January, there were 673 allegations of antisemitism against Labour party members. From these, 296 people either received a sanction, from the most minor to expulsion, or resigned when confronted with evidence; 227 were exonerated or there was insufficient evidence to proceed against them; and 150 cases were awaiting completion. Even if all the cases awaiting completion resulted in sanctions (highly unlikely), the total number sanctioned would represent 0.08% of the 525,000 Labour party membership during the period.
One case of antisemitism, or racism of any kind, is one too many, but by any standard those figures do not show that Labour has a serious antisemitism problem. Rather, they suggest that the problem, whatever its extent, is being addressed.
Ruth Smeeth, MP and JLM member, said that Jewish members have to feel safe, comfortable and welcome in the party. Absent was concern that people critical of Israel should also feel welcome.”
Parliamentary and diplomatic liaison officer, Jews for Justice for Palestinians