Labour’s continuing antisemitism crisis


“This report thoroughly disproves any suggestion that antisemitism is not a problem in the Party, or that it is all a “smear” or a “witch-hunt”. The report’s findings prove the scale of the problem, and could help end the denialism amongst parts of the Party membership which has further hurt Jewish members and the Jewish community.”

– – Introduction to “The work of the Labour Party’s Governance and Legal Unit in relation to antisemitism, 2014 – 2019”


HOPE not hate has long taken a strong stand on the problem of antisemitism in the Labour Party, and has called for the party to take the issue seriously and create robust processes to drive antisemites, and antisemitism, out of the party.

We welcome the clear commitments from the new leadership team to root out the problem but wait to see how the issue will actually be dealt with now they are in place.

The recent leak of an internal investigation into how the party handles antisemitism complaints (“The work of the Labour Party’s Governance and Legal Unit in relation to antisemitism, 2014 – 2019”) has brought this and many other issues back into the media spotlight.

The 860-page document is wide ranging and covers many issues. Anyone reading messages that clearly point to a toxic culture within the party will be rightly appalled, but many of the issues they raise are outside of HOPE not hate’s focus as an anti-fascist and anti-racist organisation. However, the report itself, and the nature of the leak, raises concerns directly related to the problems of antisemitism within the party on which we have been campaigning.

Racism

It is welcome that the report acknowledges in detail the extent of the antisemitism problem the party has faced, summarised in the quote at the top of this blog.

Read alongside the Jewish Labour Movement’s submission to the EHRC, this leak should dispel any notion that charges of antisemitic behaviour within the Labour Party were exaggerated or fabricated. People who have downplayed the issue, labelled it a smear, or accused those people of raising it of a plot, must acknowledge that this report thoroughly debunks those denials. 

As the Community Security Trust’s Dave Rich argued yesterday, “When you get to the accounts of how the party dealt with antisemitism – or rather didn’t deal with it – it’s shameful. British Jews suffered four years of harassment, insults and gaslighting for claiming the party had a serious problem – and we were right all along.” 

However, the leaked memo is a partial account of what has transpired over the last few years. It is relevant that known facts on high profile cases are missing if mentioned at all, and contents in this memo are contradicted by other evidence in the public domain. Troublingly, the report also identifies victims as being Jewish, even where they had not sought to self-identify as such originally.

The report however does present claims that factions within the party worked to hamper the leadership’s investigations into specific antisemitism cases. These claims must be investigated thoroughly. Due process should be followed, but if proved true warrant the strongest possible action taken against the individuals involved. 

Furthermore, the party must address the alleged treatment of Diane Abbott by Labour Party staff during the 2017 General Election. As the first Black Woman elected to parliament Diane has spent her life having to fight those who belittle and undermine her because of her gender and her race. Material included in this memo shows that Labour Party staffers chose to be a part of that problem.

The origin and leaking of the report

At the time of writing, we don’t know definitively who wrote this report, what their remit was, what information they did and didn’t have access to and why the report was not submitted to the EHRC by the previous leadership.

Labour’s new leader Keir Starmer has commissioned an inquiry into the leaked report, which we welcome, but the leaking of the report is itself a very serious matter.

Making the unredacted report available widely suggests a reckless insensitivity to the concerns and wellbeing of Jewish members identified in the report including the names of the victims of antisemitism. That is an appalling failure on the part of the party. We have seen reports that some victims of antisemitism are now being named on far right websites. We are continuing to monitor the situation, but it should have never have been allowed to happen in the first place.

Conclusion

The EHRC is currently investigating the Labour Party over its failure to deal with antisemitism in its ranks over a number of years. That investigation should pursue all and any avenue of inquiry, regardless of the political background or views of the people involved. Anyone who impeded the fight against antisemitism should be exposed, and there should be severe disciplinary repercussions

While the EHRC process has to be allowed to run its course, and the new inquiry into the leaked document should report back urgently, it also remains the case that the commitments made by Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner – for a total overhaul of the party’s disciplinary system and the creation of a properly independent process – should continue to be prepared for.

This report also reinforces the need for proper training about the nature of antisemitism both inside the Labour Party, more broadly on the left and in society as a whole for Labour members – a role formerly performed by the Jewish Labour Movement.

This is another sad moment for the Labour Party. As the Jewish Labour Movement’s Peter Mason wrote yesterday, “Once again, Jews are the ones made to feel like absolute pawns in a game of someone else’s design. 4.5 years of being lied to. Denigrated. Victimised.” The Labour Party needs to put concrete measures in place to ensure that antisemitism no longer has a place anywhere in the party, and that there is an independent complaints procedure put swiftly in place to deal with not just antisemitism and other discrimination, but all kinds of misconduct.