The Labour movement has a proud history of anti-racism, anti-fascism and solidarity with persecuted groups, but none of us are immune to the structural racism that permeates all of our society. CAM is concerned that an actively orchestrated effort is being made to use feigned concern about anti-semitism to disrupt the Labour Party, and the challenge that Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership poses to the regressive politics that have dominated Parliament in recent decades.
The run-up to the May 5 elections saw a wave of claims that the Labour Party is rife with antisemitism and has a “problem with Jews.” We feel that the more immediate problem is a problem with people – Jewish and otherwise, inside and outside the party – who are reducing the serious issue of anti-semitism to a political tool to try to inflict maximum damage on the Labour Party due to disaffection with its current leadership.
We are concerned that maximising the extent to which the Labour Party is an inclusive, anti-racist space for political organising is not the real focus of the majority of the concerns being raised. Largely through trawling through old posts on social media, a series of claims of anti-semitism have been made against members and supporters of the Labour Party. These have been used to suggest that the current Labour leadership are willing to tolerate anti-semitism, despite the fact that most of them were made under different leadership and no concerns were raised then. In at least one case, a member has been suspended without being informed of the charges against them.
We are confident that the current Labour leadership is no more willing to tolerate anti-semitism than they are any other form of racism. We welcome the independent inquiry into anti-semitism and other forms of racism that Jeremy Corbyn has announced. We hope it will lead to fair and transparent processes for addressing concerns about any form of racism.
It is important that it is acknowledged that legitimate criticism of the Israeli state is not anti-semitism. We also need to distinguish between poorly chosen words and active racism, and provide room for members and supporters to grow, develop, reflect, and shift their thinking.
To use something as serious as concern with anti-racism as part of political in-fighting that has nothing to do with the group purportedly being defended is irresponsible, and there is a risk that Jewish members and supporters will begin to fear anti-semitism within the Labour Party, not because of anything they have experienced, but because of claims from the media that anti-semitism is rife.
Emphasises its strong commitment to all parts of the Labour movement being welcoming and inclusive spaces for all ethnic and religious minorities, and to combating all forms of racism against any group.
Rejects the suggestion that questioning Zionist ideology, the Israeli state and its supporters – both Jews and non-Jews – entails anti-semitic prejudice. On the contrary, campaigning in solidarity with Palestinian and Israeli movements for justice for the Palestinians is in the very best traditions of the British Labour movement.
Urges the Labour Party establishment to
• listen to the many Jews who have been trying to emphasise their positive experience of organising within the Labour Party as a safe and inclusive space for Jews;
• take seriously the concern that people working for justice for Palestine are being targeted and spuriously accused of anti-semitism;
• adhere to fair practice and transparency when investigating charges against members;
• call to order any Labour Party members who are found to have been actively spreading calumnies about widespread antisemitism in the party, for political ends to which concerns with anti-racism are tangential at best.