Karen Glaser

The probe into Labour’s anti-Semitism gives hope to Britain’s Jews

The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s announcement last week that it is to formally investigate Labour over anti-Jewish racism is an hour of great shame for the party. It is also, finally, a moment of hope for British Jews.

The public body set up, with chilling irony by the party it is now to probe, has seen evidence of the institutional anti-Semitism that Jews have been making complaints about for four long years and decided that it is credible enough to investigate. Its decision makes Labour only the second political party in British history to face a formal racism inquiry. The first? The British National Party. 

Finally Britain’s Jews are feeling as though their fears are being listened to. Under Corbyn’s Labour, hundreds of individual cases of anti-Semitism have been perpetrated against Britain’s small Jewish community of 280,000 or so.

Here’s a grim reminder of the tenor of things: a Labour activist sharing neo-Nazi material declaring that “the Jews declared war on Germany in 1933”; a meme shared by a Labour councillor of a blood-covered, hooked-nose Israeli soldier asserting “Israel was created by the Rothschilds”; the shadow justice secretary (yes, justice) declaring Zionism “the enemy of the peace”.

It is clear how easily the tropes of classic anti-Semitism – the blood libel, conspiracy theories about Jewish disloyalty, money and influence, portrayals of Jews as a fifth column – slide into anti-Zionism in these slurs. The same is true of many of the examples of anti-Semitism detailed in the evidence the Campaign Against Antisemitism, the Jewish Labour Movement and other groups have handed in to the commission.

This is significant because it seems the equality watchdog wants to understand the link between a culture of extreme political hostility to Zionism – of a worldview that positions Israel as the unique evil on our planet – and the failure of the party to properly deal with those hundreds of individual cases.

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