Naked Politics Blogger
The state of the Labour Party is in chaos. Well that’s how you would view it if you read Britain’s newspapers, who are seeking any opportunity to dishonour, discredit and undermine, not just the Labour Party, but Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. Over the last two weeks the party descended into one of its deepest crises since Corbyn became Leader. For once it was not a socialist policy stance, a controversial view or an ill action of the leader that brought such turmoil, but the apparent anti-Semitic views amongst Labour MPs.
Anti-Semitism in Labour has been reported heavily in recent months, with party members from activists to councillors being suspended. Two weeks ago Labour MP Naz Shah was revealed to have made comments regarding moving Israel to the United States on Facebook in 2014, before she became an MP. She then made a sincere apology to which she was praised. It was a good apology, but she was right to be suspended. Ken Livingstone, in defending Naz Shah, was the next high profile member to make comments. He announced that after winning election in 1932, Hitler had supported Zionism and planned to move all German Jews to Israel. Whether this was historical fact or not, these comments were uncalled for and plain stupidity from Livingstone. Rightly so, he too was suspended from the party.
Anti-Semitism is racism and it is wrong. To deny this makes you an anti-Semite, as you are seeking justification for holding such abhorrent views. We have seen what can happen at the worst of times when anti-Semitism is rife in the world, Nazi Germany being the prime example. Therefore we must root out anti-Semitism once and for all, and this goes for all racism. Naz Shah and Ken Livingstone’s comments have no place in modern politics. Shah, an aspiring politician at the time of her post, and Livingstone, a former prominent politician, should have known better. Their actions were insensitive and irresponsible. They did not even take a moment to think about the impact they would have on the party they are supposed to support and work for. Making such comments was always going to cause a storm, and they were ignorant to the consequences.
If one is to criticise Israel for policies they have undertaken against Palestinians through their illegal occupation, then that is distinct from anti-Semitism. However to go about criticising Israel by specifically mentioning Jews is wrong, that would be anti-Semitic. But showing ardent opposition to Israel’s actions is a political right of anyone. Their illegal occupation of the West Bank, settlement construction on Palestinian land and firing of rockets on innocent civilians in Gaza are all actions that must continue to be condemned and seen as obstacles to peace in the conflict. Barack Obama is a critic of this, as is Jeremy Corbyn, and neither are anti-Semitic. It is important therefore to understand there is a difference and anti-Semitism should never be used to criticise Israel. Labour is the best chance of a British government that can stand up to Israel, but Labour MPs must be careful to keep their views critical of Israeli government policy and not of their religion or roots.
Jeremy Corbyn has come under severe criticism during this crisis, yet it is totally unwarranted. His response to anti-Semitism in the party has been professional and excellent. He condemned Shah’s comments, praised her for a heartfelt apology and suspended her from the party pending investigation. He then immediately suspended Livingstone upon hearing his comments. Let’s not forget Livingstone was a close friend and ally of Corbyn’s, a rarity for the leader and he showed no hesitation in dealing with the former Mayor’s comments. He then launched a full independent inquiry into anti-Semitism and all racism within the Labour Party to completely dispose of it and root out those who would hold such views. He has since made numerous comments and used his May Day speech to condemn ant-Semitism and state Labour is united in its fight against it. There is no more he can do. He has acted as any leader should do, punishing those who have done wrong and announced the appropriate stance he and his party takes. Having already stated an inquiry would take place, Sky News still felt the need to question the leader on anti-Semitism and it was rather amusing upon discovering who the reporter worked for, Corybn completely dismissing them.
This crisis has come at the worst time for Labour, ahead of the local elections. The Tories and the press have exploited it to the maximum in their bid to smear the Labour Party. However it is highly hypocritical of the Conservative Party who have their own very serious racism issues to address. Boris Johnson, in opposing Obama’s pro-UK remain stance, said the President’s “part-Kenyan” heritage gave him an anti-UK stance. Meanwhile former London mayor candidate Zac Goldsmith ran a severely discriminatory campaign against Sadiq Khan, portraying him as a ‘pawn of Islamic extremists’ amongst other harsh comments. These have gone without the same level of criticism as Labour’s anti-Semitism crisis. This is deliberate bias from the media.
A handful of irresponsible MPs, Councillors or members of the Labour Party do not reflect the Labour party. Yes it does not portray the party in a good light, but when there is so much opposition to their views from inside the party, it is more than obvious this is not the party’s position. We must remember what Labour stands for in its current status. Corbyn’s Labour is far from racist, it’s inclusive. Who he wants to represent is not one race or one religion. He stands for ordinary, working, British people. That incorporates Briton’s of all race, religion and ethnicity. We simply cannot define Labour as racist in any way because they represent so many different types of people. Do not let the anti-Semitic words of the very few in the party put you off supporting Labour. Just remember the path in which Corbyn is taking this movement, a party that stands for: social care, social justice, the NHS, worker’s rights, a good education system and an economy that benefits all. The path Corbyn is taking the party down is one we must follow for the benefit of the masses and this crisis should not give people doubts about him.