The local election results indicate more than ever that the antisemitism scandals under Corbyn are forcing Jews away from the Labour Party. Sadiq Khan conveyed a clearly misplaced confidence regarding Labour’s ability to take over the ‘Conservative crown jewels’ in London, some of which contain wards with the highest number of Jews in the country. In areas like these, such as Barnet, the Conservatives gained a significant number of councillors while Labour lost out. It’s evident that Corbyn’s Labour is brewing a dangerous identity politics, where Jews are forced to vote on their ethnicity and religion rather than their preferred policies and values.
For too long, the problem of anti-semitism in the Labour Party was suppressed, spoken about in the same breath as ‘all other forms of racism.’ The Labour Party’s problem, statistically, is not with racism generally, but with anti-semitism specifically. Whether related to comparisons of Israel to the Nazis or to theories of Jews running the media and the world, anti-semitism clearly dominates aspects of Labour Party politics in a significant way. It took years, and the Jewish community organising an unprecedented mass demonstration outside Parliament, for the Labour leadership to acknowledge this.
Is finally acknowledging the problem and pledging to resolve it enough? Certainly not. Corbyn vowed to speed up disciplinary procedures and root out those found guilty of antisemitism with a no-tolerance policy. Yet after making this pledge, Labour have still not taken basic necessary steps to expel antisemitic high-profile political figures from the party. Corbyn has failed to expel disgraced former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, who has repeatedly stated that the Hitler was a Zionist in his attempts to downplay the incredible cruelties of the Holocaust.
The problem with anti-semitism in the Labour Party is that it isn’t a separate issue from Labour politics itself- it is, in fact, endemic to it. Corbyn’s leadership and the now hard-left dominance of the party have brought to the fore anti-Semitic ideas inherent in extreme socialist and communist politics, which, for example, traditionally see Jews as insidious capitalists who control financial and media sectors. For too many in the Labour Party, anti-semitism is clearly a central feature of their ideology and worldview. Browsing the social media feeds of those guilty of making anti-semitic statements reveals that rather than being a side issue, their views are very much part of their professional political life and have been tolerated inside the party.
Is this likely to get better any time soon? Probably not. As we see a shift in British politics brought on by the demise of UKIP and the victory of Brexit, many political figures with fascist and anti-semitic connections are now turning to the Labour Party as their new political home. Max Mosley, though his funds have been refused by Labour for campaign purposes, sees the party as his home. So too does former leader of the BNP, Nick Griffin, who has professed support for Corbyn specifically.
The problem won’t be resolved until Corbyn steps down as leader and we see the return of a Labour Party which acts as a credible, moderate opposition. Until then, we will unfortunately continue to see the politicisation of Jewish identity and the centrality of anti-semitism in Labour politics.