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Labouring over a taboo subject

Monday evening's demonstration and counter-demonstration over alleged anti-Semitism in the Labour Party may not be the last we hear of such accusations

29 March, 2018 — By John Gulliver

Demonstrators from the Jewish Board of Deputies, and counter demonstrators from the Jewish Voices for Labour in Parliament Square on Monday evening

ONCE the taboo subject was the war! It wasn’t considered worth it to stir long-suppressed mem­ories. Now, the Labour Party has a new one: Don’t mention anti-Semitism.

Those critical of Jeremy Corbyn say their opponents harbour anti-Semitism; supporters of the leader say it is being largely imagined to fuel animosity against the man.

Anti-Semitism has existed down the centuries and is unlikely to evaporate. In politics it has usually found a home in parties of the status quo, rarely in the radical left.

It has been given a boost by the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians where it is easy for criticism of their treatment to elide into a crude condemnation of Zionism as a creed and from there to slip into bigotry against Jews.

I have admittedly met little if any among Labour Party members.

Wherever I looked in Parliament Square on Monday evening where there was a demonstration called by the Jewish Board of Deputies against anti-Semitism in the Labour Party with a counter-demonstration by the newly formed Jewish Voices for Labour I saw the agitated faces.

Nearly a thousand had rallied to the call of the Board, a couple of hundred to the JVL’s.

I have known the Board for some time and am not too sure of their claim to represent the nation’s 300,000 or so Jews. They are certainly not elected by them.

I am pleased they are reversing their usual contempt for public protest. In the past, as with other establish­ment bodies of Jewry, they were notably absent in street protests against racism and anti-Semitism.

After a heated debate on Tuesday night among St Pancras Labourites, a motion condemning the prejudice among members, as well giving backhanded support to Jeremy Corbyn, was passed by 48 votes to 28.

But will this be the last we hear of the accusation in the party?

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