Corbyn and antisemitism: Adding Insult to Injury
For the fourth year in a row, anti-Semitic incidents have hit record highs, with an 82% increase in online abuse alongside a 25% increase in physical assaults. Why is it then that Jeremy Corbyn, someone who put social justice for all at the heart of the party, continually fails to apologise and acknowledge his contribution to the concerns of one of the most increasingly threatened minority groups in the country?
Corbyn and Antisemitism
Despite antisemitism's lack of historical prominence in the Labour party, it became the albatross hanging from the party’s neck during the run up to the 2019 election. Concerns, that many felt were unaddressed were reflected in the Jewish communities trust for the party. A poll taken before the election showed a decrease in Labour support from within the Jewish community putting it only 3% ahead of the Brexit party. Corbyn’s supposed failure even led to Ephraim Mirvis the Chief Rabbi to denounce Jeremy Corbyn who stated that Labour had let the poison of antisemitism take root.
WATCH: Corbyn blames a terror attack on the "hand of Israel"
Sir Keir the Cleaner
After Keir Starmer was elected Labour leader he vowed to tear these poisonous roots by adopting a zero tolerance approach alongside the fast tracking of claims and the implementation of a long needed independent review system. Sir Keir’s promises have been met with an overwhelmingly positive reception with Jewish leaders stating that Starmer had done more in “four days” than his predecessor had done in “four years”.
Starmer’s zero tolerance policy was acted upon after the controversial, but just removal of Rebecca Long-Bailey after she shared an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory in a tweet which received solid support from the public who generally agreed with Starmer’s response.
Apology and Damages, the End of the Saga?
One of the biggest controversies of Corbyn’s handling of antisemitism was his dismissal of the Labour staffer whistle blowers who voiced concerned in a BBC Panorama documentary titled ‘Is Labour Anti-Semitic?’ which accused the then leadership of interfering in complaint procedures amongst other claims.
Corbyn has previously denounced those who went public by claiming that they only did so due to supposed personal and political axes they had to grind.
However, after whistle blowers went to court with the aim of receiving an apology the party, under new leadership, dramatically changed its stance and has now ‘unreservedly’ apologised and has agreed to pay significant damages.
Corbyn has since replied to the Labour apology and stated that it is solely political in nature. He has also stated (with support from Unite the Union Leader Len McCluskey) that the approach he took would have been defensible under the scrutiny of the Courts.
What Corbyn’s response demonstrates is an ignorance that cannot have a place in a party that purports to promote equality. This further shows the need for an independent review process to prevent party leaders from getting personal opinions entangled in sensitive issues. Had Corbyn opted for an independent review system initially, there may have been more trust in his ability to combat the problem.
Some critics argue that the Conservatives are not receiving adequate or equal criticism for their own failures into claims of Islamophobia. Although, how can the Labour party truly hold the Tories to account if they have their own staffers taking them to court?
What to Do with Corbyn
The only way Labour can seemingly get out of this Corbyn-era mess and regain lost trust is to listen to Jewish voices within the party, implement recommendations from the upcoming Equality Human Rights Commission, and finally prevent those who undermine the process from damaging the rebuilding of trust. This amidst senior Labour figure's fury that the party could be about to face a wave of anti-antisemitism claims, which could bankrupt the party.
Whilst Starmer has shown sincerity by working and listening to Jewish groups both inside and out of the Labour party, Corbyn continues to agitate from the side-lines with his dismissive commentary. This has led to calls for Corbyn to have the whip removed from the charity Campaign Against Antisemitism to finally end this problem once and for all. But as initially seen with Rebecca Long-Bailey, this is likely to cause a worrying divide between the left and right of the party. Starmer has a choice to make, does he risk the splitting of the Labour party with his zero tolerance approach, or should he keep his vocal opponents close with the risk of anti-Antisemitism continuing to rot the party from within?