A vote for Labour is not a vote for antisemitism

We are not the least surprised that the Jewish friends of the 24 luminaries who signed are worried and frightened about this supposed antisemitism – they repeatedly read and hear unsubstantiated allegations in pages of newsprint and hours of broadcasting, while the vast amount of countervailing evidence that has been collected by highly reputable researchers, many of them Jewish, is entirely disregarded.

Jeremy Corbyn is the first Labour leader in decades to promote a policy agenda that rejects neoliberalism and austerity. Is that why mainstream media don’t want to give access to the counter-narrative?

As British Jews, most of whom have family in Israel and lost family in the Holocaust, and all of us with plenty of experience taking on antisemites face to face across the political spectrum, we are not prepared to be used as cannon fodder in what is really a political siege of the Labour party. We beg you, enough – and we beg the 24 protagonists and their Jewish friends to check out the alternative voices.
Antony Lerman Former director, Institute for Jewish Policy Research, Lynne Segal Anniversary professor, psychosocial studies, Birkbeck, University of London, Richard Kuper Founder, Pluto Press, Jacqueline Rose Professor of humanities, Birkbeck, University of London, Adam Sutcliffe Professor of European history, King’s College London, Miriam David Professor emerita, UCL Institute of Education, Dr Brian Klug Senior research fellow in philosophy, St Benet’s Hall, University of Oxford, John S Yudkin Professor emeritus, University College London, Jonathan Rosenhead Emeritus professor of operational research, LSE, Francesca Klug Visiting professor, LSE Human Rights, Dr Graeme Segal Emeritus fellow, All Souls, University of Oxford, Mica Nava Emeritus professor of cultural studies, University of East London, Elizabeth Dore Professor emeritus, Latin American Studies, University of Southampton, Naomi Wayne Former chief enforcement officer, Equal Opportunities Commission for Northern Ireland, Stephen Sedley

As a secular Jew I’d like to take issue with the letter from John le Carré and others. I agree with them that Labour in many ways has been hopeless in dealing with cases of antisemitism in its ranks and that Jeremy Corbyn at best has been naive in some of his utterances. To conclude though that because of these issues it would be wrong for Jews and others to vote Labour in the upcoming election denies the reality that the alternative is a hard-right government.

If people want a society that is based on tolerance and social justice rather than one based on harbouring division and exploitation then in the vast majority of constituencies there is no choice but to vote Labour. To advocate a refusal to vote Labour is in fact to support the conditions that lead to racism and antisemitism – poverty and xenophobia.
Keren Abse

I’m Jewish, and to say I loathe and fear antisemitism hardly begins to state the case. But it seems a little naive to confine one’s distaste merely to Labour. Of course it’s especially horrible to think that people who indulge in this disgusting form of prejudice should present themselves as socialists and internationalists.

But isn’t the Tory party’s virulent anti-Islamism just as bad? Perhaps there should be a mass refusal to vote for any of them? Or maybe we should admit that Brexit, with its retreat into nationalism, poses the immediate threat. The first priority, surely, has to be to stop that, and if it means voting Labour, we must vote Labour. And then, as Len McCluskey once said about the EU, remain and reform.
Ruth Brandon

Only one party has significantly eroded inequality over the past century, not least by gifting us the welfare state: Labour. Now we have a Labour leadership proud of this past and ably equipped to advance on those earlier achievements.

It’s curious that those apparently concerned about discrimination and xenophobia have nothing to say about the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition, which presided over the racist “go home” campaign targeting migrants, dramatically increased poverty, and hiked university tuition fees threefold while cutting funding to state education. The disenchantment, anger and powerlessness provoked by those policies likely contributed to the result of the 2016 EU referendum.

Unlike the privately educated historians who signed the anti-Labour letter you published last week – Antony Beevor, Tom Holland and Dan Snow – I am only able to be a historian thanks to free comprehensive and university education. On 12 December I’ll vote for the only party committed to giving the next generation the opportunities that I and millions of others benefited from – Labour.
Selina Todd
Professor of modern history, University of Oxford

Comments (10)

  • RH says:

    The concern that I have is that one or two of these letters represent a point of view that only goes essentially as far as saying “What about racism in other political parties?”

    – which is a fair enough question in its own right – but is actually not the point. Which point is that the Labour ‘antisemitism’ ‘problem’ is manufactured fiction (as other articles here have analysed in detail).

    That Labour is afflicted with a few fringe weirdos is hardly newsworthy – I’m sure that the Womens’ Institute will have a quota of proto-fascists, as well.

  • Benny Ross says:

    The Guardian printed the letter from the 24 minor celebrities on their letters page under the heading “We refuse to vote for Corbyn’s party”. They also reproduced it verbatim as part of a front-page news story. In reply I sent them the following letter, which they didn’t print:
    Dear Guardian Letters, It’s very nice of John le Carré and 23 other prominent people to declare “We refuse to vote for Corbyn’s party” (Letters, 15/11/19), alleging their concern for the “anguish” of Jewish voters.
    As a Jew who has every intention of voting Labour, I refuse to be scared into voting against the party whose Green New Deal would contribute to rescuing the climate. I refuse to be lumped together with all my co-religionists as if we were one unanimous cabal. I refuse to accept allegations and smears without investigating their accuracy, their source and their evident ulterior motives.
    As a Jew, I refuse to use my vote to weaken the opposition to Johnson’s xenophobic and Islamophobic rule. I refuse to accept the media narrative that assumes the existence of a “Jewish vote”. I refuse to let the incessant vilification of Jeremy Corbyn turn me against the Jewish principles of justice, care for the poor, and compassion for the oppressed and persecuted.
    And I trust, in the interests of balance, that you will reproduce this letter in full as a front page news item as well as printing it on the letters page.
    Yours sincerely,
    Benny Ross

  • There is something pathetic if not tragic about the personal side of these people: the disastrous combination of imperial politics and personal vulnerability is the more tragic as it lands o lot of others in danger of death.

  • Ruth Appleton says:

    That Corbyn is having a rough ride at the hands of jewish members of the Labour Party is predictable. He is seen as a revolutionary. Jews like Dame Margaret Hodge belong to Labour as a way of assuaging their guilt for having wealth beyond what they deserve. They fear losing that position under a socialist PM who supports Palestinians. The Israel we have now sees its survival as dependant on support from colonial powers. If UK supports Palestine it’s a threat & Zionist Jews are recruited to man the defences. The Holocaust is an essential weapon in the attack & attack is far better than defence. Radical reform provokes alarm but only among the complacent well off. For those who recognise suffering & its solution it’s an urgent necessity.

  • Allan Howard says:

    The funny ironic thing about the letter published in the Guardian a few days ago by Joanna Lumley et al saying that they refuse to vote Labour blah, blah, blah, is that the vast majority of them have probably never voted Labour in their entire lives!

    And I have little doubt that they are ALL fully aware that the whole anti-semitism thing is a smear campaign. They aren’t stupid by any means!

  • Rafi says:

    The late Prof Yeshayahu Leibowitz a religious man and polymath was of the belief that Zionism was losing its humanism because of the occupation.

    From Wikipedia-

    “ Leibowitz cautioned that the state of Israel and Zionism had become more sacred than Jewish humanist values and controversially went on to describe Israeli conduct in the occupied Palestinian territories as “Judeo-Nazi” in nature, while warning of the dehumanizing effect of the occupation on the victims and the oppressors “

  • Richard Kuper says:

    [Posted on behalf of a collegue who wishes to remain anonymous.]


    The “article” says: “Finally, a brave group of 24 British writers and other public figures has stood up and declared that no matter what the larger political picture, they cannot and will not support Corbyn, an anti-Semite.”

    A “brave” group ?…what’s so “brave” when they are total cowards, indeed several – like Frederick Forsyth – are Tories, so far to the right they are off the wall.

    And “finally”…has this idiot author been in a coma for the past three years, missing the vile avalanche of lies, smears and slanders coming from the right?

  • Jeff Kessler says:

    People frequently counter claims of antisemitism against the Labour Party by citing the Conservative Party’s Islamaphobia but what about their antisemitism? As far as I can tell they Conservatives have a long history of it e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antisemitism_in_the_UK_Conservative_Party

  • Rafi says:

    I once again state that my family and I ( my grandfathers were tradesmen in
    the East End and in Liverpool subject to terrible exploitation) are and have always been Labour supporters because it is Labour that has always represented our views of living in an egalitarian world free from exploitation, prejudice and hatred.

    My biggest worry is that Jeremy Corbyn is perceived as a ditherer unfit for the office of PM.
    May I humbly suggest that we replace him as leader ASAP.

  • Miriam Yagud says:

    How to make sense of the contradictory, often racist/antisemitic, often baseless accusations levelled at Labour and Corbyn by an array of media and establishment critics including the the signatories to this letter?
    The only uniting factor is their opposition and fear of an increasingly confident anti establishment Labour Party.
    The sole intention of the “antisemitism alliance” is to destroy the only opposition to their control of the wealth, resources and democratic institutions of our democracy.
    They are running scared of a Party that has won increasing support across traditional political divides, for policies that will put an end to the gravy train of the class and race privileged rich and powerful interests who think they own our country and are beyond the reach of ordinary people.
    Todays Labour Party is standing up for ordinary citizens, providing representation for the people who have been ignored and disenfranchised and is challenging the establishment who think they are beyond our reach.
    These signatories aren’t interested in making Labour or Britain safe for Jews.
    These establishment signatories only see antisemitism in the Labour Party when it is clear to every antiracist that it is embedded across the whole of British society.
    For the first time in decades we have an anti establishment Labour Party that aspires to represent ordinary people in parliament and to become a people’s government.
    That Labour and Corbyn have survived their 4 year onslaught must be terrifying for them….hopefully.

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