Anti-Semitism accusations are misplaced

A letter from Clare Short, published in the Financial Times, in response to what is decribed as an “unbalanced editorial”, speaks for itself.

Anti-Semitism accusations are misplaced

A letter in the Financial Times

From Rt Hon Clare Short, London, UK, 25 July 2019

I was very surprised by your unbalanced editorial (“Anti-Semitism in Labour disfigures British politics’’, July 23 – see below) on anti-Semitism in the Labour party. The root of this problem is the growing awareness of the injustice and suffering inflicted by Israel on the Palestinians. In the face of this, and given Jeremy Corbyn’s history on the question, supporters of Israel have worked to extend the definition of anti-Semitism to include criticism of Israel. For example, the accusation of anti-Semitism is regularly thrown at people who support Boycott Divestment and Sanctions and argue that Israel should be held to the requirements of international law.

I think it is possible that some who feel strongly about the suffering of the Palestinians may make anti-Semitic remarks and should be held to account, but the research evidence is clear that anti-Semitism in the UK is rare and prejudice against Muslims is extensive, and both attitudes are concentrated on the right. What I have read of the reasons for suspension and expulsion from Labour in some of the notorious cases do not amount to anti-Semitism.

There is no doubt that Labour has handled the question in a muddled and hopeless manner. But no one, including the FT and those in the Labour party who hurl these accusations around, should allow the definition to be extended in this way. It is a false accusation when it extends to criticism of Israel. Its effect is to frighten people and prevent discussion of Israel’s cruelty to the Palestinians and grave breaches of international law and the geopolitical consequences of the west’s lack of commitment to international law on this question.

Rt Hon Clare Short
London, SW4, UK

Here is the text of the FT editorial

Anti-Semitism in Labour disfigures British politics

Jeremy Corbyn has allowed a vile strain of racism to infect his party

The Editorial Board, 21 July 2019

Britain’s opposition Labour party has a proud history of fighting discrimination and upholding the rights of ethnic minorities. Political opponents might fairly have accused Labour of being too spendthrift, too eager to raise taxes or too suspicious of the market economy. They would not have made much headway by attacking its staunch attachment to pluralist values.

Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership has put that record under serious threat. When Theresa May used one of her last prime ministerial appearances in the House of Commons to highlight the anti-Semitism that has gripped Mr Corbyn’s party, she was not just scoring political points. She was echoing the views of no fewer than 67 Labour peers who had just published an open letter accusing Mr Corbyn of failing properly to act against this vile strain of racism.

The letter, signed by nine former cabinet ministers, was just the latest in a series of protests. Several Labour MPs and peers have resigned from the party in disgust. The spread of anti-Semitism has been visible for some years. Yet Mr Corbyn has met each new instance of anti-Semitic behaviour with pro forma statements and desultory disciplinary proceedings. His latest initiative — providing “educational materials” to members on avoiding anti-Semitism — looks little different. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has launched an inquiry into whether Labour is now institutionally racist.

Mr Corbyn has said he wants to stamp out anti-Semitism. Yet former party officials have testified that the leader’s own office has been instrumental in slowing and diluting the effort. Instead of taking these whistleblowers seriously, Mr Corbyn’s allies have sought to impugn their motives.

Tom Watson, the party’s deputy leader, has been outspoken in demanding much tougher action. So too has Margaret Hodge, one of several Jewish backbench MPs who have been subject to vile anti-Semitic abuse — most of it from the wing of the party most closely associated with Mr Corbyn’s far-left politics. The standard response of the leader’s office is that such critics are plotting against him.

There have always been those on the far-left of British politics who have promoted the anti-Semitic tropes that cast Jewish financiers as the leaders of an internationalist capitalist conspiracy against the working classes. Among such groups, support for the legitimate demands of Palestinians for statehood merges into unthinking hatred of Jews. The difference now is that past Labour leaders have adopted a policy of zero tolerance, banishing such bigots to small extremist parties.

The anti-Semitism that Mr Corbyn treats as a minor blemish does not simply disfigure Labour. In an era of rising populism that has seen politicians on the far-right seek to scapegoat minorities of all colours, it feeds a dangerous upsurge in xenophobia. Mr Corbyn may have a point when he says that the Conservatives should tackle Islamophobia. But that is no excuse for the permissive approach that allows anti-Semitism to infect Labour.

It will take time to remove the stain on Labour’s reputation. It may well be too late for Mr Corbyn to recover his own credibility. But at the very least the Labour leader could seek to show that he does not share the dark prejudices of the anti-Semites. A first step would be to bar his aides and close supporters from any discussions of disciplinary cases. A second would be to listen carefully to the whistleblowers. And finally, Labour should scrap the present, internal disciplinary machinery in favour of a wholly independent process with the authority and resources to stamp out racism in the party’s ranks.



Comments (41)

  • S H says:

    WELL DONE CLAIRE SHORT WE SALUTE YOU. (ps can you have a word in the ears of the pathetic Blairite sabetours within our ranks deliberately ruining the chances of a Labour Government because they are doing the bidding of a foreign body and funded by the extensive Isreali Lobby, here’s looking at you Watson.) Devious smug most backstabbing bloody deputy ever.

  • Sheena says:

    Thank you Clare Short for defending us against the smear onslaught using the truth, reason and facts. I wish the Labour Party as a whole would unite and fightback vigorously and not keep apologising for simply existing. There is extensive evidence that the public is prevented from seeing as nearly all the media outlets are right wing lying mouthpieces and we also can not trust the bbc or the guardian who have anti Jeremy Corbyn anti Palestinian anti Immigant anti Islam and anti poor people agendas. The disgustingly disloyal MP’s need to be removed, made to stop speaking to the press repeating smears and not allowed to represent us at all. I have no idea why Ofcom is not clamping down on the clear and obvious media bias and totally unbalanced seriously bad unfair coverage of the Labour Party.

  • TP says:

    Thank God for Clare! Isn’t it strange that a lot of so called Labour MPs spend most of the time attacking Jeremy Corbyn and anyone that likes him than they do the political opposition. The answer may lie in exactly who is funding them, how much they are being paid and what they have promised in exchange to do for it. Conflict of interest doesn’t even begin to describe this treachery and misconduct.

  • Elizabeth Morley says:

    Thank heavens for Clare Short! I do hope the tide will turn in this revolting and dangerous game of smears. The false accusations of Antisemitism in the Labour Party would be risible if they weren’t so insidious. The PLP stable needs to be thoroughly cleaned out, the vicious snakes. Together with the BBC and most of the print media, they are debasing the value of journalism and extinguishing any remaining scintilla of respect that people ever had for politics and politicians.

  • JD says:

    Thank you Clare Short.
    Finally someone dares to speak the truth and expose the blatant and relentless campaign against Jeremy Corbin in the guise of attacking anti semitism in the Labour Party. Did we ever hear mention of it before Jeremy Corbin became the leader ? How often to we hear of racism in the Conservative party?!
    The fact that Politicians on all sides of the divide, The Guardian, the BBC among too many others are now fully on the bandwagon, almost tripping over themselves to prove their credentials is beyond comprehension. If it wasn’t so concerning and corrosive it would be almost farcical.
    Whatever/whoever is driving this campaign is powerful and corrosive and you courage in challenging it has been inspiring.
    I am 79, I am not a member of the Labour Party, my children are half Jewish
    and basically I abhor racism in any form, especially that which is taking place in the exploitation of Palestine.

  • Ted Clement-Evans says:

    This is editorial nonsense. Until the BBC and the FT Editor can find actual evidence of anti-Semitism, rather than hearsay, then this must remain a nonsense, peddled by the BBC and the Labour Friends of Israel in an ongoing, malicious albeit successful, 3 year long campaign.

  • Andy Simons says:

    As both a Jew and a Labour Party member, I’m grateful that Clare Short has written in with clarity and sense. Jew-hatred used to exist in Britain but hasn’t for generations. They aren’t part of the ABC of discrimination : A – You can’t work here, B – You can’t live here, and C- You can’t walk down this road for fear of your own back. Young white Jews aren’t not about to be stopped and searched by the police either. This is all about the cruelty of a racist state that deludes itself into thinking it represents even most of an ethnic group.

  • Kwame says:

    Well said Clare, she has made it clear that antisemitism has nothing to do with being prejudice against Jews.

    It’s justifiable to condemn Israel for human rights abuse against our masses from Palestine.

    The far right as always know how to be so deceitful in order to be so unjust.

  • For me it is very simple.
    Is Labour opposed to racism ?
    If so why are so many Labour MPs friends of a state that owes it’s existence to the ethnic cleansing of 750,000 human beings in 1948 ?
    Is Ethnic Cleansing ok if the victims are Palestinians ?
    I am the Labour Party because I believe all human life is equally precious, Jewish, Roma, Windrush, Muslim.
    What can’t the Labour Party start behaving as if it really believed that to be true ?

  • Dr Susan Lyle says:

    I am of Jewish descent and recently visited Israel and Palestine. The apartheid state Israel has created is an affront to all compassionate thinking people. To criticise Israel for their systematic and cruel treatment of these almost defenceless people is not anti-semitic, far from it. To fail to criticise them and hold them to account for breaking international law is a cowardly act and anti-Palestinian. As far as I can see it is members of the Labour Party who are beibg treated unfairly.

  • Jane Elliott says:

    I salute you Clare for publicly stating what so many of us already know. The Israeli Lobby must now be allowed to conflate criticism of Israeli occupation and apartheid in Palestine with anti-Semitism. Anti-Zionism is NOT anti- Semitism. Let’s be clear also that Palestinians are Semites too

  • Pauline Fraser says:

    Thank you Clare for your clear, balanced and dignified response to the FT editorial, which I found muddled, unbalanced and vituperative. It gave unquestioning support to Tom Watson and Margaret Hodge, while damning the Labour Party Left and joining the media condemnation of the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn.

  • Ruth Bradbury says:

    I feel strongly that it is disgraceful what happens to the people of Palestine. And that is not ansimetic.

  • Michael Davies says:

    This has been common knowledge by the majority on the left in thr Labour Party, its a pity those in the media and others in the Labour Party who do not agree continue to weaponise this argument to attack Jeremy Corbyn to further their own cause and split the Labour parth

  • Liberty says:

    Hey, Traitor Watson this is what Loyalty Truth and Honesty looks like. The great Clare Short is doing your job. What exactly is the Labour Party bloody paying you for, you backstabbing clown.

  • Huw says:

    Very disappointed to see that even the FT has descended to parroting this palpable nonsense. I wonder whether they could cite even one actual case of genuine antisemitism in the party.

  • Chaz Wyman says:

    The Labour party has never promoted ANY racist policy.
    The Labour party shall never.
    The numbers of genuine racists in Labour are too few to have the slightest impact on any Labour policy.
    In a party with over 450,000 members, the number of complains is thankfully small. Many of the complaints do not ever relate to party members and those that do are often simply attacks on Israel’s government.
    Although there is a deplorable, though small number of racists in Labour, this issue is being used by mischief makers on the right to denigrate the progress made by Jeremy Corbyn and his movement to bring Labour back to its key values lost under Blair.

  • John Hall says:

    Why has it taken so long for anyone to state the obvious? It is clear that criticising modern Zionism, the Judaio-Christian, land-stealing, (Palestinian-) human rights abusing movement, is NOT “anti-semitic”

  • John Y. Jones says:

    Sad to see FT joining the unsubstantiated claims about Corbyn being antiSemitic. FT makes antiSemitism a tool in its political campaign against the left and abuses Jewish suffering disgracefully which is just another form of antiSemitism. FT and other antiSemitic abusive smearers should be taken to court, once and for all, to stop this disgraceful scurge. It undermines journalism, democracy and the fight against real antiSemitism and other forms of racism.

  • michele poole says:

    hooray for Clare Short. I TOTALLY agree with her, it makes me very angry that the people like Margaret Hodge whilst claiming to be supportive of the Palestinian cause and critical of Israel’s govt and its role in the oppression of the Palestinian people , nevertheless is vehemently vocal on only the anti Semitism issue.

  • Lesley Anne Rickard says:

    Well said Clare Short MP. It’s about time honest people spoke out against the witch-hunt of BDS supporters.

  • Dorothy Harward says:

    I agree with everything said. All forms if discrimination are vile but to discuss just one continually stops us looking st all the others. The disabled,elderly, mentally unwell, homeless,unemployed, other religious groups,ethnic and gender differences all of this are discriminated against on some form or other and at times are ignored.

  • Brian Walford says:

    Well said Clare Short!.The Financial Times no different to the rest of the rubbish. Israel MUST be challenged over Palestine.

  • John Lipetz says:

    Clare Short is right in what she says. Labour has been slow in implementing Chakrabarti’s excellent report. My position as a Jew is critical of the Israel government breaching international law and in solidarity with the Palestinians in the same way as I object to the Myanmar leadership in their appauling treatment of the Rohingya people who I support. Absolutely no anti-semitism!

  • Shaun Hague says:

    I do miss Clare Short from politics. Her plain tough uncompromising speaking is very much missed from the debates in the House.

  • Sol Picciotto says:

    The FT has not enabled comments either on their absurd editorial or on Clare Short’s clear and well stated response. The capture of mainstream media by this mendacious campaign against Corbyn shows that the British establishment prefers to support a far-right Tory party now led by a buffoon than engage in reasoned debate. Thanks for the voice of sanity, Clare.

  • Pauline hardwick says:

    Corbyn has shown by his life style he lives and breaths equality of oportunity for all people of all faiths. HAS HE NOT JUST BEEN AWARDED A PEACE PRIZE THIS VERY WEEK END JULY 26 2019.
    Not front page news all quiet on the media front.
    Doesn’t suit their agenda.

    [Editorial note: iNews has this report A judge on why Corbyn won a peace prize – and why the lack of coverage wasn’t surprising. Iits reprot incldues this:
    “The Russia Today headline read: “Jeremy Corbyn and Noam Chomsky win peace prize amid media silence”.

    The Sean McBride award is given out by the International Peace Bureau (IPB), a body founded in the 1980s linking up organisations working around the world for peace and disarmament.”…

  • Harriet Caine says:

    Where is the evidence for the accusations made in this totally biased article? The facts are that on analysis of accusations of anti-Semitic remarks only O.08% of such remarks were made by Labour Party members. Antisemitism is everywhere but it is not a significant problem in the Labour party and certainly not a problem of the Left. You’ll find that the accusations made by Margaret Hodge were found not to be made by Labour Party members at all. Further it is wrong to try to conflate criticism of the actions of the Israeli State with antisemitism, such legitimate criticism of the treatment of Palestinians by Israel is NOT the same as hatred of Jews. Jeremy Corbyn is supported by Jewish groups who recognise that he’s fought all his life against antisemitism and any form of racism. This is a systematic campaign to undermine Corbyn for his mild socialist beliefs and for his support of the Palestinian cause.

  • Janet Crosley says:

    A letter with lots of wellknown names sent to a media outlet, appears not to make an impact on any anti Mr Corbyn people. Maybe thousands of individual communications sent to the BBC, Daily Telegraph, FT, on the same day might?

  • Frankie Douglas says:

    Well said Clare Short. Refreshing to hear your voice rather than that of the ever-tedious — and erroneous — nonsense spouted by the likes of Watson, Hodge, Ellman and the like.

  • Andrea Finn says:

    I don’t know why Claire Short, and the people responding to this thread are saying that support of the Palestinians and criticism of the Israeli Government’s policy towards The Palestinians is considered anti-semitic. It is not true. Blaming all Israelis or Jews for the policies and actions of this disgusting right wing goverment in Israel is anti- semitic. Calling for the abolition or destruction of the State of Israel is where the line is drawn. Talking about International Jewish conspiracies, including ideas based on the false protocols is anti semitic. It is easy to make these distinctions clear in conversation. I support the Palestinians as do many Jews both in Israel and in the Jewish diaspora. I do not support the policies of the Israeli Government. I have never found any problem in saying so, and have never been accused of being anti- semitic because of it. I have however had friends in Momentum using anti-semitic tropes on social media, and calling for the abolition of Israel. It’s complicated, and I do not believe the Labour Party to be racist, but there are some racists and anti-semitic people in the Labour Party. It’s not all a plot against Jeremy Corbyn, although no doubt some people use the issue that way.

  • joan says:

    Well said

  • Patricia Philippou says:

    The irony of LFI talking about false claims of antisemitism whilst ignoring the very real crimes against the Palestinian people is astounding. Have these people, who support an apartheid regime, no shame? Where is their consciences as apartheid israel continues to maim and massacre the Palestinians? And it serves no good purpose to apologize for spurious claims; these LFI, lacking a conscience, just smell blood and demand more and more. There will be no decent anti-racists left in labour if they have there way. Time to expel LFI as apartheid apologists , who put labour in disrepute. AND, time to reinstate those decent anti- racists who have been expelled.

  • Christopher says:

    Great reply clare to a very silly misinformed, report

  • John Webster says:

    Black is white and white is black. That’s what our politics has come to. I am absolutely certain that in days to come people will look at what has gone on recently in the way that we look at McCarthyism. We have lies and hysteria posing as defenders of democracy and equality. More voices like Clare Short need to speak up.

  • Rosemary Addington says:

    Thank you Clare Short and all the people commenting. I am so heartily sick of the constant attacks on Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party over these accusations of antisemitism by those wanting to silence support for the rights of Palestinians. Tt is obvious it is being used by right-wing opponents and the right wing media generally as a stick to beat Jeremy Corbyn and left-wing Labour MPs with. I often complain to the BBC that they very rarely interview people from Jewish Voice for Labour to give their views, why not I wonder !

  • Ian Hall-Dixon says:

    Criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitic
    Criticism of Zionism is not anti-Semitic
    Criticism of the Jewish faith IS anti-Semitic

  • Philip McFedries says:

    Holding Israel to account – enough said.

  • Phil Cooper says:

    It’s so refreshing to have read Clare Short’s letter expressing what so many racism despising, apartheid opposing, Labour supporting people, both Jewish and non-Jewish, have been saying ever since these unprincipled, mendacious smears against Jeremy Corbyn began a few years ago.

    Let us be clear: there are three groups who have made common cause against Corbyn and, by extension, all those who want to see his socialist agenda put into operation as the government of this country. There is of course the mainstream media, both broadcast and print, most, but not all, of which is right wing (The Guardian and The Independent are nominally left of centre but have always been part of the Liberal wing of the Establishment.) Then there is the right wing Government of Israel under Netanyahu which cannot abide the concept of a socialist UK government that would not continue to follow Trump’s US in turning a blind eye to the slaughter, destruction and theft of land imposed by armed force on the Palestinian people in what is clearly an attempt to snuff out any chance of a Two-State solution.

    The third part of this anti-Corbyn triumvirate are the disaffected, mainly former Blairites within the Labour Party who cannot get over the fact that their time has come and gone; its death knell sounded by an illegal war in Iraq.

    It is worth recalling that one of the two most virulent opponents of Corbyn from the moment he was overwhelmingly elected leader has been Margaret Hodge. He and she go back in London Labour politics a long way and she clearly harbours a visceral hatred of him, for what reason perhaps an investigative journalist could bother to find out. It was she who organised a no-confidence vote against him with mass resignations from the shadow cabinet after the Brexit referendum. There was no mention of anti-semitism then as a pretext. This failed attempt was followed by the stalking horse candidature of Owen Smith and another vote which the then General Secretary of the party Ian McNicol tried, unsuccessfully, to rig by ruling who could and couldn’t vote. Jeremy won handsomely again.

    Labour didn’t do what the pundits predicted and fail at the 2017 general election – far from it. Corbyn’s position was secure. The forces ranged against him had to come up with another, more devious plan. Step forward again Margaret Hodge with the Party’s other great Corbyn hater Tom Watson plus all the other usual suspects from the PLP and yesterday’s men (and women) from the House of Lords. Anti-semitism was the charge shamelessly and despicably hurled at a decent man whose entire long political life has been marked by an unwavering campaign against all forms of racism and anti-semitism.

    The media was delighted to oblige with as much unbalanced coverage as possible. Carefully choreographed resignations and accusations were trotted out with regularity and high profile ‘revelations’ made – the most recent being a statement signed by 60 Labour peers, published, guess where? In the Guardian. And just in time on a Wednesday morning for Theresa May to brandish at Corbyn across the dispatch box at her penultimate PMQs to help divert the public’s attention away from her appalling (and racist) premiership.

    Statistics are available to show the infinitesimally small number of genuinely anti-Semitic statements that in recent years can be attributed to actual members of the half a million strong Labour Party. Statistics also reflect how this tiny proportion compares against the population as a whole. Figures also show how many hundreds of the complaints of anti-semitism have come from one MP (Margaret Hodge) and what an overwhelming proportion of those were not even Labour members!
    We of course never hear these statistics quoted by the coterie of journalists broadcasting or writing opinion pieces or, say, producing a hatchet job for BBC Panorama.

    I have been a journalist all my professional life. I despair of where the willingness to investigate and the determination to be accurate, fair and balanced has gone in the reporting of anti-semitism and the Labour Party.

    What also concerns me is the blatant attack on free speech that underlies the attempt to close down all criticism of Israel’s appalling treatment of the Palestinians by conflating it with anti-semitism.

    But I am most concerned by those Jewish Labour MPs and peers, as well as journalists and commentators, who are so negligently and irresponsibly using the charge of anti-semitism – it has been described as ‘weaponising’ anti-semitism – as a stick to try and beat into silence the one national leader and his socialist colleagues and supporters who, in a world lurching further to the populist, nativist right, remain, as they have always been, the staunchest defenders against racism and ethnic or religious hatred in all its odious manifestations.

  • Will Ross says:

    The real change is that Corbyn has brought back mass support for the party in the age of social media, when it is far easier to spread, and to see, unacceptable thought than ever before.

    At a time when 4% of Britons holds seriously AS views, you would expect a trial wave of 20,000 cases. In fact, the reported incidents are under 1000, with most of these coming from outside the party. This indicates to me that Labour resists AS strongly.

    Furthermore, the majority of the complaints relate to people associating with alleged anti Semites, or attention in good faith to defend the party they believe to be innocent.

    Guilt by association and taking attempts to defend as evidence of guilt are two of the key indicators of a witch hunt. I hope you will reflect on this and exert a moderating influence on both sides.

  • Ant Aloy says:

    Dear All

    A very good response by Clare Short and I wholeheartedly agree.

    Thank you

    Ant Aloy

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