Getting on the Front Foot about Antisemitism

Allegations of antisemitism on the left, sometimes erupting like rockets to light the electoral sky,  are ever-present in the background of this general election campaign.

In these campaigning notes Richard Kuper suggests how to respond to such allegations, as they surface on the doorstep or in media interviews.

For JVL’s position on antisemitism and our implacable opposition to it, see the statement What is – and what is not – antisemitic misconduct, and our endorsement of the recent Board of Deputies of British Jews/Community Security Trust definition of antisemitism published in October 2019.


  • We’re fighting a general election.  We want to talk about Labour policies, not get diverted by an irrational panic about antisemitism.
  • Impose our agenda. Challenge those who raise antisemitism to identify any Labour policies that are actually antisemitic.
  • If someone on the doorstep seems genuinely concerned about ‘antisemitism in the Labour party’:
    • Be friendly
    • Aim to turn this into a dialogue on Labour’s policies
    • Don’t be apologetic. Too many Labour spokespeople are.
    • Understand any hurt they may express but call into question – sensitively – the grounds for it.
    • Ask them to name specific Labour policies they’ve come across that they feel would discriminate against Jewish people
    • When they can’t, shift the discussion onto the positives of Labour’s policy offer.

Dealing with the media or aggressive attacks

If you are dealing with people who try to use antisemitism allegations to bury Labour and Corbyn give them no quarter

  • Don’t be apologetic.
  • Go on to the offensive.
  • Turn every question and allegation about antisemitism into a positive statement about the best of Labour’s anti-discrimination, anti-fascist, pro-refugee past and its continued commitment to help everyone who is disadvantaged.
  • Insist: ” You have no basis for saying that! What particular policy do you object to, one you think that discriminates against Jews”

Here are affirmative answers to basic accusations


The Labour party is antisemitic

  • No it is not. I presume you mean by this hatred of or discrimination against Jews. Let us be absolutely clear, there are no policies or measures proposed in Labour’s policy commitments that show hatred of or discriminate against Jewish people. Absolutely none.
  • Where is the even the vaguest hint of any suggestion that any Jew will be discriminated against when Labour forms the government?
  • Every Jew who works for the health service, who works in education, who works in local government or any other form of public service will benefit alongside all others who work in the sector – after a decade of austerity everyone will benefit.
  • Every Jewish mother looking for adequate  maternity care, or Jewish parents hoping that their local schools will be adequately funded; Jewish families wanting care as they age, and safety on their streets as well as all Jewish people anxious about the impact of the climate catastrophe will like other citizens of this country feel a difference once a Labour government is elected.
  • Our interests are no different from those of the rest of our society and we will overwhelmingly be among the beneficiaries, with the introduction of policies for the many, not the few.

To talk of implementing any and all of our policies as an existential threat to Jews is irresponsible scare-mongering.


Jeremy Corbyn is an antisemite?

You mean by that he shows hatred of or discriminates against Jews? He does not.

  • He has stood with Jews countless numbers of times against Nazi marches through our streets, condemning attacks on synagogues, signing parliamentary early day motions against antisemitism in sport, praising Holocaust education, calling for an investigation into Facebook and its failure to prevent the spread of antisemitic materials on its site and much more.
  • Do you think if an anti-Jewish march took place down Cable Street today that Jeremy Corbyn would be anywhere but on the side of those opposing the fascists, vehemently?
  • His policies in support of Palestinian rights – our policies in support of Palestinian rights – are in line with our socialist principles of support for all oppressed peoples, past and present – be they Blacks in South Africa, the Rohingya today. To make peace you have to be prepared to talk to all sides in the conflict – just as the Queen ended up shaking hands with Martin McGuiness, formerly a leader of the IRA.
  • Any Jew who leaves the UK after the election of a Labour government will be making the mistake of a lifetime – losing the chance of helping create a genuinely egalitarian, anti-racist society in which all people are valued equally for who they are, not their origins, their religion, their ethnicity or social class. Labour’s policies speak for all of us.

What is there for Jews not to wish for in this future?


To sum up: the party has done nothing wrong

  • All the evidence shows there is less antisemitism in the Labour party than in other parties in the UK.
  • Insofar as it was slow in tackling what antisemitic allegations there were, this has now been remedied.
  • What is definitely needed is more backbone in the Labour interviewees.

Impose our agenda. Be positive that our polices are good for voters and their families, and good for everyone, Jews included.


Further information

You can download a PDF of  this article Getting on the Front Foot about Antisemitism

Comments (10)

  • Margaret Johnson says:

    We have to defeat the antisemitic element and also the false antisemitic accusations. I did find this article very difficult though as I feel it was too confrontational, and I am a confrontational person, in that I challenge things that I think are wrong. There is a way to confront the antisemitism accusation that has now become a trope and that is to personalise it in the same way that any accusation of discrimination can be personalised. The technique is to defuse the antisemitism bomb by asking sympatheticaly oh you are Jewish? When did someone discriminate against you (and without pausing for an answer) you are sure they were a member of the Labour Party. If in the extraordinary event they confirm all this, offer your support, not apologies. That’s terrible, you know the party is determined to stamp out all discrimination. How would you like us to help you in this.
    If, as in most cases, the answer is no facts and figures on how the antisemitism drama has played out would be useful in illuminating the darker corners of this set piece. Before then going on to state that anyone who does not vote Labour is missing the chance of a lifetime to be part of a change that will improve life not just in this country but throughout the world. We aim to be World Leaders in changing how the world uses resources and cares for the planet we all live on, while caring for the people in this country and the rest of the world. The broadband policy will Kickstart small businesses and reduce carbon emissions, The NHS will get a boost through supporting Student Nurse and Doctor training and adults will get a proper chance to improve their skills and retrain for today’s jobs what have you got to lose.

  • Alan. Wallace says:

    I think we need to be very careful about “going on the offensive”. It should be more like…”be assertive”. I think too we should say…” we take a lead from the many Jewish members of the Labour Party who are challenging those who claim anti-semitism. They, our Jewish members in JVL, have a great website….go and look at it. You will be surprised.

  • Tony Traub says:

    “Claims of anti-semitism have worked ideally in damaging Corbyn because no real evidence has been needed. In fact, such claims succeed even when opposed to the known evidence (as we shall see). They work chiefly by innuendo and emotion. And better still, they work even when those accused like Corbyn and his allies deny the accusation. As in all good witch-hunts, denial is proof of guilt…” This quote by Jonathan Cook sums it up perfectly.

  • Claude Coopersmith says:

    Why do feel it necessary to remind your canvassers to be polite. No one doing this role should need to reminded about the importance of engaging politely with potential voters. Unless you are maybe suggesting that impoliteness is a JVL characteristic that needs to temporarily curtailed.

    Many in the UK Jewish Community do not feel Corbyn is sincere about supporting a Two State Solution. We know it’s official Labour policy, but, I suspect most feel he would really prefer something else. ( A binational or single state, a non Zionist State ) .We know he has always been a long standing supporter of Palestine. But if as he has previously suggested it is important to meet with and engage with all parties in a conflict, even those you disagree with , why has he never met with Israeli Gov’t or Oppossition members. By just going to Israel and meeting with ordinary Israelis of all persuasions, it would have sent a message to the UK Community that he is prepared to listen and engage. It’s easy for him to meet with JVL, Jewdas and others who support his world view. If he is ever going to be PM he is going to have meet with many people he really dislikes including Netanyahu and others.

    He could already have had these meetings, he could have travelled to Israel ( yes it means meeting and engaging with Zionists in the UK and Israel )
    It may be uncomfortable for JVL, but most Diaspora Jewry is supportive of Israel.
    ( In 2017 I received the following from JVJ
    ” yes there absolutely is a place ( in JVL ) for people who support the right of Israel to exist and to define itself as a Jewish State”
    Is this still the case? )
    We are proud of its achievements, dynamism and we quite like the mixture of Israeli chutzpah and balagan. we have family and friends who live there. Many take holidays or spend time in Israel ( we improve our Ivrit and we accumulate many parking tickets ) And yes this does mean we can also be angry and strongly critical of it’s policies. But we can still love and admire the country and we want it to thrive and survive.
    You will not meet me out Canvassing, I prefer spending the UK winter in my home City. ( Cape Town is far more attractive than the UK in a Brexit, Winter Election ) But is it possible to ask JVL for just two positive comments, observations you can make about Israel? After all if Labour officially supports a Two State Solution, then you should be able to find something positive to say. Certainly it would help if your polite canvassers could have a few positive comments to say about IL on the doorstep.

  • Dee Howard says:

    Brilliant. I wish all canvassers had a copy of this (maybe a condensed version).

  • Gerry Glyde says:

    Claude, I am glad that you are able to take yourself off to South Africa during the winter and perhaps a spell in hot Israel as well. You ask is it possible for canvassers to say a couple of things positive about Israel. The discussion is about antisemitism, that is hatred or discrimination against Jews, not about Israel. Unfortunately the extreme ultra pro Israeli lobby, led by people such as Dave Rich has turned the discussion around such that any criticism of Israel, or promoting BDS, is by its nature said to be antisemitic. He created a ‘new antisemitism’, but one that does not seemingly require hatred of Jews.

    It is not necessary to say positive things about Israel anymore than it is necessary to say anything positive about ANY country, if the discussion is about that country’s multiple breaches of human rights law, kidnap of its own citizens (Mordecai Vanunu) or recent deportation of an Austrian Jew who was intending to enter the Occupied Terrortories as a peace observer. It is ironic that by the law of return the Austrian man is entitled to claim Israeli citizenship, but they would then wish to revoke it because he expresses free speech.

    Yes, Israel is a democracy of sorts, that is a plus, but it is rapidly losing that democracy. Yes it has gay pride marches but it will arrest any gay people who advocate BDS. It will evict non-Jews from their homes and demolish them and give the land to ‘full citizens’, that is Jewish people, not Christians, Arabs, non believers, or perhaps even Black Jews. The Nation State law is creating a system of full citizens and others, the latter of whom will have decreasing civil rights.

    Now, how about you give readers two positive things that must be mentioned and those things can be discussed in relation to canvassing for a UK election. Should we have two positive things that we say about every country that is criticised, or is your request limited

  • Liz Segal says:

    Thanks. This is excellent and just what I was looking for.

  • Claude Coopersmith says:

    Dear Gerry Glyde
    I raise the issue of Israel, because for most Diaspora Jews, Israel plays an important and integral part in our lives. I am well aware that groups like JVL and Jewdas don’t feel this way. Maybe they resent the importance that IL plays in Diaspora Jewish Life. But these groups do not represent the views of the vast majority of Anglo Jewry.
    You will certainly be confronted with it on most UK Jewish Doorsteps.

    If your brave and polite canvassers are going to meet Jewish Voters then I am sure they will get asked ” why does so much anti Israel commentary from the Labour Party have to be expressed in Anti Semitic Language ”
    Comments like Rogue State, Nazi Zionist State, Zionist Conspiracy etc.
    These and similar are perceived by most Jews as offensive and anti Semitic.

    It seems quite a few Labour Candidates have now apologised for some stupid and or offensive tweets made in their youthful past.
    It’s so easy to just spout ” I am sorry, I was young and stupid, but now I know better I apologise for any offence or hurt caused ” I certainly don’t feel those who have made these apologies really mean it. And the same can be said for Conservatives who have made racist tweets in the past.
    (Maybe Twitter is just something everyone should avoid)

    We know Corbyn is passionate in his support for Palestine, but this has led him into some questionable relationships with some unsavoury characters.
    ( This will cause many in the UK to question his suitability to be a PM )

    Maybe there is no direct evidence that he has an issue himself with Jews, but there is evidence of his association with and support for — Holocaust deniers, terrorists and some outright antisemites. It just seems to have taken too long to accept passed mistakes and apologise. The regret for using the term ” friends” to describe Hammas and Hezbollah came very late

    Deir Yassin Remembered (DYR), a group that published antisemitic comments, was run by Holocaust denier Paul Eisen — an organisation so extreme that even the Palestine Solidarity Campaign refused to associate with it?
    Mr Corbyn as a Patron of PSC would or should have been aware of Eisens background.

    Why did Corbyn accept an invitation to appear at a conference alongside Carlos Latuff, notorious anti-Semitic cartoonist? He could have just done some very basic research on Latuff.

    Defending Rev Stephen Sizer, a vicar banned from social media for posting anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, Corbyn said Rev Sizer was “under attack” because he had “dared to speak out over

    Failure to condemn the anti-Semitic posters and banners ( like “Hitler was Right” ) held at Al-Quds Day rally, and at a Rally in 2010 in relation to Gaza.
    I witnessed Bishop Tutu at a Gaza Rally in Cape Town. When he witnessed similar posters he was very loud and vocal in immediately condemning them.

    Corbyn appears blind when those who support his causes choose to be offensive.
    These are just a few examples of why many in the Jewish Community are fearful and will never vote Labour with him as leader.

    Maybe some of your Canvassers could simply say , ” we recognise how important Israel, and it’s survival is to so many Jewish Voters. We know that the Israeli economy makes a huge contribution in medical and communication technologies.
    And the MDA ( National Ambulance and Emergency Service ) largely run by volunteers ( Jews and Arabs ) providing services to all communities . Unlike Apartheid SA where we had to specify Race when calling an Ambulance.

    I doubt that anything I Post on JVL will convince the Commiited Supporter.
    And of course the replies are unlikely to change my commitment to Israel and my Zionism
    But I thank JVL for at least uploading my POST

    So I send you greetings from a very very windy Fairest Cape

  • Gerry Glyde says:

    Claude. Quite typically you assert your belief of what the majority of Jews want as if you have that right to do so. You continue vague comments of associating Corbyn with antisemites or the left. You then go on, as if it is given truth of what is and is not antisemitic, that I have already challenged in relation to Dave Rich and others view of antisemitism. You ignore the things you cannot defend.

    “why does so much anti Israel commentary from the Labour Party have to be expressed in Anti Semitic Language ”Comments like Rogue State, Nazi Zionist State”

    Identify the hate or discrimination against Jews, as Jews, of statements of Nazi state, or rouge state. Where is the antisemitic discrimination ? You go on.
    “These and similar are perceived by most Jews as offensive”
    In Britain there is no right for people not to be offended by others views as long as the views expressed do not lead to breach of other laws such as incitement to violence, (99% convictions seem to be of those on the right, not left of politics.) Luciana Berger’s main antagonist, a known right wing activist with previous convictions lives in Tyneside. I think five right wing people were convicted of offences against her. Black people do not have the exclusive right to determine that what offends them and thus make it discrimination. The same applies for LGBT or disabled people. Yet it seems some Jewish people wish to hold it to themselves to determine what constitutes antisemitism, as long of course they are the correct type of Jewish person and not someone who might believe that Israel commits multiple and repeated breaches of international law and should be roundly criticised for it as would any state.

    Then lastly you give us a risible example of the ambulance service, but conveniently ignore the fact that frequently Palestinians are stopped at border crossing of their country, even whilst in ambulances, and denied entry or passage through Israel for medical treatment and of course the shooting of unarmed children. “yes but ambulances”.

    Let us also go back to the other JC, that is the Chronicle. The editor in 2014 ran several headlines about Jewish Labour Leader Ed Miliband and the ‘crisis of antisemitism’ in the party. What had he done? Had he lined up lots of bigots in CLPs? Allowed into membership those desecrating synagogues?
    No, all he had done was express support for independent Palestine. The hardliners even slow handclapped him at a social function. That is how they treat a fellow Jew.

    I doubt anything I post on JVL will convince a hard line Zionist and certain Jewish and non-Jewish people that all is not right with the state and govt of Israel. At least you are honest and tell us that facts and evidence will not change your mind.

    I doubt this comment would be published by Stephen Pollard in the JC

  • Carolyn Gelenter says:

    Thanks Richard. That’s really helpful!

Comments are now closed.