My experience as a recent member to the Labour Party.

JVL Introduction

Miriam Yagud writes about her experience as someone who joined Labour recently for its progressive policies, not for its leader. She has found in it a supportive and welcoming environment in which being a Jew is neither an issue nor a barrier.

This article was originally published by Dorset Eye on Tue 13 Aug 2019. Read the original here.

The Labour Party is not institutionally antisemitic says Jewish party member

I am a Jewish member of the Dursley branch of Stroud Labour Party and I want to share with you my experience as a recent member to the Labour Party.

I’ve never been a 100 per cent Jeremy Corbyn can do no wrong supporter and never will be.

I joined for the policies, not the leader. I share the party’s commitment to housing, education , transport and health being for people, not private profit. That and especially his commitment to challenging racism makes him the first Labour Party leader to give me enough reasons to vote Labour in a general election for only the second time since 1974.

And then I joined the party.

I have never doubted Corbyn’s commitment to anti-racism.

He has been one of the few Labour MPs who is consistently vocal against all forms of racism, one of the very few Labour MPs who has supported or been present in or spoke up in anti-racist and anti-apartheid campaigns, marches and rallies I have been involved with since the 1970s.

During these 45 years I have been a member of a synagogue, a range of Jewish organisations, and a resident of Stepney, Hackney and Stamford Hill areas of London with large Jewish populations.

I have never heard other Jews criticise Jeremy Corbyn for being anti Jewish.

I now live in deepest Gloucestershire where Jews are few and far between.

I have been welcomed into the local Labour party, I hold an elected position.

When I was expelled for having previously stood as a Green Party candidate many members and our Labour MP, wrote letters in my support, including those who are implacably against Corbyn. As a result, I was reinstated.

I feel I am a valued member of the local and national party.

I have been encouraged to stand as a councillor.

Being Jewish is not an issue nor a barrier.

The diversity of our membership is valued as a strength and an asset.

Many members of my local party are appalled at the anti-democratic impulse that drives the attacks on Corbyn and the membership and we are angry at the accusations of antisemitism being levelled against us all.

Myself, my Jewish family and friends and the Jewish communities, know first hand what anti-Semitism is.

I recently visited Auschwitz on behalf of my family who died and survived that horror.

I learned first hand how institutional racism against Jews enabled the holocaust.

The Labour Party is not institutionally antisemitic.

I am one of hundreds of Jewish members who have recently joined Labour.

We joined for the policies and values of the more than 300,000 members who voted for Corbyn to lead the party.

These are values of anti-racism and internationalism and the principles of equality and democratic representation.

Jewish people are all too aware of the need to strengthen democracy and oppose fascists and racists here in Britain and across Europe.

This Labour Party and its 500,000+ members are part of that work.

The political and social culture I find within the local and national party reflects this commitment and there is a strong awareness of prejudice and discrimination and the need to oppose it everywhere we see it.

Casual everyday racism, is much less prevalent in Labour than I find in other areas of society.

When I hear antisemitic statements made by party members it is often in the casual use of Jewish and Israeli being used interchangeably which makes all Jews responsible for the actions – good or bad – of the Israeli government and this is an antisemitic assumption.

It is an entirely understandable mistake to make when you consider that Israel describes itself as the Jewish state as does the British government and most Labour leaders.

Tony Blair promoted Labour’s and his own support for Israel as a policy supporting Jews, rather than Israelis but those individuals who now call us antisemitic for criticising Israeli actions against Palestinians do not challenge those who repeat this antisemitic assumption, though many of us Jews have challenged it.

It takes time and education to change institutionalised attitudes like this one and under Corbyn’s leadership, this change is happening through discussion and education and it is to be applauded.

There are some Jews who have left the party recently. Reasons for leaving fall broadly into 2 areas: Labour is no longer an uncritical supporter of the Israeli government and supports justice for Palestinians and many call this antisemitism.

The other is that some oppose Labour’s manifesto: “ For the Many, Not the Few.”

But let’s be clear; the overwhelming majority of those in the party who actively campaign against Corbyn’s leadership are not Jewish, their opposition is almost entirely unrelated to anything concerning British Jews.

Beyond the Labour Party, there is a sustained, well-funded and organised campaign against the Labour movement and the official opposition that’s gone on for three years, has strengthened, has become disdainful and unconcerned about flouting the law, disrespecting the democratic process, lying and defaming others and it doesn’t look to be running out of steam or money any time soon.

It is clear to any sane and honest person that this is a concerted attempt to destroy the biggest, national, funded and organised opposition in the country.

It is a forewarning of how far some will go to destroy the bedrock of our less than perfect, political system to silence those who have a right to be represented in parliament.

For the first time in 60 years Labour has a leadership that reflects the reason it was founded 119 years ago: to represent the interests of the vast majority of ordinary working people and citizens in parliament.

Miriam Yagud
Cam, Dursley & Berkeley Branch Labour Party

Comments (2)

  • Rita Craft says:

    So very well put: I too have never encountered antisemitism in the Labour Party (and wrote to the Labour Party to say so), and I am forever finding myself explaining to puzzled Socialist friends why this is such a current issue.I often forward to them JVL posts that explain it all so much better than I can.
    Thank you Miriam, for speaking up.

  • Joseph O' Neill says:

    The behaviour of the MP’s Hodge, Smeeth, Berger, Ellman, Ryan & Mann have given great cause for concern. Arrogance, bad language, lies & deception are not acceptable.

Comments are now closed.