JVL introduction

A powerful, informed analysis of the current controversy over Labour’s code of conduct on antisemitism by Anthony Lerman,  an expert in the field, someone who has been actively involved around this issue for over thirty years.

This important and timely contribution concludes: “This is the time to take the path to working with other minority groups, civil society organizations and human rights bodies to confront antisemitism within the context of a wider antiracist struggle, not to perpetuate the notion that Jews stand alone.

Jennie Formy, 2016 Labour Party Conference. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Why turning to Jewish exceptionalism to fight antisemitism is a failing project

The furore over the new Labour NEC Code of Conduct on Antisemitism.

Antony Lerman, openDemocracy
16 July 2018


  • Antony Lerman is an Honorary Fellow at the Parkes Institute for the Study of Jewish/non-Jewish Relations, Southampton University. He is also a member of the Black-Jewish Forum, a member of the Advisory Committee of the Holocaust Exhibition at the Imperial War Museum and a founding member of the Jewish Forum for Justice and Human Rights and the Independent Jewish Voices steering group. He is the author of The Making and Unmaking of a Zionist: A Personal and Political Journey (Pluto Press 2012). He tweets @tonylerman.


When the Labour Party released the text of the National Executive Committee’s new code of conduct on antisemitism on 5 July, did general secretary Jennie Formby expect the barrage of outrage, vilification and accusations of bad faith and betrayal that greeted it? The new code seeks to implement the June 2016 Chakrabarti Report’s recommendations, fulfil commitments made by Jeremy Corbyn to speed up disciplinary procedures after meeting representatives of Jewish establishment organizations back in April this year, to deal more robustly and efficiently with alleged expressions of antisemitism by party members and ‘to produce a practical code of conduct that a political party can apply in disciplinary cases’.

It’s hard to believe, after the battering Labour has experienced over the issue of antisemitism in the party since Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader and the fact nothing the party has done has succeeded in fully placating its critics, that officials expected anything approximating universal approbation. But the new code had barely seen the light of day before it was being condemned in the harshest terms by all and sundry, and representatives of the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), the official Jewish affiliate to the party, were complaining that they had been misled by the NEC and were never properly consulted over the new code.

In some ways it was of little consequence whether or not there was anything in the slightest controversial in the new text. There is no shortage of politicians, media commentators, Jewish organizations and anti-antisemitism groups permanently primed to respond to each and every moment of antisemitism ‘news’ relating to the Labour Party. And on this occasion they launched predictable partisan salvoes at Formby and the NEC. Keith Kahn Harris sees it as one more chapter in the ongoing ‘Labour antisemitism saga’, but ‘saga’ hardly comes close. This is a war. A bitter, dirty war of attrition over what antisemitism is today. It began thirty odd years ago and the Labour story is but one part of it. A war with no end in sight.

Read the rest of  Lerman’s article here.