UK’s Labour Party’s Anti-Semitic Routes Go Deep And Drink From The Same Poisoned Well As Other European Anti-Semitic Movements Through History

As Britain’s Chief Rabbi has pointed out, the leader of Britain’s Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn has been steadfast in his refusal to admit to the anti-Semitic tendencies with which he has poisoned his party and British politics as a whole

Chief Rabbi of the UK, Ephraim Mirvies
Copyright: Brian Minkoff- London Pixels [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

In an article this week, British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvies attacked the Labour Party for failing to deal with anti-Semitism. He described it as “a new poison, sanctioned from the top, has taken root in the Labour Party.” Yet just days later Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn on struck back on television, saying the Rabbi was wrong and four times refusing to apologize for failing to root out anti-Semitism in his party.

The problem is very real. A former Labour MP in one local election in the UK this year has hurdled anti-Semitic abuse at the Conservative candidate.  A recent video posted on social media shows a Jewish family being verbally harassed on a subway train in London. The video is even harder to watch because I was in London just weeks ago. I rode the same “tube” as Londoners call their subway, where that attack happened. London seemed to be a tolerant place.That is sadly not the case. A report this year from the European Union Agency for Fundamental Right found that 80 percent of young Jews sampled in the report noted that anti-Jewish racism had “increased over the past five years”.

This is especially troubling for the United Kingdom, which has the second largest population of Jews in Europe. A dangerous current of anti-Semitism runs through British politics at the moment. Like the tube, it is often unseen, but its links can be found everywhere. These links go beyond just social misfits on the tube – this goes all the way to Britain’s two main parties: Labour and Conservatives.While there is no doubt there are similar issues with the Conservative Party – it is the Labor Party which has been most seriously poisoned. Which as we shall see stretches back years.

At the center of the controversy and the target of the Rabbi’s op-ed is Jeremy Corbyn. The Labor Party leader is attempting to become the UK’s next Prime Minister in the general elections scheduled for next month. Infamously, Corbyn offered consolatory messages to an American graffiti artist whose blatantly anti-Semitic mural in London had been painted over. In a 2012 social media message, Corbyn compared it to the fate of one of the New York murals in the 1930s by ‘Diego Viera’ [sic] that praised Lenin. Corbyn here is referring to Diego Rivera the famed Mexican artist well known for having been at one point a member of the Mexican Communist Party.

Corbyn’s veiled praise for a cruel Soviet leader like Lenin is nothing new. The year before, Corbyn wrote a foreword for a modern edition of a book from 1900 filled with anti-Semitic tropes. Lenin’s main accomplishment was of course to forge a deeply anti-Semitic and murderous Soviet Union. In public, Lenin offered praise for Jews as part of a double discourse on the subject. However, behind closed doors he wrote: “Jews and city dwellers on the Ukraine must be taken by hedgehog-skin gauntlets, sent to fight on front lines and should never be allowed on any administrative positions (except a negligible percentage, in exceptional cases, and under [our] class control.”

Back to Corbyn, the occasional Lenin admirer. In 2002, Corbyn attended a now infamous rally in which a number of signs comparing Jewish leaders to Nazis were displayed and Corbyn urged “non-recognition” of Israel. That rally, as a Ha’aretz article had pointed out, was organized by the Muslim Association of Britain, a group that according to a UK government investigation maintains ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and has also been linked to Hamas as recently as this year. In Britain however, anti-Semitic comments and ties are often to quickly forgotten. Harris Bokhari, an organizer at the 2002 event and spokesperson for the group at the time has gone on to a number of prominent political positions. Bokhari is now a successful philanthropist and businessman who has never apologized for his past connections to Islamist groups such as MAB. Instead Bokhari and other individuals at that 2002 rally have obtained praiseworthy positions with the government. Bokhari for example, has gone on to enjoy positions such as being named by Sadiq Khan to an advisory board earlier this year. He continues to influence policies as  member of government honors committee on diversity. Ironically, Bokhari once told the BBC that the idea of teaching British core values is “another one of those knee-jerk reaction” policies.  Yet, it is exactly that policy which could help stamp out anti-Semitism and other harmful forms of discrimination.  

Does Melanie Dawes, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government who is trustee of an NGO he founded know about this history? This is just one example.  People can change and so can parties. Though Labour claims to be investigating its own anti-Semitism, thus far it has largely absolved itself. The U.K’s Equality and Human Rights Commission has launched its own investigation to find out what is going on behind closed doors in the Labor Party. An antidote to the poison Rabbi Ephraim Mirvies describes must be found.

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