John McTernan: Corbyn Has Made Labour Antisemitism Acceptable

  1. Home
  2. World
By John McTernan | 4:29 am, October 17, 2016

If you turned to the 24 hour news channels over the weekend then you will have undoubtedly seen the grinning face of Ken Livingstone.

And his appearance on the TV means only one thing – that Labour is talking about antisemitism and he is getting another chance to put his case for Hitler.

The occasion, this time, was the publication of the Home Affairs Select Committee Report on the party’s inquiry into antisemitism.

The probe was widely welcomed because of the shocking rise in antisemitic attacks in Britain – the figure quoted by the Select Committee is that “the first half of 2016 saw an 11% rise in reported antisemitic incidents compared with the same period during the previous year.”

However, the inquiry was of deep concern to Labour Party members and supporters because it was, in large part, also a response to events within the Labour Party. The cool prose of the Select Committee Report is chilling:

This report focuses to some extent on the Labour Party, because it has been the main source of recent allegations of antisemitism associated with political parties… the fact that incidents of antisemitism – particularly online – have made their way into a major political party is a new and deplorable phenomenon, and one which has not recently affected the mainstream right wing of British politics.

It is particularly shocking that it should affect a party whose founding principles are based on equality.

The events within the Labour Party that led to this position are well-known: the allegations of, and then inquiry into, antisemitism within the Oxford University Labour Club; Naz Shah MP forwarding on antisemitic memes; Ken Livingstone’s increasingly bizarre claims that Hitler has supported Zionism; Jackie Walker’s notorious comments; and the Chakrabarti Inquiry established by Leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The Select Committee diplomatically avoids passing judgment on how antisemitism entered the body of the Labour Party. The report points to only one conclusion – the fact that it coincided with the election of Jeremy Corbyn is, in fact, no coincidence. When they turn to Corbyn, they do not miss:

We are not persuaded that he fully appreciates the distinct nature of post-Second World War antisemitism… Jewish Labour MPs have been subject to appalling levels of abuse, including antisemitic death threats from individuals purporting to be supporters of Mr Corbyn

…his lack of consistent leadership on this issue, and his reluctance to separate antisemitism from other forms of racism, has created what some have referred to as a ‘safe space’ for those with vile attitudes towards Jewish people.

They are critical of the Labour Party’s internal organisation, too:

This situation has been further exacerbated by the Party’s demonstrable incompetence at dealing with members accused of antisemitism, as illustrated by the saga involving the suspension, re-admittance and re-suspension of Jackie Walker.

The ongoing membership of Ken Livingstone, following his outbursts about Hitler and Zionism, should also have been dealt with more effectively. The result is that the Labour Party, with its proud history of fighting racism and promoting equal rights, is seen by some as an unwelcoming place for Jewish members and activists.

None of this, in the Select Committee’s view has been properly addressed by the Chakrabarti Report. They are unflinching in their criticism of it:

[the report] is clearly lacking in many areas; particularly in its failure to differentiate explicitly between racism and antisemitism.

The fact that the report describes occurrences of antisemitism merely as “unhappy incidents” also suggests that it fails to appreciate the full gravity of the comments that prompted the inquiry in the first place.

And of Chakrabarti herself:

These shortfalls, combined with Ms Chakrabarti’s decision to join the Labour Party in April and accept a peerage as a nominee of the Leader of that Party, and her subsequent appointment as Shadow Attorney General, have thrown into question her claims (and those of Mr Corbyn) that her inquiry was truly independent.

Ms Chakrabarti has not been sufficiently open with the Committee about when she was offered her peerage, despite several attempts to clarify this issue with her.

This last sentence is a reference to the fact that they wrote to her two months ago asking about the timeline concerning her elevation to the Lords – and have not yet received an answer.

This is the United Kingdom, and a Select Committee to boot, so nothing as vulgar as a hypocritical whitewash is alleged. Instead, with classic English understatement they say:

It is disappointing that she did not foresee that the timing of her elevation to the House of Lords, alongside a report absolving the Labour Leader of any responsibility for allegations of increased antisemitism within his Party, would completely undermine her efforts to address this issue.

The saddest thing about this report is that it should ever have had to be written.

The ultraleft have long had problems with Israel and their virulent opposition to the existence of one of the Middle East’s only two democracies (the other is Iraq) has infected others – most notably the student movement, whose current leader – NUS President Malia Bouattia – gets a deserved tongue-lashing:

[she] does not appear to take sufficiently seriously the issue of antisemitism on campus, and has responded to Jewish students’ concerns about her previous language with defensiveness and an apparent unwillingness to listen to their concerns…

Referring to Birmingham University as a “Zionist outpost” (and similar comments) smacks of outright racism, which is unacceptable, and even more so from a public figure such as the President of the NUS.

Labour, though, was unaffected until the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Leader.

As his supporters flooded into the party, it turned out that it was not just Hamas who were problematic “friends” of Jeremy.

They changed what it was possible to say within the Labour Party and antisemitism became permissible.

It is just one of the many damaging consequences of the election and re-election of Jeremy Corbyn.