Labour’s inquiry into anti-Semitism is just what the doctor ordered. It is the cure for the party’s ills and will tackle the underlying issues. With almost half-a-million members, many new and young, it is not surprising that a small minority harbour strident views, so guidance is key.
Most members we’ve read about in recent weeks – of Parliament, councils or the ruling executive – slipped into anti-Semitic discourse because they took their hostility to Israel and Zionism to an offensive new level. Israel is not above criticism – nor should it be – but to call Hitler a Zionist, link Israel to ISIS or suggest Israeli Jews be transported to the United States is a step too far, to put it mildly.
The key question is: what is ‘too far’?
Where are the boundaries? Employees sanctioned under a disciplinary policy that did not spell out what was a disciplinary offence would rightly feel hard done by.
The same goes for anti-Semitism. It’s a complex issue, linked to the ill-defined anti-Zionism, and there is no list of what can or can’t be said or compared.
What, for example, can be said about Israel’s behaviour towards Palestinians? Historians often equate a state’s actions to the actions of past actors, but for Israel, a state formed after a people’s attempted extermination, this is particularly sensitive.
A code of conduct will help, drawing ‘red lines’ if you will, establishing that context and understanding (and timing, David Ward MP) are vital for justifiable commentary. There are already definitions of anti-Semitism in place, such as that of the European Union Monitoring Centre, which covers links to Israel and Nazism.
The adoption of these or other guides, and the express stipulation that comments adhere to them, will put an end to all this nastiness and restore the party’s image in the eyes of the Jewish community.
With highly-respected former Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti leading this much-needed inquiry, and with Jewish academic input, the future’s bright, the future’s tolerant.
That’s only if you live in a world of roses, where moons have faces and princesses call out for princes from castle turrets. Inquiry? Please! Never will anything have been washed so white. There’ll be undercoats, overcoats and duffel coats used to hide this hatred.
The carefully chosen “independent” panel should see to that: Chakrabarti has thinly-disguised political ambitions of her own (so won’t alienate her voting proletariat with something seen to let nasty Israel off the hook) and the “Jewish input” is an academic who thinks claims of anti-Semitism are blown out of all proportion.
You don’t need to be Albert Einstein to work out why there’s so much Jew-baiting and Israel-bashing going on in Labour these days. It’s because they elected a far-left leader who calls Israel-hating psychopath terrorists “friends,” and who spent much of his parliamentary career raising and promoting Palestinian victimhood.
Inquiry into anti-Semitism? Something to say you’ve done something? Save your time and your column inches.
After 2,000 years’ practice, Jews tend to make good sceptics, finely-honed to sense even the faintest whiff of bull***t on a light north London breeze. Sorry, but it’ll take more than just guidelines to stem this flow.
Polls have already shown that hundreds of thousands of British Muslims are likely to hold anti-Semitic attitudes.
The Labour Party can’t just bury its pro-Palestinian head behind bureaucracy. It must do what London’s new mayor Sadiq Khan has done: reach out, extend a hand, engage in dialogue, win trust.
Then, sure, let’s have that Middle East discussion, air our respective grievances in a grown-up way and learn from the other.
At that point, we’d understand the party’s line, and it would understand ours.
Until then, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party may as well use this promised code of conduct to plug the countless holes in the Labour ship.