Corbyn’s ‘absolutely’ done enough to fight Jew-hate, says Golders Green hopeful
LabourJVL candidate defends Ken Livingstone

Corbyn’s ‘absolutely’ done enough to fight Jew-hate, says Golders Green hopeful

Jewish Voice for Labour member Justin Schlosberg defends former London mayor Ken Livingstone against claims of antisemitism - but is still hopeful of support from Jewish community

Justin Cohen is the News Editor at the Jewish News

Justin Schlosberg (Twitter)
Justin Schlosberg (Twitter)

A lecturer hoping to become Labour’s candidate for Finchley and Golders Green has claimed Jeremy Corbyn has “absolutely” done enough to fight hate within Labour and has defended Ken Livingstone against accusations of antisemitism.

Jewish News revealed this week that Justin Schlosberg, a member of Jewish Voice for Labour, is among nine candidates fighting to become the prospective parliamentary candidate for one of the most Jewish seats in the country.

While he previously described antisemitism as “a real and present problem” in the party, he insisted it’s “nowhere near as extensive as many assert; that attention to antisemitism in this wider political context is being deflected and skewed by a politically and ideologically-driven smear campaign against Corbyn’s Labour; and that efforts to confront manifestations of antisemitism are being hampered by a climate of hysteria and repression fostered by Westminster, the media, and the right-wing Jewish lobby”.

Speaking to Jewish News on the same day Luciana Berger quit Labour alleging it had become “institutionally antisemitic, Schlosberg said he didn’t believe he had minimised the scourge but maintained the party was not “completely subsumed by it”. Claiming the scandal had “given rise to a grossly distorted picture” of the Labour leader, he suggested Corbyn was unfairly attacked for questioning the 2012 removal of a mural widely denounced as anti-Semitic. It was simply a “crude anti-capitalist statement”, he said.

The Labour leader, he suggested, had commissioned the “most wide-ranging inquiry into antisemitism of any political party. The delay in implementing recommendations from that inquiry was caused by the intransigence of Labour’s governing body under the leadership of Ian McNicol – a known opponent of Corbyn’s leadership”.

But he insisted he could still win over Jewish voters in the area. “I live in the area and my Jewish friends span the full spectrum of opinion on this issue. I absolutely do believe that Jeremy Corbyn was wrong to talk about Zionists in the redactive was that he has in the past and there has been a tendency on he left to overlook some of the racist elements of Hamas and Fatah.

“I have been critical about this in the past, as I have been of those who consider Israel a racist endeavour.”

A member of JVL which staged a counter-demo to the Enough is Enough rally, Schlossberg insisted he didn’t agree with everything that senior JVL figures have previously said but “believes in the group’s fundamental raison d’etre – which is to give voice to Jews within the party who support Corbyn’s demonstrable, fundamental and long-standing opposition to racism in all its forms, including antisemitism, and I reject the grossly unfair allegations of antisemitism that have been levelled at his door”.

The Board of Deputies, Jewish Leadership Council and rabbis across the spectrum spoke with one voice over the summer in urging Labour to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism with its accompanying examples. Asked if he concurred with JVL’s opposition, the academic said: “If by full IHRA you mean the working definition and appended illustrative examples and if by ‘opposed’ you mean resisted its adoption into a formal code of conduct, then yes I agree. It is a position consistent with some of the lead architects of the definition itself; most legal experts; and significant sections of the Jewish community around the world. Only a small minority of countries and UK bodies have adopted the definition in full.”

He also defended his use of the term “right-wing Jewish lobby” in reference to “groups like the Board of Deputies who have campaigned on issues in accordance with broadly right-wing positions” and to describing the BOD as consisting “mainly Trump-endorsing members”. That comment, he said, came after former president Jonathan Arkush congratulated Donald Trump on his election and backed the move of America’s embassy to Jerusalem. While some members of the Board did speak out over the Trump statement, Schlosberg said: “I was not aware of any other Board members protesting or resigning over such positions.”

On Livingstone and suspended activist Jackie Walker, Schlosberg said: “Ken made statements that were unnecessarily antagonistic and insensitive as has Jackie (which she has acknowledged). Both have been rightly subject to disciplinary action but that doesn’t mean they are anti-Semitic or that Jackie has no place in Labour.”

He added: “As a victim of anti-Semitic abuse myself and a proud (progressive) Zionist, I believe I am in a unique position to try to challenge preconceptions on both the left and right over this issue, and to try to bridge the deep divides that have surfaced within the Jewish community.”

The local party must now whittle down the candidates ahead of hustings at the end of March.

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