Lord Falconer: ‘To fight Labour antisemitism, words are no longer enough’

Lord Falconer: ‘To fight Labour antisemitism, words are no longer enough’

Writing for Jewish News, Labour grandee and former cabinet minister delivers urgent warning to party leadership to tackle anti-Jewish racism

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn

Poale Zion, which became the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) in 2004, and the Labour Party fought fascism and for workers’ right together for close to 100 years.

The Labour Party and the trade union movement were a consistent, reliable and trusted support for the victims of antisemitism throughout the rest of Europe in those years.

Support for Poale Zion in Britain came from immigrants who had suffered antisemitism in their native countries.

A large number of them lived in the East End of London. Clement Atlee’s  political career was promoted by the head of the Labour Party in Stepney, a Romanian Jew called Oscar Tobin, who became the first Jewish mayor of the borough in 1921.

Together they fought, along with the whole labour and TU movement for the tens of thousands of people fleeing from Russian and Nazi pogroms.

That history has been betrayed and forgotten.

The evidence put in by JLM to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) for their inquiry is a compelling and damming catalogue of antisemitism within the Labour Party today.

There are evidenced descriptions of the antisemitic bullying of members, councillors and MPs who are either Jewish or stand up for  Jews, of the Labour Party corrupting the disciplinary process to ensure that antisemites within the party go unpunished, and of the leadership colluding in this process.

It is chilling.

It is not denied. It is said things are getting better and that proper procedures have now been put in place. Yet complaints of antisemitism go undealt with today. The disciplinary structure almost decided to stop disciplinary procedures against Chris Williamson this summer. Only the outcry at what was an obvious fix prevented them from doing so.

A member of the National Executive Committee (NEC) who said on tape to an author that the complaints of antisemitism about the Labour Party were orchestrated by the Israeli embassy, goes unpunished six months after the tape came to light.

And only a few weeks ago Dame Louise Ellman, former Labour MP for Liverpool Riverside, felt compelled to resign because of antisemitism.

It is said that the allegations of antisemitism are inventions and exaggerations of our enemies in politics and in the media.  Our enemies certainly use these allegations against us.  They are able to do so because, as the JLM evidence shows, the case against us is compelling.

The leadership being clear that it will do everything in its power to stop antisemitism is the key step to bringing it to an end.

But the reverse is happening.  The JLM evidence documents that signals being sent by the leadership for the Labour Party to take a lenient attitude to antisemitism, is a message being received by perpetrators and victims alike.

The JLM evidence has been put into the public domain, in the week before the general election, maybe to try to influence the result.

Even if that is the motive, it would be wrong to stay silent and not call for the party to act now to deal with the antisemitism because it is so important for us as a party to change.

Words are no longer enough.  The leadership, win or lose this election, has to demonstrate by action it is serious about its opposition to antisemitism.

It should as quickly as possible  set up or adopt a complaints process to deal with antisemitism, which is demonstrably independent of the party machine, and hand over all existing and future complaints to that independent body;  it should publish its response to the EHRC;  and it should commit now to accepting all the recommendations that the EHRC makes when it reports next year.

Does the antisemitism mean it is impossible to support the Labour Party in this election?  Does it make Jeremy Corbyn unfit to be PM, as the Chief Rabbi says?

I would vote Labour at the general election next week, if I were not disqualified from voting as a peer, because I believe that the country will be much better off with a Labour government – a softer Brexit, fundamental economic change  required in order to deal with the things which led to Brexit, proper funding of our public services and less chance of Scotland voting for independence as they might well in response to a Johnson-led government.

The antisemitism has to be dealt with, whatever happens – win or lose the election.  The vast majority of the party are as virulently opposed to antisemitism as I am.  The failure to deal with it up until now should not deprive the country of the government which is best for the country.  But it is not the case of accepting antisemitism as the price of a Labour government.  It has to be eradicated.

The party has to regain the trust of the people whose families over the last century found a fast friend against antisemitism and exploitation in the Labour Party and the trade union movement.


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