Rosena Allin-Khan: ‘Make the Labour a toxic environment for antisemites’

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Rosena Allin-Khan: ‘Make the Labour a toxic environment for antisemites’

Shadow minister tells Limmud online festival about her family's trauma during the Second World War, and the 'painful disgusting backlash' she got after meeting Israeli diplomats

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

Rosena Allin-Khan speaking during Limmud
Rosena Allin-Khan speaking during Limmud

Labour’s Shadow Mental Health Minister, Rosena Allin-Khan, says “there is a need to make the Labour Party a toxic environment for antisemites”. 

She made a series of trenchant comments about Labour and antisemitism in conversation with the former director of the Jewish Labour Movement and Limmud activist, Ella Rose. The event was part of the Limmud Together all-day festival which took place on-line  — and this event attracted an audience of more than 250.

The MP, who came second in the race to be Labour’s deputy leader in the most recent party elections, is a human rights doctor who has gone back to work gruelling shifts as an A and E medic helping to treat Covid-19 patients. 

She comes from a mixed background — her mother a Polish Catholic, her father a Pakistani, and though she attended a Christian school, she has chosen to be a practising Muslim. She was at school with a number of Jewish girls and says that having lost members of her mother’s family during the war in Poland, “we have a shared history of the Holocaust”. She has been to Auschwitz three times.

In her human rights work Dr Allin-Khan travelled to Israel and the West Bank, and was disturbed to find Palestinian parents separated from their ill children because of visa issues. She told Ella Rose that she had received “a painful and disgusting backlash” because she had raised the issue on her return to London with the Israeli embassy, and had had a useful meeting with the deputy ambassador.

Dr Allin-Khan recorded the abusive comments she had received on her Twitter feed. “I thought it was important that the people who purported to support the Palestinian cause were the ones being so antisemitic towards someone who had the same aim, but had just chosen to do it in a diplomatic way.”

She said she was able to point to her denunciation of antisemitism during the deputy leadership campaign. “Not because it was point-scoring, but because it was the right thing to do.”

She believed that Sir Keir Starmer was “very serious” about dealing with antisemitism in Labour, adding that the party should “adopt every finding in the EHRC report”, and that education about antisemitism should be “mandatory in every constituency. We just need to expel antisemites from the party”.

Asked specifically about the recent on-line participation of two Labour MPs, Diane Abbott and Bell Ribeiro-Addy with Jackie Walker and Tony Greenstein, who had been expelled from the party — Dr Allin-Khan said there was “no reason” for the MPs to have taken part in the discussion, and I am disappointed that the event took place in the way that it did”.

She told one audience member that “Labour should be the natural home for you. You should feel welcome, and it should be the party that fights against racism and antisemitism. I think the reason antisemitism was allowed to proliferate throughout the party ,was because not enough was done to call it out when it started. And I think the reason that people who proudly hold themselves up as antiracists had no difficulty with being antisemitic, is because many of them felt that in standing up for the Palestinians, it somehow legitimised being antisemitic. That is wrong all over.”

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