Voice of the Jewish News: Labour’s two-fingered salute to British Jews

Voice of the Jewish News: Labour’s two-fingered salute to British Jews

This week's editorial reflects on a Margaret Hodge's outburst at Jeremy Corbyn, after Labour adopted its new code for tackling anti-Semitism

Furious: Dame Margaret Hodge
Furious: Dame Margaret Hodge

It should come as a surprise to no one that Margaret Hodge’s extraordinary outburst was cheered to the rafters by so many in our community, with some declaring ‘We are all Margaret tonight!’.

Whether or not you agree with the former minister’s words – which go further than anything said publicly by leaders of the Jewish community – they were undoubtedly born out of the long-simmering anger and frustration shared by many British Jews.

That a veteran MP known for tackling the British National Party and not for rabble-rousing exploded in such a way should trigger some serious soul-searching among the leadership – not a disciplinary case against her.

If she felt compelled to do this in the House of Commons, Jeremy Corbyn and those around him might want to ask themselves what hope – or lack of it – others in our community now feel they have of being listened to.

The idea of consulting the community now –after the new code has been twice adopted – is one that will rightly receive short shrift. After all that as happened, were else is there now to go?

Three months ago, the Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council called an unprecedented protest in Parliament Square to demand greater action in tackling anti-Semitism.


This week, rabbis from the progressive to strictly-Orthodox came together in an unprecedented show of unity against the proposed Labour code of conduct and for the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition with all its accompanying examples.

We’ll say one thing for Labour; they’ve brought our ‘two Jews, three opinions’ community together like no other issue has before.

The overwhelming majority of the Jewish community made its views clear on what constitutes the hate targeting it -and still Labour’s ruling body decided it knew better.

Jews who readily criticise Israeli policies said the full IHRA examples do not compromise the ability to criticise Israel – and again the leadership insisted otherwise.

The Chief Rabbi said the party of anti-racism would be sending “a message of contempt” to British Jews by backing the code – and its governing body did just that. It’s hard to interpret this latest move as anything other than a two-fingered salute at our leaders.

What does this say about the weight that would be placed on their views if Labour come to power? And what could a Corbyn administration mean for the approach of the CPS, which currently follows the full definition with examples?

It is absolutely true that many of that IHRA examples of contemporary anti-Semitism are included word for word in Labour’s code and it’s no lie to suggest others are referred to in some form.

But why, for example, would Labour go out of its way to downgrade the claim that Jews are “more loyal to Israel” from something likely to be anti-Semitism to something that is simply ‘wrong’. And why, when the government and more than 100 councils, accept that Nazi comparisons are likely to be anti-Semitic, does Labour stand alone in needing “intent” to be proven. Both could still lead to disciplinaries but for bringing the party into disrepute. And why did Labour feel the urge to remove completely the claim that Israel is a ‘racist endeavour’ from the list of examples of contemporary anti-Semitism.

Why, that is, unless they are trying to provide a get out of jail free card. It’s hardly the mark of a party taking a problem it now acknowledges as seriously as it claims it does.

There have been many new lows in the last three years. But you know the situation is worse than ever when your own MPs are labelling you an anti-Semite to your face and your only Jewish affiliate feels it as no option but to report the party to the equalities watchdog. After this week, even those who have admirably vowed to continue fighting within the fold will be struggling to find a straw to clutch to.

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