Another week, another angry statement about Labour anti-Semitism written by despairing community leaders, impotent in the face of the party’s lacklustre attitude. Meanwhile, we are reduced to shouting at the TV news and talking around the dinner table about our fears being mocked and belittled.
However, this week, the Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council changed the narrative, in dramatic and unprecedented fashion. Within 48 hours, they came up with plans for Monday’s ‘Enough is enough’ rally, organised the logistics, encouraged thousands to attend (members of the Jewish community alongside MPs), and attracted wall-to-wall media coverage. None of this was easy or inevitable. They put aside the fact such action against an official Opposition was unprecedented and Jeremy Corbyn could yet be prime minister.
The result was an awesome public display of community unity, making clear that Jews fearful about Labour are the mainstream majority, no matter how many tweets sent by their co-religionists who insist the issue is exaggerated.
The events will make a difference where it counts most – the highest levels of the Labour Party. In response to the initiative of protest and publicity, Corbyn finally acknowledged that anti-Semitism cases have often not been dealt with quickly enough. These are all-important words that ought to have been said two years ago.
Our community has gone further than ever before and has forced the Labour leader to go much further than he previously dared do. The sight of upwards of 2,000 people demonstrating against his party’s record on racism must surely have shaken a man who proudly talks of his mother taking to Cable Street to oppose anti-Semitism. The acid test will be whether he acts when the media glare subsides. And when he says there needs to be a greater understanding of anti-Semitism, is he ready to include himself him in that? Judging by his flat responses to our questions to him on Wednesday, we’re not hold out much hope.
Another aspect of Monday’s demonstration giving hope to our community is the Board and JLC emphatically joining forces to pull off a devastating master stroke.
It’s all too easy to knock those who choose to put their heads above the parapet and lead. This week, especially, let’s recognise what they do and loudly applaud it.