By Louis Gibbon
“The Labour party is not overrun by anti-Semitism” – the first line of Shami Chakrabarti’s report in June of 2016. The paper was nonsensical from start to finish, the conclusions drawn from it far from the truth; the Labour party is not just overrun by anti-Semitism but plagued by it. The events of this week have only served to reaffirm this.
On the 5th April the decision was made, despite overwhelming evidence against him, to suspend and not expel Ken Livingstone from the Labour party. This followed his comments suggesting that Hitler supported Zionism, as well as defending Labour MP Naz Shah’s antisemitic Facebook post. Even Corbyn decided to come out and defend it, facing major opposition within his own party as a result.
Those defending Livingstone’s actions have taken one of two routes; either this is another example of an agenda against Corbyn and those around him, or alternatively they argue Mr Livingstone’s comments were truthful and therefore there is no reason for Livingstone to apologise.
It is the latter which I find most disturbing. Hitler did not support the formation of a Jewish state, the period of history he is referring to is the forced emigration of Jews from Germany by Nazis through false economic motivation. Whilst I could demonstrate just how wrong he is, Hitler effectively does so for me in Mein Kampf. This was written in the more ‘rational’ periods of Hitler’s accession. “All they (Jews) want is a central organisation for their international world swindler, endowed with its own sovereign rights and removed from the intervention of other states: a haven for convicted scoundrels and a university for budding crooks.” Hitler was no Zionist.
The Yasir Shah incident is by no means isolated: Livingstone is a repeat offender. In 1984, he accused the Board of Deputies of British Jews of being “dominated by reactionaries and neo-fascists” and then as Mayor welcomed Islamist cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi to City Hall, and described him as a “progressive figure” despite being a defender of Palestinian suicide bombing and having issued a fatwa permitting the killing of pregnant Israeli women. In 2005 he told Jewish journalist Oliver Finegold he was “just like a concentration camp guard”
Frankly, it is utterly staggering that he remains in the Labour party, an organisation which purports to quickly react to bodies or individuals advocating racism, sexism and homophobia. Anti-semitism appears to fall under no such protection. Prejudice against Jews is seen in a completely different light to other forms of bigotry, they are not seen as ‘oppressed’ in the same way and this is where the underlying stigma lies.
This could have provided an opportunity for Jeremy Corbyn to emphasise the so called ‘zero tolerance’ on anti-Semitism, championing the expulsion of his old mate Ken. But that would have been a stance that was both popular and intelligent, so it is hardly unsurprising that he is done the reverse. This episode, like the hundreds that proceed it, highlights Jeremy’s ineptness at running the Labour party.
It has served to further alienate yet another group which the Labour party has relied on in elections past. With a 100 MP-wide rebellion: Is it finally the end for Corbyn? The last straw? I fear the answer as always, will be no, this feels like the nightmare that will never end.
The cause many Labour members have dedicated their lives to is being disgraced. The problems now are becoming systematic; the divisiveness so deeply-rooted that a simple change of leadership will not yield answers. The future of ‘modern’ politics seems to get bleaker and bleaker by the day and the events of this week only serve to highlight this.
Photograph: Nams82 via Flickr