The ongoing rumblings about Labour anti-Semitism have exploded into a full blown crisis this week with revelations that Jeremy Corbyn is a member of a number of social media groups that feature anti Jewish tropes and that he questioned the removal of a mural depicting Jews as getting rich at the expense of the workers.
The Jewish Leadership Council and Board of Deputies called a demonstration on Parliament Square earlier today where a letter was put in to the meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party scheduled for this evening.
I arrived at the demonstration around 5.30pm to be greeted by the sight of over a thousand protesters waving placards, banners and Israeli flags. Off to the side under the statue of Churchill, a group of around a hundred under pop up banners of the JVL (Jewish Voice for Labour) counter demonstrated in defence of Jeremy Corbyn.
Many on the main demonstration tried to engage the Corbynistas in debate but it appeared futile. To try and gauge the feeling, I myself approached them and found a middle aged man in a leather jacket amenable to discussion. He advised me that Corbyn had fought anti-Semitism all his life and this was just a Tory plot to try and stop the rise of socialism in the UK.
The irony was not lost on me that whilst he was telling me this, principled Labour MP John Mann was on the platform speaking in favour of the demonstration and calling out anti Jewish bigotry.
The gentleman based most of his rhetoric around the ‘apartheid’ state that had displaced the ‘Palestinians’ in 1967 – when I pointed out that over a million Arab-Israelis have full rights and serve at all levels of government, including the Knesset (Israeli Parliament), this was ignored, as was the fact that the West Bank was actually a part of Israel under the original 1947 UN document setting up the state in the first place, occupied by force by invading Arab armies until taken back in the 5 day war.
According to this gentleman, anything pre 1967 was ‘ancient history’ and not relevant (The term Palestinian was actually coined by Yasser Arafat after that war)
We agreed on the peaceful 2 state solution but again any historical context (TransJordan was the part of Palestine given to the Arabs when Israel was created) was ignored – Jeremy is sticking up for the ‘oppressed’ who are confronted with an oppressive regime.
Other points were wheeled out and dismissed – Corbyn’s attendance at the Al Quds Parade in 2012 where he was the main speaker, sharing a platform with the Islamists of Hizb-ut-Tahrir surrounded by Hezbollah battle flags (He was ‘encouraging dialogue’) , the invitation to Azad Ali of MEND to speak in The Commons last November on ‘Islamophobia’ (Ali has been exposed as an extremist as recently as tonight on Channel 4’s Dispatches programme), his closeness to the Iranian Government’s propaganda arm ‘Press TV’ from whom he took cash to appear, all refuted as ‘smear’.
I was told that we need a dialogue on Palestine without any preconceptions – I agreed but questioned how this was possible when I myself had been branded an extremist by his party for raising the question on Israel previously?
When I elaborated, pointing out that I had stood as a UKIP candidate against John McDonnell (who has run BDS marches in my home town) I was informed that the party was ‘full of racists and anti semites’. Pointing out that this was a preconception that was completely untrue, he refused to listen – when I pointed out ex-BNP members who are now Labour councillors (something that can’t happen in UKIP because they are proscribed) I was accused of ‘cherry picking’ individual cases of people who had realised the error of their ways.
When I told him that I myself have a membership of the leading anti extremist thinktank, Quilliam, he told me he had done work with them before and that I was associating with people who have been terrorists – he had obviously not listened to them as Islamism is a doctrine whereas terrorism is the carrying out of that doctrine through lethal force, something that none of the Directors of Quilliam had ever done.
Extricating myself from a conversation that was going nowhere, I was approached by another of his comrades who told me that this event was all part of a ‘Zionist and Tory plot to damage Jeremy’ – I rest my case!
Walking across to the main part of the event, a number of familiar faces soon came in to view. Along with the aforementioned John Mann, I saw David Lammy MP chatting to a film crew – I never thought we would ever agree on something! I was also advised that Labour Ruth Smeeth MP was amongst those opposing anti Semitism although I didn’t see her.
Other Labour MPs to give speeches were Claire Kober (former Haringey council leader, driven out by Momentum), Luciana Berger, Louise Ellman and Wes Streeting, whilst I am certain that I saw Andrew Dismore AM (Labour GLA member) chatting with a film crew.
From the Conservatives, I spoke with Matthew Offord MP who I had first met on the counter demonstration to the Al Quds Parade last year, a very approachable and decent man. Stood with him was Joseph Cohen from the Israel Advocacy Movement, an easily identifiable figure with his striking ginger beard and one of the bravest men I have ever met who will debate anywhere with anyone in a sensible, logical manner.
Other Conservatives in attendance were Zac Goldsmith MP (I shook his hand and thanked him on his continuing campaigning against Heathrow Expansion), Bob Blackman MP and a lovely lady whose name escapes me from the GLA staff. I was advised that Sajjid Javid and Penny Mordaunt were there but I did not see them myself.
Also in attendance was author and commentator Douglas Murray whose forthright views have led to numerous threats against his person.
Notable by their absence were representatives of Hope not Hate and Stand up to Racism (SUTR), both of whom have combating anti Semitism in their mission statements on their websites. Amazingly, they were out in force on Saturday to combat Veterans and football supporters supporting the Justice for the 21 campaign in Birmingham, branding them as ‘racists’ – yet when there are real issues to be confronted, they are nowhere to be seen. Can you remind me who are major donors to both campaigns again?
Anti-semitism is a real and present problem in the Labour Party today. Even Corbyn has admitted to ‘pockets’ of it, something that Shami Chakrabarti failed to confront with her report into the state of the party prior to Corbyn elevating her to the Lords.
For a party that claims to be ‘For the many, not the few’, failing to confront it does them no credit and calls in to question their claim to be an inclusive, forward looking organisation. Some of the banners today ironically mocked that slogan – are they really what they claim to be or are they ‘For the many, not the Jew?’