Antisemitism in the U.K. Labour Party, a former British Politician explains
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Jeremy Corbyn has been welcomed back into the U.K. Labour Party after he was suspended weeks ago over a report from the European Equality and Human Rights Commission showing deep-seated antisemitism in the party he once led.
Corbyn’s short-lived suspension has raised eyebrows with many asking: what changed in the last three weeks?
Although the majority of the report’s findings were broad, the watchdog honed-in on 23 instances of “inappropriate involvement” by Corbyn’s office.
Moreover, the report indicated that complaints of antisemitism weren’t properly investigated and that there were unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination on the Labour party’s part. Corbyn himself has said on occasions that he sees Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists as friends and hasn’t been one to shy away from peddling antisemitic tropes.
When Corbyn’s been pressured to apologize for past antisemitism, Corbyn often has, but many argue that the so-called mistakes come from the hate that he harbors in his heart. That hate, opponents say, can’t be minimized or erased.
Corbyn posted his thoughts on Facebook Tuesday after it was announced he’d be reinstated to the Party.
“I’m grateful to the many thousands of Labour party members, trade unionists, and supporters in Britain and around the world, who have offered their solidarity,” wrote Corbyn.
He added: “I hope this matter is resolved as quickly as possible, so that the party can work together to root out antisemitism and unite to oppose and defeat this deeply damaging Conservative government.”
Opponents Don’t Buy Corbyn’s Apology Tour
There are some, however, that aren’t convinced by Corbyn’s apology tours, including former British politician and European parliament member Lance Forman, who says the answer is simple: “Nothing has really changed with Jeremy Corbyn.”
When Corbyn was ousted from Labour in October, Keir Starmer took leadership of the party, which doesn’t change matters either, Forman explained.
He noted that Starmer was once a member of Corbyn’s cabinet.
“You know, Keir Starmer was pushing and fighting for Jeremy Corbyn to be prime minister of the U.K., so he already has his own battle to fight in trying to convince people that people like Jeremy Corbyn shouldn’t be in the party at all and they won’t tolerate antisemitism,” said Forman. “So that’s quite a challenging one for him, personally.”
The earlier EEHRC report was the first time that a political party was exposed for having an issue of “institutional racism,” Forman said, adding “and they didn’t say specifically that Jeremy Corbyn himself was a racist or anti-Jewish racist antisemite, but obviously if you’re leading the party that has been criticized in that way, it does come back to you.”
The Labour Party ‘Split’
Forman said the Labour Party is currently divided on reforming itself and the latest move to reinstate Corbyn is part of that as Starmer pledges to not reinstate Corbyn as Whip, meaning he won’t have Corbyn as a Labour Member of Parliament.
“There’s a split within the Labour Party. You know, on the one hand, you have people like Keir Starmer, who claim they want to reform the party and remove all of the hard left… but on the other hand, you have a party that’s full of these people. And, you know, there is a view amongst much of the leadership that if they don’t accommodate these people, then they’ll never be able to win and then you have the sort of Jewish Labour supporters that say, well if you do accommodate them, you’ll also not be able to win. So, they’re torn and that’s what you’ve seen today in the last 24 hours,” Forman explained.
“He’s trying to show his anti-antisemitism credentials, but the problem is the Jewish community has really lost faith and it’s really an uphill battle,” he added. “That’s good for me because I don’t believe in the Labour Party anyway, being Jewish or not Jewish, I don’t believe in Socialism, but that’s a whole separate question.”
A ‘horrified’ Jewish community
The allegations against the Labour Party don’t stand alone as Europe and the U.K. specifically are seeing a rise in antisemitism. In the U.K., there were 1,805 antisemitic incidents in 2019 recorded by the Community Security Trust, a group that monitors such attacks. The group also reported a 25% increase in violent antisemitic assaults.
The Jewish community in the U.K., already dealing with an increase in the oldest form of hatred, is “horrified” by the charges against the Labour Party and their welcoming of Corbyn, Forman told me.
“They’re pretty horrified by it all,” Forman said. “They thought that they had sort of won the battle the last election and certainly the British electorate were on their side and sort of said we’re not prepared to have a leader of this country that tolerates this stuff, but the party can’t seem to get passed it and that is a problem.”
The leftists supporting Corbyn in the U.K., Forman says, haven’t taken to time to actually understand the Jewish community’s concerns and fears. And he believes the majority of the British Jewish community sees Corbyn as an antisemite.
“I think many on the left claim that Jeremy Corbyn… you know he’s been an antiracist campaigner all his life, but what they’ve failed to understand is that if you really want to understand whether someone is perceived to be a racist, you need to discuss with the people who are fearful of that individual and that most of the Jewish community, you know whether Jeremy Corbyn is an antisemite or not, the vast majority of the Jewish community in the U.K. believe he is and if they believe he is, that’s good enough or it’s bad enough,” Forman said.
Forman stated that if “90% of Black people in America said that Trump, let’s say, was a racist, then you’d have to accept it.”
“Obviously, they don’t and many Blacks have voted for Trump … but you have to ask the community, the people that are at the receiving end, what they think to determine whether or not the racism or perceived racism exists,” Forman added.
However, Forman said, that Corbyn is convinced, he’s not an antisemite.
“It’s up to him to prove it and he’s done nothing to prove it… actions speak louder than words and all of his actions have proved the complete opposite and they have not made the Jewish community feel comfortable in the slightest,” said Foreman.
A Fmr. ‘BREXIT’ers Take On Extremism
Forman believes that antisemitism is not just an issue that exists in the Labour Party or just the left, but he also sees it coming from the right and radical Islamism.
Once an affiliated member of the U.K. BREXIT Party who very recently served in the European Parliament, Forman sees the European Union’s mandate on member countries as a potential catalyst for hate and extremism in the continent.
He estimates that the majority of the Jewish community in the U.K. sides with the E.U. under the idea that ‘The E.U. and Europe has been at peace since World War II and… we can never have another thing like that happen again and therefore we have to support the E.U.'”
Forman, although no longer a member of the BREXIT party, disagrees with the majority of the Jewish community’s stance on BREXIT, but mainly for economic reasons. However, the economic issues posed by a single currency, Forman says, could lead to economic devastation that will cause a sense of unease and thus extremism will rise.
“My argument against the E.U. was all driven by economics. I believe that having a single currency for countries that are totally out of balance economically can never work,” Forman said. “The problem is that if you have to keep having Germany bailing out the poorer countries … You start building a dysfunctional regime where you have recipients of donors and the donor starts building resentment that it’s having to keep giving all of this money to the other countries… and then it starts laying down stronger rules and the recipient country says ‘hang on a second, I didn’t sign up for those rules,’ and then you have the E.U.’s implanting prime ministers in Italy and Greece and so on and what this resentment does is it builds extremism and eventually, I believe that single currency will eventually collapse.”
He added, “It is bound to collapse one day, who knows when that is, but in my view, I believe that it will eventually collapse. When it does, there is gonna be chaos in Europe. There’s gonna be economic chaos in Europe and we all know where economic chaos leads and we know where resentment leads and this push for the E.U., for this sort of federalist state across the E.U., that is what’s causing resentment and that’s breeding extremism and when extremism breeds on the right and the left, you tend to see antisemitism grow at the same time.”
“I’ve believed for many years now that the only way to solve this problem is you have to end the E.U. project because the people that run the E.U., they want this federal state of Europe, they want Europe to be like the U.S.A, they want it to be the United States of Europe, where it’s essentially one big country, which can never work because you have totally different cultures and different histories and so on and the people of Europe don’t want it. If you can’t get them to change the way that the leadership is operating it, you have to sort of pull down the system. And, to me, BREXIT was the peaceful way of doing that. You know, Britain leaves, it demonstrates the other members of the E.U. that actually, your economy can thrive without being part of this superstate and others then will look at what Britain’s doing and say ‘hey, they’re doing rather well. Maybe we’re not meant to be in the E.U. either,'” Forman concluded.
A ‘propaganda war’
Forman’s experience with hate is personal. And still alive today is his father, a Holocaust survivor. Forman’s family-owned smoked salmon factory has also fallen victim to antisemitism and was once vandalized with a 30-foot swastika.
“My father was a Holocaust survivor, he’s still alive today and my fear of antisemitism has led me down that road which is a different view to my friends and colleagues, but that is my view,” Forman explained. “I’m very fearful of extremism on the right and the left.”
“Education is so key. It is so important. Not just for Jewish families to educate, but for the whole world to be educated so that history doesn’t repeat itself,” -Lance Forman
As we move further away from the Holocaust, more and more young people are losing sight of history and its warning signs. The story is also being cheapened, specifically by members of the media who are invoking the Holocaust for political purposes, Forman said, slamming CNN’s Christianne Amanpour for recently doing just that in a report about President Donald Trump.
Amanpour was acknowledging the 82 anniversary of Kristallnacht, when Jewish homes, businesses, and synagogues were destroyed across Germany, marking the start of the Nazi genocidal campaign, when she made the statement. “I shouldn’t have juxtaposed the two thoughts. Hitler and his evils stand alone in history and I regret any pain that my statement may have caused. My point was to say how democracy can potentially slip away and how we must always zealously guard our democratic values,” Amanpour said in a recent apology.
“I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing. You know, it was one of the most disgusting pieces of journalism I’ve seen on mainstream media ever,” Forman told me.
He added, “Basically what she said is that America today is like 1938 Germany. And what sort of message, apart from the insults to all the families of people that suffered in the Holocaust, what message does that send to young people in America today who, yeah, life’s not easy, COVID is quite difficult, but people aren’t being killed on the streets. They’re not lining people up and sending them to concentration camps and, you know, putting them into gas chambers. So, any young person in America that doesn’t know about the Holocaust will be thinking ‘huh, well if this is what the Holocaust was like, it wasn’t that bad was it? So why is everyone making a fuss about it?’ It is disgusting. Absolutely disgusting by CNN.”
“This is a propaganda war,” Forman described. “We’re not gonna educate ourselves through the media, we’re certainly educating ourselves through social media, this has to be done in the schools, in the colleges and sadly, you know, there’s a very left-leaning bias there too. So, I don’t know what the answer is but it’s got to start from the top and education’s what it’s all about.”
Where does Labour go from here?
The damage to the Labour Party’s reputation will have to mean fixing deep internal cleavages, Forman explained, saying the leadership must focus on cleaning up the members Corbyn welcomed in when he was leader.
“They’re not gonna be able to sort out getting support from the public until they sort it themselves out. You know, they have an internal battle at the moment, said Forman. “When Corbyn was running it, he allowed people to join the party, there was a very small fee, and thousands of people joined the party and he had a big following, it was led by a group called ‘Momentum.’
He noted that those that support Corbyn “come from that very same sort of perspective, you know, that sort of hard leftist, very anti-Israel and most likely antisemitic background too, not in every case, but there is a very close alliance between anti-Zionists and antisemites.”
Extremism and hate in Labour, however, hasn’t played well with the British electorate that hasn’t ever voted for Labour when it hasn’t been centrist. The last time Labour was voted in was when Tony Blair became Prime Minister.
“Labour has never won an election when they’ve been extreme,” said Forman. “You know, the only time was Tony Blair brought the Labour party back into the center, that’s when Labour found power in the U.K., but British people, I think, are generally quite centrist and they’re quite tolerant and they’ve got a pretty good sense of humor as well and they don’t like extremists.”
He emphasized that Great Britain is not “an extremist sort of country. We never experience fascism in the U.K. where they have in mainland Europe, like in Germany, Italy and Spain, and so on…. Britain’s always been much more stable and, yes, the demography of Britain is changing to some extent, but I still think we still have that innate sense of balance in the U.K. and long may that continue.”