Statement on parliamentary report on antisemitism

Tory-dominated Select Committee looks in wrong direction to see threats to minorities in Britain today, say Jewish Socialists

The Jewish Socialists’ Group (JSG) condemns the Home Affairs Select Committee’s report on Antisemitism as a shoddy piece of politically motivated work. It has contorted the serious issue of antisemitism and turned it into an instrument to attack Jeremy Corbyn and the Party members who elected him, and attempted to link it mainly to the Israel/Palestine conflict. In doing so it has failed to address the domestic reasons why attitudes to a range of minorities, including Jews, have become more toxic.

Group spokesperson, David Rosenberg, said, “In the last five years, under the watch of a Tory government and, before that, a Tory/Lib-Dem coalition, antisemitism has increased; hate crime against a range of minorities has increased; support for a mainstream anti-immigrant party, UKIP, has increased; and far right ideologues beyond the mainstream are feeling emboldened to spread poisonous antisemitic and other racist ideas.”

Just in the last year and a half, the group points out, the Tories ran an openly racist campaign for the London Mayor, which stoked up irrational fear against Muslims; the former Tory Prime Minister referred to refugees as a “swarm”; and, on Holocaust Memorial Day 2016, berated Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, for supporting “a bunch of migrants”. Hate crimes against all minorities increased dramatically after the Brexit vote. In a toxic racist atmosphere, a Polish migrant has been murdered and others have endured severe assaults. While Labour voters overwhelmingly supported the Remain campaign, Tory voters in similarly high proportions voted for Brexit.

The Select Committee is dominated by Tory MPs along with Labour MPs who voted to try to oust Jeremy Corbyn earlier this year. The evidence it took relies heavily on the views expressed by the President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Jonathan Arkush, and the Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, both of whom have been silent on the Tories’ complicity in fostering a climate of racism, while making hostile statements about Labour under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. At the same time, both have sought to link the rise in antisemitism to pro-Palestinian campaigning.

JSG spokesperson Julia Bard says, “Those who never utter a word of criticism of the policies of the Israeli government or military towards Palestinians, who cannot distinguish opposition to a political ideology – Zionism – from antisemitism, and who failed to condemn, let alone notice, the Tories’ brazenly racist campaign in the London Mayoral elections, cannot be regarded as serious commentators about antisemitism and how it fits into contemporary racism. The clear agenda of the committee members, and the biased and inadequate evidence it sought, discredits the Select Committee system, whose role is to scrutinise parliament on our behalf, and actually leaves us all more vulnerable and less able to address real antisemitism.”

The Home Affairs Committee Report heavily criticises the report by Shami Chakrabarti on antisemitism and the Labour Party, yet the Chakrabarti report was based on evidence from a wide range of organisations representing the entire Jewish community. One glaring omission in the Home Affairs Committee’s investigation was the Haredi (ultra-orthodox) community, who are most visible as Jews and endure frequent abuse and assaults. None of them were called as witnesses.

The ultra-orthodox Jews are being attacked because of how they look, in a similar way to racist thugs trying to pull hijabs off Muslim women. This has nothing to do with the Israel/Palestine conflict and everything to do with home-grown racism. However, that doesn’t fit the narrative that the Board of Deputies and the Chief Rabbi want to convey about antisemitism in Britain today, which seems more concerned with undermining Labour under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, and stifling free discussion of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Despite the constant media headlines trying to link antisemitism with Corbyn-led Labour over the last 12 months, the Committee’s report is forced to acknowledge that there is “no reliable empirical evidence to suggest there is a higher prevalence of antisemitic attitudes within the Labour Party than in any other party”.

The report condemns Jeremy Corbyn for his reluctance to separate antisemitism from other forms of racism. The Jewish Socialists’ Group believes that Jeremy Corbyn is right to link hostility to Jews with racism against other minorities. Its spokesperson David Rosenberg says: “There is no separate solution for the problems that Jews face in Britain today. A society that regards Jews positively and treats them properly will be a society that treats all minorities properly.”

Posted: 17 October 2016