In the past few weeks, I have felt little pride in being a Labour member and supporter. Rather, I have felt ashamed. Anti-Semitism is not the kind of issue you would expect to have to tackle in 21st century British politics. It is so far beneath us and, indeed, so morally inexcusable that members of the Labour party expressing anti-Semitic views should never even be a possibility. And yet, within the past two weeks the extent of anti-Semitism within the Labour Party has increasingly been coming to light (examples of Naz Shah and Ken Livingstone spring to mind).
The solution to this has to come quickly and it has to come from the top of the party. It seemed for a while as if Corbyn were almost shuffling his feet on the issue. Thankfully, other senior members of the party are more awake and aware. The Shadow Home Secretary, Andy Burnham MP, said that if he thought he was part of an anti-Semitic party, he would rip up his membership card. Ditto. He also said that investigations into anti-Semitism within the party were not going fast enough. Rachel Reeves said we needed more action on the issue from the top of the party... (with ya, Rach!)
Diane Abbott's comments on the Marr show are harder to fathom. It's almost as if she is in denial that Labour has a problem with anti-Semitic views within its ranks. She prefers to label it as a procedural problem. However, one comforting thing she mentioned is that every claim of anti-Semitism within the party has resulted in suspension. And maybe she has a point in that Labour, as a whole, doesn't have a problem with anti-Semitism generally. After all, this time last year we had a Jewish Labour leader fighting for election. He would have been the second British-Jewish Prime Minister of Britain (Disraeli arguably being the first). So maybe it's not that we're discriminatory...maybe it's just that we don't deal with the discrimination there is fast enough.
It's upsetting to me that I am even sat here writing a blog about anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. The two don't go together. Socialism is one of the key foundations on which the Labour Party was built. Socialism (despite its flaws) stands for brotherhood, looking out of each other and non-discrimination. Labour has 99 problems, not least our current lack of credibility and leadership issues, but anti-Semitism doesn't have to be one of those problems. As a current member of Labour, I am disappointed in my party. As a woman who has Jewish people and issues close to my heart, I am hurt. We need a stronger stance against anti-Semitism and we need it now - not just in the Labour Party but in our universities, in Britain, in Europe... everywhere.
Some people are getting it right. One of the reasons many universities (mine included) are trying to leave the National Union of Students is due to comments from the new president of the NUS which have been deemed to be anti-Semitic. In fact, York University is practically racing to have a referendum as quickly as possible, in the hopes that we will leave. It's a shame that politicians and parties do not seem to see the urgency of anti-Semitism in the way that many students do.Suggest a correction