The Labour party has always championed itself on being a progressive force in British politics but with events that have surfaced in recent weeks and months, it seems the party has now become a platform for regressive thinking. This is biggest test that Jeremy Corbyn has faced so far and he must show real leadership to make sure that the party puts an end to this behaviour. However, by suggesting there is "no crisis", it doesn't yet look like he has fully grasped the problem.
If we look at the recent events, there is one key lesson to take. Swift suspension of any individual who seems to be preaching or giving credence to any form of anti-semitism. For example, how was Vicki Kirby allowed swiftly back into the party after claiming that Jews had "big noses"? She was quickly readmitted after a short suspension and then appointed vice-chair of the Labour's Woking branch, giving a proven anti-semite another platform for her horrendous views. Again, as soon Naz Shah's offensive and anti-semitic comments started to appear she should have been immediately suspended, instead it took over 30 hours for this to happen. No ifs or buts are needed, if any whiff of anti-semitism is linked to any individual in the party they should be immediately suspended pending investigation. The quicker the party suspends the individual, the quicker the platform for this vile thinking is shut down. But this thinking is not just limited to individuals, it's rooted in some grassroots of the party.
There is a growing swath of anti-semitic thoughts coming from the young in left-wing movements, just look at the problems at Oxford University Labour society. This has largely grown out of a confusion between rights for a Palestinian state and blaming people of the Jewish faith all over the world for some of the actions by the Israeli government. For example in the space of a month in July 2014, support for Palestinian causes grew by 10% throughout the British population according to YouGov. I am supporter of Palestinian self-determination and the need for an internationally recognised state but that does mean I need to be anti-semitic. I have criticisms of the Israeli government, but that doesn't mean I need every single person of the Jewish faith to defend these actions. One government does not represent the views of every person in a global religious group. This kind of thinking can not just be sorted out by suspensions, there needs to be education and a completely different way of thinking introduced.
This problem is across every level of the party not just high profile individuals and when a problem is that endemic, serious education is the only way to really counteract the issue. Of course, suspensions and expulsions are necessary but a way of thinking needs to be changed so that this problem does not continue on into the future. The recently announced 2 month independent investigation into the problem by Shami Chakrabarti is a good to step towards identifying the true scale of the problem and how best to tackle it.
This leads me to my next question, is Jeremy Corbyn the most appropriate person to lead this move away from anti-semitism? With his previously shared platforms of Hamas supporters, it does seem possible that Mr Corbyn himself is part of the problem. He did speak and attend a rally in 2009, where Azzam Tamimi stated that "Today we are all Hamas". Now, I voted for Corbyn in the leadership election and I would have not done so if I believed him to be anti-semitic. However, I do believe he needs to denounce some of the platforms he has once shared to help repair a broken Labour party. In the end of the day, the Jewish community does not deserve this abuse especially from a party that has benefited so greatly from people of the Jewish faith.
Therefore, the Labour party needs to act swiftly and effectively to make sure it is no longer a platform for the vile behaviour that is anti-semitism. If it does not do so, how can it justify its position as a progressive party in the future?
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