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Labour Must Follow Through On Its Rhetoric Of Zero Tolerance On Anti-Semitism

10/04/2017 16:45 BST | Updated 10/04/2017 17:04 BST
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"I view any Jew who still remains in the party with suspicion", wrote one particularly incensed community member on Jewish News' Facebook page in the wake of the decision not to expel Ken Livingstone.

'It's delusional to think you can turn around a party that's in terminal decline at least as far as Jewish voters are concerned," said another in a letter to the editor.

"Crocodile tears," snapped a third at shadow chancellor John McDonnell's suggestion he could weep at the current state of Labour-Jewish relations.

And there's plenty more where that came from.

You can hardly blame the dozens who have left or are considering doing so in the wake of the national constitutional committee's inexplicable decision - just the latest slap in the face to our community. And those are the relatively hardcore supporters who until last week decided to remain in the fold, despite revelations about anti-Semitism and new-baiting within the party.

But the past few days have at the same time shown why it's important that Jews remain in the fold to fight.

While Livingstone had five community members in his corner last week and will readily tell anyone who'll listen about those who've come up to him to offer support, the true picture of communal reaction was shown to the world by the fact 1,400 people backed the Jewish Labour Movement's letter to the Guardian. In it, signatories expressed "disgust and frustration" at the punishment handed out and railed against the complacency shown towards prejudice against Jews.

Would that message have been conveyed in such numbers if the Jewish Labour Movement and their long-suffering officials, who initiated the letter, shut up shop and abandoned nearly a centenary of affiliation to the party? And would 120 MPs have put their names to a pledge making clear that that shameful decision wasn't in their name and wouldn't be "unchecked"?

It's possible something like this could have been done by the Board of Deputies or the Jewish Leadership Council. But unlikely it would have had the same cut through or impact as coming from an organisation whose members have this weekend been campaigning on the doorstep for Labour candidates.

We may never know the influence of the call Jeremy Corbyn made to JLM's chair on the strong condemnation of his long-time ally that the Labour leader issued a few hours later. Or on his endorsement of a new probe.

But you'd imagine he'd be more inclined to take heed of what he was being told by someone whose fought elections for his party than someone who has no connection to Labour. And we know for certain that it's only because of its position as a party affiliate that JLM would be able to bring forward a motion pushing for the former mayor's expulsion to Labour's annual conference, as it's threatened to do.

That said, you can lead a horse to water but you can't make then drink. The disciplinary panel was in full possession of the facts - including an intransigent Livingstone - and still took the decision it did. Just as the NEC panel did a month ago over the Oxford Union Labour Club. In the end only Labour can make sure it's disciplinary procedures follow through on the rhetoric of zero tolerance.

Until then those who've decided to remain are involved in an important but decidedly unglamorous battle. We shouldn't have a go at them any more than we should those who've, understandably, decided enough is enough

Justin Cohen is the news editor of Jewish News