THE BLOG
17/08/2018 10:45 BST | Updated 17/08/2018 10:45 BST

Blaming The Jewish Community For Labour's Anti-Semitism Crisis Is Unacceptable

The sight of McCluskey, the most powerful man in the Labour Party, telling off the leadership of the Jewish community is just disgraceful

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Thirty years ago, working for a group of housing organisations fighting homelessness in the Midlands, I joined the MSF union, now part of Unite.

I believed then, as I do now, in the labour movement values of solidarity, collective action and standing up for your fellow workers.

But I also believed in fairness and equality. And I believed in standing up to racism too. And when a community finds itself on the receiving end of prejudice and hatred, I know whose side I’m on.

So the sight of someone like Len McCluskey, the most powerful man in the Labour Party and the leader of Britain’s largest union - my union – telling off the leadership of the Jewish community is just disgraceful. 

How could he accuse Jewish leaders of intransigent and truculent hostility?

It is completely unacceptable for McCluskey to blame the leadership of the Jewish community for the failure to resolve the crisis of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.

The Jewish community have been caused immense distress and offence, Labour MPs like Chuka Umunna are right to demand it is sorted out and they must not be silenced on this.

Of course the party must adopt the full IHRA definition of anti-Semitism and all its examples, but the refusal to do so is just the latest example of the problem, not the actual cause of the crisis.

Jewish MPs and members have been subjected to the most appalling abuse. Senior figures have claimed Hitler was a Zionist or said the Jews financed the slave trade. Labour candidates have denied or questioned the Holocaust.

People have denied Israel’s right to exist, claiming the very idea of a Jewish State - not just the policies of its government or the actions of its military, but the simple idea of a homeland for the Jewish people - is a racist endeavour. Others have drawn outrageous comparisons between Israel and the crimes of the Nazis, without caring at all how horrendous it is to tell Jewish people they are behaving like the evil regime that murdered so many of them. 

Jeremy Corbyn himself defended that grotesque racist caricature in East London.

After that the party told the Jewish community it knows more than they do about anti-Semitism by refusing to adopt the standard definition.

And now we’ve seen how Jeremy, the self-proclaimed “militant opponent of anti-Semitism”, has spent so much time associating with or defending all sorts of extremists and in some cases anti-Semites and terrorists.

And every time he has spoken since he has made matters worse by refusing to acknowledge the scale of the crisis, address his role in its development or deal with it properly.

Thousands of Jewish people including Auschwitz survivors - many of them lifelong Labour supporter and many of them on the first protest of their lives - assembled in Parliament Square to plead with the Labour Party to listen and act.

The leadership of the Jewish Community’s mainstream organisations set out a series of perfectly reasonable demands which the party has so far refused to address. 

So of course they’ve got to adopt the full IHRA definition and examples, but they need to go much further if they expect anyone to listen to them on this

They need to listen seriously to Jewish people, respond properly to the community’s requests and they need to kick people responsible for racism out of the party for good.

That might begin to persuade people they are serious about tackling this crisis.

Ian Austin is the Labour MP for Dudley