Just WTF Is Going On With Labour And Anti-Semitism?

    It's been a wild ride. Strap yourself in.

    In June 2017 Labour was riding high in the polls and Jeremy Corbyn's position as leader was secured. The party had increased its share of the total vote and stopped Theresa May's Conservatives from achieving a majority.

    But 10 months later the party is embroiled in a row over anti-Semitism among its members and accusations that it's not doing enough to combat it.

    It's a row that, at the time of writing, has ended up with a radical Jewish movement defending itself on Twitter by pointing out it once shared a meme of Ken Livingstone being blasted into space.

    Baffled that anyone could say we are a source of antisemitism. Jewdas has a long and proud history of fighting antisemitism on the right and left, including being the only group with a sensible solution to the Ken Livingstone saga https://t.co/25l8LEMq5g

    *RECORD SCRATCH, freeze frame* How on earth did we get here?

    The short version: Corbyn has over the past two weeks been under increasing pressure to condemn anti-Semitic social media posts made by party members, councillors and prospective councillors, including Holocaust denials and well-worn paranoid conspiracy theories about Jews. Corbyn has said he's "sincerely sorry" for the pain caused by "pockets" of anti-Semitism in the party.

    The slightly longer version: OK, right, so. The current phase of the Labour anti-Semitism row (there are previous chapters, which we'll get to) started on 22 March when a prospective local election candidate, Alan Bull, was suspended for anti-Semitic Facebook posts to a private group, including this:

    Bull, who had been selected to stand in Peterborough's city council elections in May, maintains he was only posting the Holocaust denial article to promote debate. He also claims that a screenshot of the above post was doctored to remove a sceptical comment by him, before it was sent to the party in a complaint. The article he posted, which claims a Red Cross report confirmed the Holocaust was a hoax, is itself a hoax.

    But in any case, this incident was representative of longstanding complaints from Jewish Labour activists, some of whom have left the party.

    The next day, it emerged that Corbyn had commented on an artist's Facebook post about their mural showing wealthy, elderly Jewish men exercising great control over the world.

    The artist, Mear One, wrote that the painting was about to be removed. Corbyn replied: "Why? You are in good company. Rockerfeller [sic] destroyed Diego Viera's [sic] mural because it includes a picture of Lenin."

    Some Labour supporters said Corbyn had done nothing wrong; others were appalled. The writer Michael Segalov said: "It’s not just the big, hooked noses and evil expressions that make this iconography offensive and troubling, these depictions mirror anti-Semitic propaganda used by Hitler and the Nazis to whip up hatred that led to the massacre of millions of Jews."

    At first, Labour released a statement defending Corbyn, saying he was responding to concerns about freedom of speech, adding: "However, the mural was offensive, used antisemitic imagery, which has no place in our society, and it is right that it was removed."

    Labour MP Luciana Berger, who asked for an explanation from the leader's office, said this response was "wholly inadequate".

    So later on, as the row intensified, a second statement appeared in which Corbyn said: "I sincerely regret that I did not look more closely at the image I was commenting on, the contents of which are deeply disturbing and anti-Semitic."

    On Monday 26 March, hundreds of Jewish politicians, Labour party members, and activists, and non-Jewish sympathisers, gathered in Parliament Square to protest against the party's handling of allegations of anti-Semitic behaviour.

    Amid chants of "shame on you" there were also counterprotestors who are loyal to Corbyn and believe the charges of anti-Semitism were concocted by a ruling elite bent on hampering Corbyn's chances of becoming prime minister.

    It's often been said that the modern Labour party is embroiled in a civil war and here it spilled over in a very literal sense to the streets.

    Just to pour additional oil onto this already burning platform of a story, it emerged on Wednesday that Christine Shawcroft, then Labour's head of internal disputes, had sent an email defending Alan Bull over his Holocaust hoax post.

    An email leaked to the Times showed that she had argued against his expulsion and said he shouldn't be barred from contesting the election over "a Facebook post taken completely out of context and alleged to show anti-Semitism."

    She admitted she hadn't even seen the "abhorrent" post when she wrote that email defending Bull.

    Then, finally buckling under intense media pressure, Shawcroft resigned from the party's ruling National Executive Committee on Saturday night.

    However, the pressure on Corbyn, – who by this point had deleted his Facebook account, according to Labour sources in order to simplify his social media presence, rather than in response to more media stories about the goings-on in groups he belonged to – did not abate.

    The news editor of the Jewish News took to the pages of the Times to write about an interview he'd given: "When you listen to his words, he’s ice-cold. There’s no genuine conversation."

    The former speaker Michael Martin said anti-Semitism in Labour was such a problem that the party needed to hold a conference on the matter. There were stories like this one, about how at least 10 sitting councillors or local election candidates had been reported over it, which suggested he might have a point.

    By this point everyone from the Labour centrists to the Corbyn-backing group Momentum were on board with the notion that Something Had To Be Done – the latter issuing a statement to say: "Accusations of anti-Semitism should not and cannot be dismissed simply as right-wing smears."

    And then things got REALLY wild.

    It all kicked off when the right-wing Guido Fawkes blog revealed that Corbyn had decided to spend the evening at a Passover seder in his Islington constituency which was hosted by a radical Jewish group called Jewdas, which had previously described Israel as "a steaming pile of sewage which needs to be properly disposed of," and the Labour anti-Semitism controversy thus far as "faux outrage".

    They also like memes.

    Jewdas also has beef with the mainstream Jewish groups that had been critical of Corbyn's handling of the scandal thus far – including the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

    Needless to say, many people, including Labour centrists and Jews with different political beliefs to those held by the group, were not happy.

    This is deliberately baiting the mainstream Jewish community days after they pleaded with him to tackle antisemitism. And he must know that meeting them now will give his members the message that the group’s extreme views are ok. Irresponsible and dangerous https://t.co/NORQQiFq8J

    Jewdas are of course entitled to their views and represent a strand within Jewish community. Point is that they have publicly and angrily dismissed concern of vast majority of Jews over Lab antisemitism as based on smears. And Corbyn has made a public show of support

    Views held by Jewdas are their business, even if I disagree with them. We are a diverse community. But they refer to antisemitism in @UKLabour as a smear. If @jeremycorbyn goes to their event how can we take his stated commitment to be an ally against antisemitism seriously?

    Even Jon Lansman, founder of pro-Corbyn group Momentum, acknowledged that Jewdas's previous comments on Israel were “certainly not helpful to Jeremy or the cause of opposing anti-Semitism in the Labour Party."

    Once the initial outrage died down, many felt Corbyn hadn't committed a major mistake in choosing to hang out with them after all – and certainly not as far as his supporters were concerned.

    You can argue about whether it was wise for Corbyn to go to this Seder but it also shouldn’t need saying that the mostly young, engaged, observant left-wing Jews in Jewdas have as valid views as anyone else in the community

    If you’re interested in trying to play “good Jew, bad Jew” to for a cheap political attacks, it’s young Jewish people at tonight’s event you’re attacking, not Corbyn. It’s us you’re making less welcome in communal spaces, thus validating Jewdas’ very existence!

    - Criticising Israel does not make you any less jewish. - Criticising Israel does not make you antisemitic. - Jewdas tirelessly combat anti-semitism on the pro-palestine left - Guido does not get to decide who is and isn't legitimately jewish.

    And Jewdas? They put out a fairly amusing statement about the whole farrago, got to write about their Passover with Jeremy in the Guardian, and will no doubt have gained some new members as a result.

    Facebook: oiveyitsjewdas

    To be continued? Almost certainly...