In a partisan intervention calculated to inflict maximum damage to Labour’s election campaign, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis ‘calls upon the citizens of our great country to study what has been unfolding before our very eyes’.
Let’s do that.
The evidence indicates the following:
– There is no antisemitism crisis in Britain. The respected Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) emphasised in 2017 that Jews in Britain are ‘seen overwhelmingly positively by an absolute majority of the British population’. Anti-Jewish animus is relatively low, stable over time, and mild in effect; unlike many other forms of prejudice, it does not appear to translate into socioeconomic or legal discrimination, let alone widespread violence. As Mirvis himself observed, as recently as 2016, ‘life is good for Jews in the UK. . . . It is great to be Jewish in Britain’.
– There is no antisemitism crisis in the Labour Party. No evidence has been presented showing that antisemitic attitudes among Labour members are widespread, or more widespread than in other parties, or more widespread than they used to be. On the contrary: surveys indicate that the prevalence of anti-Jewish attitudes has declined across the political spectrum since 2015, while antisemitism on the Left and among Labour supporters—the Labour Party’s natural constituencies from which its members are disproportionately drawn—is lower than on the Right and among Conservative supporters:
- ‘[t]he political left, captured by voting intention or actual voting for Labour, appears . . . a more Jewish-friendly, or neutral, segment of the population’ – Institute for Jewish Policy Research, 2017
- ‘Labour Party supporters are less likely to be antisemitic than other voters’ – Campaign Against Antisemitism, 2017
Let’s now look at the Chief Rabbi’s specific complaints. Bear in mind that this is the most damning evidence he was able to marshal against Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership after fully four years of non-stop attacks that have marshalled every scrap of evidence, however minute and irrelevant, to discredit this leadership.
1. The feverishly anti-Corbyn Jewish Labour Movement ‘alleges there are at least 130 outstanding cases before the party, some dating back years, and thousands more have been reported but remain unresolved’. But according to General Secretary Jennie Formby, reporting to Labour MPs in July 2019, the actual number of Labour members brought through the disciplinary process in relation to allegations of antisemitism amounts to approximately 0.06% of the membership. That’s less than one-tenth of one percent.
In 2016, Mirvis underlined the positive reality for Jews of life in Britain, by comparing the problem of antisemitism to a dot on a sheet of paper:
I believe we should see it in its overall context, which is that life is good for Jews in the UK. I shall quickly scribble something for you on this sheet of paper and ask what you see. You will be thinking that that is a crazy question and that there is obviously a large dot on the paper, but there is actually a much better answer, which is that it is a white sheet of paper, and on the white background there is a large dot. The white area represents the situation of Jews in the UK today.
By the same reasoning, his own allegations against the Labour Party are wildly distorted.
(By Alan Maddison)
2. The Chief Rabbi alleges that ‘supporters of the Labour leadership have hounded parliamentarians, members and even staff out of the party for challenging anti-Jewish racism’. The Chief Rabbi is keen at smearing Labour but, alas, more parsimonious when it comes to the evidence. Indeed, the evidence shows that this allegation has mostly been contrived. For example, whereas it was alleged that Louise Ellman MP was driven out of the Party because she is Jewish, a forensic investigation by Jewish Voice for Labour found that she was unpopular for other reasons entirely, and that she and her supporters hurled false accusations of antisemitism to discredit their political opponents. Moreover, many left-wing Jews have faced astonishing intimidation and slander for refusing to fall in line with the anti-Labour smear campaign, while one study found that the politician most targeted for abuse is the Labour Shadow Home Secretary, and close Corbyn ally, Diane Abbott MP. In what must be the most shameful exploitation ever of antisemitism for partisan political gain, Corbyn himself has been slandered as an antisemite, even as his entire documented political career marks him out as—in the words of Jewish researcher and activist Joseph Finlay—‘Britain’s leading anti-racist politician’.
3. The Chief Rabbi rhetorically pleas, ‘How far is too far? . . . Would associations with those who have incited hatred against Jews be enough? Would describing as ‘friends’ those who endorse the murder of Jews be enough?’ It is telling that the best the Rabbi can produce, after years of mud-slinging, is this feeble attempt at guilt-by-association. The British Government openly proclaims Saudi Arabia—among the world’s leading producers of sectarian as well as anti-Jewish propaganda—its close friend and ally. Does Chief Rabbi Mirvis consider this proof of antisemitism? The fact is, Jeremy Corbyn has, to his eternal credit, been an isolated supporter of the Palestinians’ long struggle for elementary human rights and dignity, consistent with his championing of human rights for Kurds, blacks in South Africa, and other oppressed peoples. By contrast, Chief Rabbi Mirvis and the rest of the British Jewish establishment have consistently endorsed and enabled Israel’s brutal racist regime. In summer 2014, as one of the world’s most sophisticated armies subjected the besieged civilians of Gaza to yet another unending barrage of explosives, Mirvis came out in support of the terror bombing. 550 children were killed. Before he presumes to lecture a principled anti-racist on ethics, shouldn’t the Chief Rabbi reflect upon his own abysmal moral record?
It is difficult to over-state how poorly Britain’s Jews are being served by their self-proclaimed communal leaders.
This election is not like any other. The far-right is winning around the world. It might very well be that we are just one economic crisis, one climate shock away from the return of fascism across Europe.
This is the real threat to Jewish people.
It is the saddest of ironies that whereas Jews were a principal target of fascism in the 1930s, Britain’s Jewish leadership has now aligned itself against the chief bulwark of anti-fascism.
In the past and today, our best defence, our only defence, against the far-right, is a strong left, which promises a positive and inclusive plan for a fairer society.
If we want to defeat the far-right and to defeat the causes of the far-right, our only hope is Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party.
– Jamie Stern-Weiner and Alan Maddison, Smoke Without Fire: The Myth of a ‘Labour Antisemitism Crisis’
– Over 200 Jewish Labour supporters say: Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour is a Crucial Ally in the Fight against Antisemitism
– 34 Orthodox Rabbis reject allegations against ‘respected leader’ Jeremy Corbyn
– Joseph Finlay, Jeremy Corbyn is an Anti-Racist, Not an Anti-Semite
– Anna Boyle, 40 Examples of Corbyn Opposing Antisemitism