Why we still have an anti-Semitism problem

It would be easy to sit back now and say “well that’s it, anti-Semitism is dealt with.” After all, it was a small problem affecting a few extremists in the Labour Party for a short period in their history.  I am not convinced. I think the problem runs deeper and here are a few reasons why.

First of all, as I explained in my initial post on the issue, I’ve seen enough across the religious and political spectrum to know that this poison wasn’t limited to a few people on the left for a short period of time. 

Secondly, I have mentioned before that I sense a little bit of apathy/disinterest about this subject.  My own experience is that it tends to generate very little social media or blogging interest. Yesterday, the primary driver for getting the EHRC report trending was from Corbynistas seeking to defend their man.  I’ve run a mini survey of Christian bloggers and commentators on Twitter and I’ll be reporting on that over the weekend but the results and reactions already coming in are interesting.

Thirdly, there is the reaction we’ve seen from the media and other political parties.  They just don’t get it. The Conservative Party tweeted, not to acknowledge the hideous problem of anti-Semitism but to launch an attack on Sir Keir Starmer. Meanwhile most of the media were primarily interested in the potential political fall out within the Labour Party over the suspension of Jeremy Corbyn.

Here is the Guardian

It is a huge move for Labour. It shows Mr Starmer’s willingness to take a tough decision, his calculation that most of the party will back him, especially on this issue, and his preparedness to start to chart a very different course for the Labour party. But it also shows Mr Corbyn’s determination to defend his legacy and to defy Mr Starmer to force him out. Whatever the eventual consequences of the now inevitable battle, it means that Labour risks turning inward at exactly the moment it should be leading the charge against Boris Johnson over Covid and hard Brexit.[1]

Their concluding concern is not that anti-Semitism is a moral evil that must be completely rooted out but that Labour’s eyes may be driven inwards.[2]   At the same time, the paper also felt it was appropriate to publish a cartoon playing on the imagery of Salome demanding the head of John the Baptist and comparing this to the treatment of Corbyn. Not only did the cartoon again trivialise the subject and make it about internal civil war within the Labour Party but it also managed to use another anti-Semitic trope as Salome has been portrayed in history as representing Jewish cruelty. 

These reasons give me pause for concern. I think we are a long way from rooting out the poison of anti-Semitism.  We can only deal with sin and evil when we recognise its serious. 


[1] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/oct/29/the-guardian-view-on-labour-and-antisemitism-a-question-of-leadership

[2] I might also note both concern at the way that the paper also sees pandemic response as a party political opportunity and the political forgetfulness that for both Labour under Kinnock and Blair, and The Conservatives under David Cameron, it was internal reform that prepared the route for electability.

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