A protest outside Labour Party headquarters in central London on Sunday saw speakers label leader Jeremy Corbyn as antisemitic and compare him to Hitler.
The protest of some 200 people was smaller than one held outside parliament last month—but much more explicitly linked antisemitism to support for Palestine.
One speaker, actor Maureen Lipman, got big cheers when she told the crowd, “We have an antisemite at the head of the British Labour Party.” She then attacked Corbyn for speaking out against Israel’s murder of Palestinians in Gaza.
The Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) organised the protest. Joseph Glasman of CAA implicitly compared Corbyn’s leadership of Labour to the rise of Adolf Hitler. He described it as “the emergence of a populist leadership with a vicious antisemitic following”.
Glasman added, “What is in the bistros today will be in the bierkellers tomorrow”—a reference to Nazi rallies in 1930s Germany. And linking Corbyn to the growth of far right antisemitic parties in Europe he said, “The Labour Party is a good way down that road today.”
CAA describes itself as “a volunteer-led charity dedicated to exposing and countering antisemitism”. Much of its work targets the left and support for Palestinians.
It was formed in 2014 following Israel’s assault on Gaza, and linked the huge support for Palestinians to antisemitism.
As CAA chair Gideon Falter wrote in the Jewish Chronicle newspaper last week, CAA “arrived on the scene” as “antisemitism surged during Hamas’ attack on Israel”.
CAA denounces the trade-union backed Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) as antisemitic. It has accused Muslims in Britain of harbouring a “special hatred for British Jews”.
Open support for Israel was much more prominent on Sunday’s protest than on the rally last month. Israeli flags flew beside British flags handed out by protest organisers, as well as placards from Friends of Israel groups.
One woman held a homemade placard that said Palestinian resistance group Hamas “controls the Labour Party”.
Lipman attacked a protest called by PSC yesterday in response to Israel’s murder of Palestinian protesters.
She said, “I saw the demonstration for Gaza. Thousands have been killed in Syria and I see no demonstration. But you see a new Intifada whipped up by Hamas and you get a demonstration. It’s an obsession.”
Sunday’s protest was much more openly anti-Labour than last month’s rally outside parliament. Falter led the crowd in chants of, “Labour Party shame on you. You’re not anti-racist—you’re anti-Jew.”
The crowd frequently broke out in chants of, “Corbyn out”. And when former Labour Party donor David Abrahams told the crowd, “We have to make sure we have good relations with Labour going forwards” he was met by louder chants of, “Off, off off”.
Speakers explicitly linked antisemitism to the growth of the left—frequently comparing the left to Nazis.
A statement addressed to Labour’s general secretary Jenny Formby, handed out to protesters to sign, said, “Under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour has become a safe haven for racists. He is at home amongst them, having spent his political career seeking out and giving succour to Holocaust deniers, genocidal antisemitic terrorist groups and a litany of Jew-haters.”
Steven Silverman of CAA accused Corbyn—a lifelong anti-racist—of “allowing racism to flourish” through “deliberate and wilful negligence”.
He said, “Antisemitism spread like a cancer through the Labour of Jeremy Corbyn”. For Silverman, Labour was now “awash with blood libel, antisemitic conspiracy theory and Holocaust denial”.
He said Corbyn owed his leadership to “the thuggish element that has propelled him to his current position,” strongly implying that Corbyn supporters are racist. He later called Corbynism “a populist movement driven by a small but grimly dedicated group of thugs”.
Lipman said Corbyn had “made me a Tory.” She attacked Corbyn for attending a Seder feast—part of the Jewish holiday Passover—organised by left wing Jewish group Jewdas.
Describing it as the “cherry on the top” she called Jewdas “the wrong people” because they were left wing. She later claimed Corbyn “wants a Marxist party”.
The protest showed much more clearly how accusations of antisemitsm are used to discredit support for Palestinians and the left. It demonstrates that any concession to the idea that the left is to blame for antisemitism can only lead to further attacks.