Socialist Worker

Labour left buckles in face of right’s antisemitism smears

The row inside Liverpool Labour Party shows the right aren’t going to back down from using accusations of antisemitism to silence the left and criticism of Israel, writes Nick Clark

Issue No. 2641

Labour supporters stand up for the right to criticise Israel

Labour supporters stand up for the right to criticise Israel (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Right wing Labour MPs are outraged that more antisemites haven’t been found in their party.

They demanded action after the Labour Party revealed it had investigated 673 alleged cases of antisemitism by its members since April—and expelled just 12.

That’s a sign that the number of antisemites inside Labour is small. As a Labour Party spokesperson said, “These figures relate to about 0.1 percent of our party.”

And right wing Labour MP Margaret Hodge admitted that she made over 200 of the allegations.

Hodge said last year, “It’s a very fine line between being pro-Palestinian and being antisemitic.”

But MPs demanded that more members should have been expelled anyway—despite not knowing details of any of the allegations.

As one MP complained, the barrier to expelling members was “an expectation of needing to prove everything with the party”.

MPs had hoped that Labour’s adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism last year would allow them to expel left wing members.

The definition includes an example of antisemitism that says it is antisemitic to describe Israel as a racist state.

This restricts legitimate criticism of Israel such as discussing the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians that accompanied its creation.

Labour Party members were bullied into dropping an attempt to hold one MP to account last week.

Disciplinary

Members of the Liverpool Wavertree Constituency Labour Party (CLP) were accused of antisemitism and harassment.

And they were threatened with disciplinary action by senior Labour figures.

It came after members of the party tabled motions of no confidence in their MP Luciana Berger. She has been touted as leading a possible right wing split from Labour.

MPs reacted with unfounded claims that the motions were motivated by antisemitism.

They accused members of the branch of targeting Berger—who is Jewish—because she has complained of antisemitism in the party.

The motions were withdrawn after Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson demanded that their CLP be suspended.

Real antisemitism has to be fought. But the assault on party members shows the dangers of giving in to right wing smears.

Wavertree CLP said, “We as an executive have always and continue now to express total solidarity with Luciana as a victim of misogyny and of antisemitism—coming mostly from the far right.

“Our chair is himself Jewish and the suggestion that the CLP executive is in any way a party to bullying and antisemitism is a false and slanderous accusation.”

Yet under threat of chaos and disunity from the right, Labour’s leadership quietly put pressure on the CLP to have the motions withdrawn.

Even then Watson pushed for two members from the CLP to face disciplinary investigations.

It shows that—even after years of organising by the left to take control of Labour branches—the desire to keep unity means the right still have power in the party.


Countdown to centrist split

Right wing Labour MPs have supposedly been threatening to split from Labour and form a new “centrist” party. Yet no one has publicly said they’re going to do anything.

“Potential supporters” of a new party met for a drinks reception on Tuesday last week—that’s if the Mail on Sunday newspaper is to be believed.

The reception was reportedly organised by former aides of Tony Blair.

Attendees included big hitters such as Harry Potter author JK Rowling and Rachel Riley from the TV show Countdown. Rowling won support from the right in 2016 after saying Jeremy Corbyn should not be compared to Dumbledore.

A source said the new party hoped to “attract people with a more nuanced approach to politics and life”.


MP plays down the death toll in Yemen

A Labour MP has attacked charities and human rights campaigners for speaking out against civilian deaths in Yemen.

Graham Jones—chair of the Commons committee on arms export controls—said reports of civilians killed by Saudi Arabian airstrikes are “grossly exaggerated”.

Well over 10,000 civilians have been killed in the war—the vast bulk of them by the British-backed coalition led by Saudi Arabia.

Britain has sold almost £5 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia since its war on Yemen began in March 2015.

Some 14 million people are also on the brink of starvation caused by a Saudi blockade on the port city of Hodeidah.

Yet in a meeting of parliament’s defence select committee earlier this month, Jones branded reports of civilian deaths by “NGOs and loony left wing organisations” as “dishonest”.

Jones went on an expenses-paid fact finding trip to the UAE last year, one of the countries involved in the war on Yemen.


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