A prominent Jewish Labour Party activist says she has received threatening phone calls after challenging accusations of antisemitism.
It comes at the end of a week of onslaught against the left in the Labour Party, with a resurgence in accusations of antisemitism against Jeremy Corbyn supporters.
Left wing Labour MP Chris Williamson was suspended from the Labour Party on Wednesday for saying Labour had “given too much ground” over the accusations. And Labour MPs are demanding that more members are expelled.
Naomi said both she and JVL chair Jenny Manson had received the phone calls, beginning the day that Williamson was suspended.
“The first call I got was Wednesday. I just heard long cackling before being told “’We know where you live,’” Naomi said.
“Then in the middle of the night at about 2:30am I received a silent phone call. Now I’ve just been told ‘we have files on you—you’re the next to go,’”.
The accusations are the result of a long campaign to smear the left as antisemitic due to their support for Palestinians.
The right claim that the left’s opposition to Israel draws activists towards antisemitic ideas—and that Corbyn’s support for Palestine encouraged antisemites to join Labour.
Rather than fully refuting such accusations, and insisting on the right to criticise Israel, sections of the left have made concessions to them. They hope that by showing they are listening to the right’s accusations, the criticism will stop and Corbyn will be allowed to continue as leader.
But Naomi said the threats against her underlined the fact that giving in to the accusations only encourages further attacks.
“It shows that those people on the left who think they can stick it out and wait for everything to go away, are making a big mistake. Because the people behind the assault want everybody who supports Corbyn to leave or be expelled,” she said.
“This isn’t about antisemitism—which is primarily a terrifying phenomenon on the right. Whatever the Labour Party does will not be enough for the people launching the attacks.
“If we just throw under the bus anyone who is attacked by the right then this is not going to stop.”
A right wing Labour MP demanded on Thursday that the party investigate its own members simply for denying that the party is “institutionally antisemitic”.
The Hackney North Constituency Labour Party (CLP) reportedly passed a motion on Thursday evening that correctly pointed out that “The accusation of ‘institutional antisemitism’ in the Labour Party is asserted as a fact, despite data released by the party which show a 0.08% incidence of antisemitic behaviour by party members over the last ten months.”
It said it was “a scandal that we are allowing ourselves to be branded as a racist party”. And it called on the party’s national executive committee “to release a statement firmly rejecting the accusation that Labour is in any way ‘institutionally antisemitic’”.
CLPs in Streatham and Sheffield Hallam also passed similar motions. In response, a statement from the Labour Party also said, “We completely reject claims of institutional antisemitism.”
But right wing MPs and activists branded the motion “disgraceful” and “despicable”.
MP Stella Creasy even called on Labour general secretary Jennie Formby to investigate Hackney North CLP “for the sake of us all”.
It’s a sign of a growing toxic atmosphere inside Labour that stops activists from even disagreeing that the left is antisemitic.
“This is quite extraordinary,” said Naomi. “People are saying this is like a ducking stool for witches—if you defend someone accused of being a witch, then you must be a witch too.
“The right think it’s fine to name people like me and Jenny in the newspapers, call us antisemites and Holocaust revisionists. But we’re not allowed to defend ourselves or it seems others.”
She added, “The people making these wild and insulting claims are the ones who need to be held to account. They’re the ones bringing the party into disrepute and are creating an atmosphere where others are actively threatening Jewish party members.
“We refuse to go along with calls to suspend or discipline people who to our knowledge are not antisemitic. We demand due process and natural justice.
“It’s important to stand up and fight this by naming it what it is.”