Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is facing a mounting challenge against him from right wing MPs. They attacked him in parliament on Monday evening, following a meeting of the shadow cabinet that afternoon which discussed accusations of antisemitism against the left.
The latest assault comes after a BBC Panorama documentary shown in July claimed Corbyn’s leadership has encouraged antisemitism because of his support for Palestinians.
The Guardian newspaper published an advert signed by more than 60 Labour peers last week accusing Corbyn of encouraging antisemitism.
The Jewish Leadership Council—which explicitly links antisemitism to opposition to Israel—wrote to shadow cabinet ministers last week. It urged them to take action against Corbyn. “As members of the shadow cabinet, you now face a very difficult and unavoidable decision in which inaction will signal your support for what has happened and what will follow,” it said.
Mike Katz of the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM)—which cites support for Israel as part of its central objects and values—also sent a letter to the shadow cabinet on the same day.
It alluded to the smear that Corbyn’s leadership encouraged antisemitism.
“Why do left conspiratorial antisemites and cranks now regard Labour as their natural political home?” it asked.
Labour launched a webpage of training material last Sunday in response to the right’s accusations. An email in the name of Jeremy Corbyn, sent to party members and supporters said that “anti-Jewish bigotry has reared its head in our movement.”
The website and leaflet rightly warned against antisemitic conspiracy theories.
It described Zionism—Israel’s founding ideology that justified the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in 1948—as simply “Jewish national self-determination in a Jewish state”.
But it also correctly said, “That does not mean limiting legitimate criticism of the Israeli state or its policies or diluting support for the Palestinian people’s struggle for justice, their own state, and the rights of refugees and their descendants.”
It added, “Arguing for one state with rights for all Israelis and Palestinians is not antisemitic, but calling for the removal of Jews from the region is. Anti-Zionism is not in itself antisemitic and some Jews are not Zionists.”
Yet the JLM said the material “simply isn’t going to be enough”. When Labour’s general secretary Jennie Formby asked the JLM to comment on the material, Katz threw it back in her face.
“If they think we are going to mark their overdue homework for them then they have another thing coming,” he said. The right won’t be satisfied. The only way to counter them is with a clear defence of the right to support Palestinians and criticise the state of Israel.