A witchhunt in the Labour Party is about to begin in earnest on a mass scale.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews demanded that all Labour’s leadership candidates sign up to ten pledges to end what it calls Labour’s “antisemitism crisis”.
Though the board presents itself as representative of all Jews in Britain, it reflects only one conservative strand of opinion among Jewish people. And central to its demands is a definition of antisemitism that rules out calling Israel a racist state.
In 2018 Labour was bullied into adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism “with all its examples”. This says it is antisemitic to describe Israel as a “racist endeavour”.
Supporters of the definition say this doesn’t stop people from supporting Palestinians. But it definitely stops Palestinians from describing their mass expulsion from what is now Israel as ethnic cleansing. It means they now can’t explain their history of oppression as the action of a racist Israeli state.
The point is to make all but the mildest criticisms of Israel suspect—in doing so tarnishing left wingers who support the Palestinians.
Among other demands, the board wants Labour to engage with the Jewish community “via its main representative groups, and not by fringe organisations and individuals”.
This means Jewish organisations who don’t support Zionism—the ideology that supports Israel’s racism—are out of bounds. It also wants regular updates on all investigations into accusations of antisemitism.
And it demands training on antisemitism to be led by the Jewish Labour Movement—which says its aim is to “promote the centrality of Israel in Jewish life”.
Most ominously, the board wants anyone in Labour who supports a member suspended or expelled under this definition of antisemitism to themselves be expelled.
It should be extraordinary that any Labour leader would agree to such demands. But that’s what every candidate has done—including the left’s candidate, Rebecca Long-Bailey.
At every turn, sections of the Labour left have thought that if they concede to the right’s arguments over antisemitism, the crisis would end.
Instead, it has led to a situation where a supposedly left wing potential leader could oversee mass expulsions of her own supporters.
That’s a betrayal not just of left wing Labour Party members, but everyone who supports the Palestinians. Worse—it’s a betrayal of the Palestinians themselves.