Socialist Worker

Smears used by the Labour right to marginalise the left

by Nick Clark
Issue No. 2715

Activists opposing the adoption of the IHRA definition last year

Activists opposing the adoption of the IHRA definition last year (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Right wing politicians, journalists and ­supporters of Israel have launched a new attack on the left after the Labour Party apologised to people who labelled it antisemitic.

Threats of legal action against the Labour Party and its former leader Jeremy Corbyn have come with renewed attempts to discredit left wing politics as inherently antisemitic.

BBC journalist John Ware, who made the Panorama documentary “Is Labour ­antisemitic?” has said he will sue Corbyn over his response to the film.

The documentary, which aired in 2019, argued that left wing—and ­specifically pro-Palestine—politics encouraged antisemitism to grow inside Labour (see left). 

It also argued that because of this, Corbyn’s leadership failed to deal with accusations of antisemitism against Labour members.

Labour, under Keir Starmer, ­apologised last week for ­criticising the documentary when it was aired.

The party also paid out a figure of around £180,000 to Ware and former Labour ­staffers who appeared in the documentary, in an out of court settlement.

The apology and ­settlement effectively ­concede the documentary’s accusation that Corbyn’s left wing politics fuelled ­antisemitism. ­­

In ­written apologies, Labour said, “Antisemitism has been a stain on the Labour Party in recent years.

Rules pushed by Labour right hit Palestine solidarity
Rules pushed by Labour right hit Palestine solidarity
  Read More

“If we are to restore the trust of the Jewish community, we must demonstrate a change of leadership.”

Ware is now suing Corbyn after he described the decision to apologise as “a political, not a legal one,” which “risks giving credibility to misleading and inaccurate allegations about action taken to tackle antisemitism in the Labour Party in recent years.”

The right want to smash the left at all levels of the party. Two councillors in Brighton quit the Labour Party after being investigated for antisemitism.

Accused

One, Kate Knight, had shared articles on Facebook by Jewish Voice for Labour, and the Jewish Socialists Group, which disputed that Labour has a problem with antisemitism.

Another, Nikkie Brennan, had protested against the adoption of the IHRA definition of antisemitism, which is frequently used to clamp down on criticism of Israel. Brennan was accused of antisemitism after protesting with a placard that called Israel an apartheid state.

Tens of thousands of Corbyn supporters have shown they still want to stand up to the smears.

Some 15,000 people had donated more than £280,000 to a legal fund for Corbyn as Socialist Worker went to press.

Yet ending the right’s attacks means taking them on politically—not just legally or bureaucratically.

Leading left wing figures in Labour had hoped that a leaked report apparently exposing right wing attempts to sabotage Corbyn would vindicate the left.

Instead, Starmer kicked the report into the long grass. And now some of those named in the report are suing the party for breaches of confidentiality.

Throughout Corbyn’s leadership, the left refused to take on the accusations with a defence of the right to call Israel a racist state. They hoped that backing down would stop the attacks.

Now they hope they can win by fighting inside the machinery of a party geared towards humiliating, beating down or expelling them.


Equality’ report could be next weapon for Starmer

A report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) into Labour’s handling of antisemitism accusations is expected to be published very shortly.

It’s the result of complaints against the party by organisations that consider opposition to the Israeli state to be antisemitic.

And it “may have regard” to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism and its linked examples.

This definition has been used to brand pro-Palestine campaigning, and the description of Israel as a racist state, as antisemitic.

The EHRC isn’t tasked with deciding whether Labour is institutionally antisemitic.

The report will look into whether Labour or those acting on behalf of the party have committed unlawful acts. It will also ask if they responded to complaints in “a lawful, efficient and effective manner.”

Disciplinary

And it will see whether Labour’s rules and disciplinary processes were adequate to deal with complaints.

If the report says that Labour mishandled antisemitism accusations, it will be used as evidence that Corbyn’s left wing politics made the party antisemitic.


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