Jeremy Corbyn has been readmitted to the Labour Party after making another concession to right wing efforts to silence criticism of Israel.
He should never have been suspended.
But his retreat has made the right even more determined to drive him out of the party and crush the left.
A panel of Labour national executive committee members agreed to end Corbyn’s suspension from the party on Tuesday. There are reports that he has been sanctioned with a formal warning.
The panel met after Corbyn issued a statement that backed away from challenging some right wing accusations of antisemitism.
He was responding to a report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) that said his leadership had been responsible for unlawful acts relating to antisemitism accusations.
It acted as confirmation for the right that Corbyn’s support for Palestinians encouraged antisemitism—and recommended restrictions on the right to criticise Israel.
Left wing Labour members and supporters of Corbyn celebrated his reinstatement as a victory. They claimed it represented a climbdown by Labour leader Keir Starmer, and was a result of their campaigning.
However, on Wednesday Starmer said he would not be allowing Corbyn back into the Parliamentary Labour Party.
“Jeremy Corbyn’s actions in response to the EHRC report undermined and set back our work in restoring trust and confidence in the Labour Party’s ability to tackle antisemitism.
“In those circumstances, I have taken the decision not to restore the whip to Jeremy Corbyn," he said
And Corbyn's reinstatement came with a “reminder of values” as an effective warning not to speak out again—something Corbyn has indicated he will go along with.
Sections of the Labour right and groups such as the Campaign Against Antisemitism were enraged by Corbyn's return to Labour. They wanted him permanently expelled.
Corbyn’s statement on Tuesday stopped just short of being an apology. But it tacitly gave up on the argument that the accusations levelled at the party were a deliberate attempt by the right to discredit left wing politics.
It said, “Concerns about antisemitism are neither ‘exaggerated’ nor ‘overstated’. The point I wished to make was that the vast majority of Labour Party members were and remain committed anti-racists deeply opposed to antisemitism.”
But that was not the point Corbyn was making—and it’s not the reason he was suspended.
Corbyn’s original point was that the scale of antisemitism in Labour had been exaggerated for political reasons.
He has now dropped that argument in order to be readmitted, encouraged by left wing MPs and some trade union leaders.
In the wake of Corbyn’s suspension, some union leaders and MPs demanded he be reinstated. Yet rather than challenging the right wing, they appealed for “unity” with them, and accepted the basis of the EHRC’s report.
Rather than confront the accusation as a political attempt to silence the left, they looked for an accommodation with the right.
The Labourlist website reports that MP Jon Trickett and Unite union general secretary Len McCluskey worked “behind the scenes to de-escalate the row and create a way back for the former leader.”
This resulted in the releases of a carefully worded statement that avoided confronting the right head on.
The accusations of antisemitism are an open assault on left wing politics. They’re based on the claim that the left’s politics—specifically its opposition to Israel—are based on hatred of Jewish people and are antisemitic.
They want to claim Israel is an integral part of Jewish identity—and that therefore focussed criticism of Israel is an assault on Jewish people.
On Monday, right wing website the Jewish Chronicle reported that Labour was looking into a complaint against new NEC member Gemma Bolton for calling Israel an “apartheid state”.
She had also supported the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel in solidarity with Palestinians.
The Daily Mail website reported that the complaint came from Labour MP Margaret Hodge. She has argued that anti-Zionism is antisemitic, and has linked the left’s “anti-American” and “anti-European” politics to antisemitism.
The Twitter account Labour Against Antisemitism also claimed it had complained. It views BDS as antisemitic.
Arguing against this—and defending the right to stand with Palestinians—means saying openly that these accusations are politically motivated. Yet Corbyn has been readmitted to Labour on the understanding that he won’t do this.
His supporters will be expected not to either.
At every step of the way, the left around Jeremy Corbyn have refused to challenge the basis of the accusations and defend the right to speak out for Palestine. Instead they have made concession after concession, and apology after apology.
Each one has only cleared the way for the right to demand more.
Despite his reinstatement, Corbyn’s latest concession exposes left wing Labour members to more attacks from the right.
Even worse—it denies Palestinians and their supporters the right to challenge Israel.
There is room for a left in Labour, but only if it accepts subordination to the logic of accommodation with the right at every turn. That is why it is right to leave.