It seems like ever since Jeremy Corbyn has been elected as the UK Labour Party leader, anti-Semitism has been given a serious boost and moved from the rear alley of the party to centre stage. All of a sudden, the party, and its leader, find themselves in the midst of a firestorm concerning anti-Semitic Facebook posts, revolving-door like expulsions and readmissions of blatantly anti-Semitic party members (who deny being anti-Semites while confirming their anti-Semitic posts), and other unseemly expressions of bias and anti-Jewish or anti-Israel sentiments.
To highlight a few such examples, Haaretz, Israel’s leading left wing newspaper quoted the front-page editorial of Jewish Chronicle: “Labour ‘seems to be a party that attracts anti-Semites like flies to a cesspit.’” The BBC reported that “The Labour Party has suspended for a second time a member who posted anti-Semitic tweets.” Ms. Kirby, the person at the centre of the BBC report, is one of the aforementioned people who were ejected then readmitted into the party.
A slightly different example, though not less disconcerting, is the case of Bob Campbell, who was, or was not expelled from Labour. In his case, he does not deny allegations that he posted a statement on Facebook claiming that the Israeli Mossad is running ISIS, or that Israel is behind last month’s terrorist bombing in Brussels. What he does deny is Labour’s statement that he was expelled from the party.
Besides these there are Mr. Corbyn’s Jewish enemies list, Gerry Downing’s comments and the Socialist Fight website of which he is part, and which talks about “the Zionist witchhunters” trying to eliminate anti-Semitism in Labour, and the newly found hotbed for anti-Jewish sentiments in the prestigious Oxford university.
As you observe the thriving of anti-Semitism in liberal parties from the UK to the US, to Sweden, and throughout Europe, it is becoming increasingly evident that liberal parties, which condone free thought and free speech, are expressing what their members genuinely feel. For the time being, anti-Semitism is often camouflaged as anti-Zionism. While vociferous accusations of human rights abuses and war crimes are levelled at Israel, the same righteous indignation has never been aroused by conflicts in Sri Lanka, Sudan, Rwanda, or even Syria and Iran. As Guardian journalist Jonathan Freedland pondered, “[Jews] ask themselves, what exactly is it about the world’s only Jewish country that convinces its loudest opponents it represents a malignancy greater than any other on the planet?” We must not delude ourselves; these people have no penchant for Jews. It is with good reason that former mayor of Bradford (and member of Labour until forced to resign over the below matter), stated that Hitler killed “six million Zionists.”
Freedom of speech is great, and we should endorse diversity of views. However, we should also note that it is routinely used as justification to delegitimize one specific group: the Jews, and one specific country: the Jewish state.
At universities all over the UK and the US, freedom of speech is used to bash Israel and express anti-Semitic views while aggressively silencing anyone who wishes to express a counter opinion. Even more troubling, very few think that there is any injustice about it. This tells us that public opinion is leaning toward the anti-Semites, even if most people (still?) don’t express it.
So to answer the question posed in the title, nothing is wrong with Labour Party specifically; it is merely a reflection of what a great many think. In my view, the question we should really ask is, “What can we do about it?”
In “Why Do People Hate Jews” I elaborated on the importance of unity among Jews. It is a given that unity strengthens, but in the case of our nation, it is more than a defence against enemies, it is a message we must convey. What I have learned from all my studies is that the reason we are blamed for all the wars is that we are perceived as warmongers because of the perpetual conflicts among ourselves.
The more I looked into our situation, the more it dawned on me that our sages have been right all along. I began to see how far we were from the way the our forefathers handled their disputes: “Although Beit Shamai and Beit Hillel were disputed, they treated each other with fondness and friendship, to keep what was said (Zachariah 8), ‘Love truth and peace’” (Masechet Yevamot).
It seems to me that before we can do away with anti-Semitism, with must do away with our own alienation. Diversity of views is wonderful, but when it causes us to hate each other, it catalyses Jew-Hatred.
The world is growing increasingly interconnected and interdependent. However, because people have no desire to unite, they are growing increasingly hateful toward each other. Beyond the religious fundamentalism there is a clear element of misanthropy in the wave of terrorism washing over us.
Without displaying unity—while not supressing our differences—we will be blamed for future conflicts as quickly and as automatically as we are blamed for them today. Targeting Jews will escalate as specifically parties with entrenched freedom of speech will lead the pack of bloodthirsty wolves.
Throughout Jewish history, leaders have championed Jewish unity, as well as diversity. Rabbi Lord, Jonathan Sacks wrote, “Difference, argument, clashes of style and substance, are signs not of unhealthy division but of health,” while stating that precisely our unity allows for diversity. I believe that if we learn how to unite above our differences there is no end to what we can achieve, including the uprooting of anti-Semitism. To conclude with another quote from the eloquent Rabbi Sacks, ““Jewish unity exists as an idea. Why then should it not exist as a fact?”