Does the Labour Party Have Anti-Semitic Elements?


The word antisemitism usually conjures up images of right wing persecution of the Jews. The most obvious link is Nazi Germany’s ethnic cleansing of European Jews, also known as the Holocaust. Other images it stirs are the Roman massacres of Jews, the First Crusaders slaughter of Hungarian Jews or Spain’s complete expulsion of them from the Iberian peninsula. The Jews are perhaps one of the most persecuted races in history. The recent global anti-Semitism usually stems from the hatred of Israel, by anti-Zionists, which is backed up by the US and her western allies. While many right-wing groups are still anti-Semitic, the creation of a modern Israel, greatly aided by the West, has led many left wing groups to show anti-Semitic tendencies. For an example, the Soviet Union liberated the main Nazi death camps, included Auschwitz. However shortly after the liberations, and the creation of Israel, Stalin’s Russia largely shifted and he perpetrated a campaign of anti-antisemitism throughout the Soviet bloc.

Israel’s occupation of Palestine has led to many heated and passionate arguments. On both sides the very worst tendencies have flared up. However this cannot excuse the recent comments made by Ken Livingstone. Nor should it excuse Labour MP, Naz Shah’s past comments, suggesting that the state of Israel should be moved to the US, paid for by their financial and military aid to the country. Shah’s comments are deeply troubling. What she doesn’t realise is what she has suggested is ethnic cleansing. While not mass killing, completely removing an ethnic group from a territory is ethnic cleansing. In other words its a ‘final solution’ to the Jewish and Arab conflict between Israel and Palestine. While I don’t believe Shah is anti-Semitic, her comments are incredibly naïve and at to blunt: stupid. Her Facebook posts could definitely be viewed as anti-Semitic.

The Jews have been in the territory that makes up Israel for thousands of years. To suggest they should be completely removed to another country, so Palestine can populate the whole of their shared territory, is completely out of bounds for a sitting member of parliament to say. It is a scenario that has followed the Jewish population for centuries, having been expelled from numerous countries. Shah should have realised what she posted may be seen as incredibly offensive. Israel is the only real homeland the Jews have ever had and Shah wants them expelled because of the regions recent history. Why should the Israelis go to the US? Most aren’t American and some have families that have probably lived in Israel for centuries. Why can’t a settlement be reached instead? It is a case that often happens in the extreme political train of thought. There is no balance of argument. In Naz Shah’s case the Jews are to blame for all the recent conflict and no one else. She may be repentant now she has been exposed, but this is obviously her honest opinion, and in my opinion it is unacceptable in modern day politics.

What makes this whole situation worse is Ken Livingstone’s absolutely ludicrous defence in of Shah into which he, for some reason, brought the holocaust. In an interview with BBC Radio London he states ‘When Hitler won his election in 1932 his policy was that the Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews’. Livingstone says it is historical ‘facts’ but it is pure fiction. In Hitler’s autobiography Mein Kampf published in 1925, he describes the Jews as a ‘spiritual pestilence’ that had to be removed from the earth. If he ever even conceived the idea of ethnically cleansing Germany by sending the Jews to British Mandate of Palestine, it wasn’t because he cared about the Jewish claims to the territory. He wanted to get rid of the Jews. He didn’t simply go ‘mad’, as Livingstone puts it and it so happens that, when he acquired the ability, he lead the killing of six million Jews. If Hitler was a Zionist, Philip II and III of Spain must have been Islamists for expelling Spain’s Muslim population to North Africa and the Middle East. Zionists don’t usually display abhorrent anti-Semitic ideals. Livingstone in the past was suspended as the Mayor of London for comparing a Jewish journalist to a concentration camp guard which he is still unapologetic about. The fact Corbyn brought him back into the Labour Party fold does speak volumes about the party itself. It has failed to clamp down on anti-Semites.

This type of rhetoric would not be tolerated by Labour Parties of Blair and Brown. Blair’s past envoy and chief fundraiser Lord Levy, says the party now has a ‘serious problem’ with anti-Semitism, and the cross-bench peer Baroness Neuberger claimed Labour’s problem with the issue was attached to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership; I have to say it’s hard to disagree with her completely. There is no question that Corbyn isn’t an anti-Semite but some of his positions are completely out of touch with global and political reality in my opinion. Whether it’s scrapping Trident, wanting a joint administration of the Falklands or the unification of Ireland. His rhetoric is a big problem including his consistent support for Hamas, even unwisely calling them his ‘friends’. Hamas in the past have also held anti-Semitic elements in within their organisation during the time of his support. Corbyn is often on the right side of important issues in regards to the Iraq war and apartheid in South Africa, but his consistently far-left views have encouraged a certain element to feel comfortable with their own radical beliefs and it seems he allows it-encapsulated by his asking of the controversial Livingstone into his inner circle.

Ever since the Balfour declaration of 1917, the potential state of Israel has, too many, represented a country to solely represent the UK, US and western interests in the region. Israeli expansion over the last fifty years is troubling and a two state solution has to be agreed to stop the inhumane living conditions endured by many in Palestine. But a one state solution for either state is not a feasible option. I do not believe Naz Shah’s comments had ‘racist’ intent, as David Cameron put it, but just grossly ignorant; nevertheless she deserves to be suspended. Livingstone should be completely shut out of the party, a sentiment Sadiq Khan agrees with, as his recent comments are a step too far. For all the positive beliefs the Labour Party stands for, antisemitism is a real blight on the party and needs to be eradicated.


Second year History Students-articles focus on international issues and politics.

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