Labour’s election manifesto fails to talk about anti-Semitism, despite the party being embroiled in an anti-Semitism scandal for the past three years. Coupling this with Labour’s pledge to “immediately recognise the state of Palestine” as well as their plans to end arms sales to Israel, the Labour manifesto leaves a lot to be desired for Zionists and those concerned with anti-semitism. Labour does, however, pledge to protect places of worship, including synagogues and churches.
Today, Jeremy Corbyn launched his Labour party’s manifesto for the UK General Election on 12 December 2019. There are a lot of tops surrounding this election, from Brexit to the NHS, but at CUFI we are focused on the issues relating to Israel, Britain’s relationship with Israel and of course the Jewish people and how they are treated.
Over the last three years since Jeremy Corbyn became the leader of the Labour party the issue of anti-Semitism within Labour has become a national topic. Some feel it is just a smear against Corbyn whilst others see Corbyn himself as being an outright anti-Semite. However, despite Labour suspending numerous councillors and candidates, and even kicking people out of the party over anti-Semitism, there was not a whisper of the word in their latest manifesto. There was no pledge to tackle racism and anti-Semitism within their own party as one might expect.
Instead, Labour’s manifesto blamed other parts of the British political spectrum for racism, refusing to acknowledge or take responsibility for their own failings. Labour’s manifesto instead blamed the Tories. “The Conservatives have fanned the flames of racism, using difference to divide,” the manifesto says.
The only other group Labour singled out over racism was the far-right. Labour says it will, “Seek to end the politics of hate and commission an independent review into the threat of far-right extremism and how to tackle it.”
Tackling far-right extremism is important. However, racism does not just stem from the far-right. There is racism on the far-left and across the political spectrum. Therefore, it is sad to see that Labour will not acknowledge the racism against Jews that is expressed and is festering within their own political sphere.
The reason for this is that it is likely Corbyn and those in leadership within Labour do not believe they or their party has a problem with anti-Semitism. They believe their anti-Israel attitudes and opposition to Zionism are in no way the same anti-Semitic attitudes of the far-right – but they are mistaken.
All too often we see anti-Israel attitudes morph into anti-Semitism just as hate-filled as the anti-Semitism of neo-Nazis, where hatred of the Jewish state turns into hatred of the Jews. Israel is often accused of “genocide” and of “committing another Holocaust” against the Palestinians. Doing this conflates Israel’s actions of self-defence against terrorist extremists with the Holocaust, the worlds largest genocide whose primary target was the Jews. Another form of anti-Semitism is when anti-Israel activists declare that the Jewish people have no right to live in their historic homeland. Sadly, these are the attitudes expressed by many far-left activists, including within the Labour party, and from some individuals who are high within Labour’s hierarchy.
Despite not addressing their own issues of anti-Semitism or acknowledging racism from other places other than the Tories and the far-right, Labour does, however, commit to protecting Jews in their places of worship.
On religious discrimination, the Labour manifesto says the party will: “Strengthen protection for religious communities and amend the law to include attacks on places of worship (including synagogues, temples, mosques and churches) as a specific aggravated offence.”
They also promise to: “Review current levels of funding for and access to the Places of Worship Protective Security Funding Scheme, maintain funding in real terms for the Community Security Trust, and consult on giving it statutory protection to ensure that religious communities have the support they need.”
The UK government provides around £14 million per year to protect Jewish institutions and places of worship. A lot of this funding goes to the Community Security Trust. It is good to see Labour pledging to continue this.
Also, attacks on synagogues continue and for the police and courts to have greater powers to prosecute those who carry out these crimes is important.
It is just a shame that in looking at tackling anti-Semitism, Labour cannot even bring themselves to acknowledge their faults or pledge to tackle anti-Semitism within their own ranks.
It takes courage and leadership in order to tackle these pressing issues and if Labour was really looking to reassure the Jewish community that they were serious about tackling the issue they could have said so much more. Instead, this manifesto does little to reassure the vast majority of Jews in Britain who are already extremely anxious about the prospect of a Corbyn led government.
This is not to mention the fact that Labour’s manifesto also pledges to “immediately recognise the state of Palestine” and also pledges to “end arms sales to Israel“, also falsely accusing Israel of targeting civilians, which is something Israel does not do.
Unfortunately, Labour is increasingly looking like the party to avoid if you love Israel and are concerned about anti-Semitism.
Author: Alex Starritt
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and may not reflect those of Christians United for Israel (CUFI).