The Struggle with anti-Semitism

Against a background of increasing anti-Semitic incidents in the UK, the Labour Party now finds itself in serious difficulties; with Jeremy Corbyn’s election campaign visit to Wales being cancelled.

Jeremy Corbyn in Parliament

A few weeks ago Tom Harris highlighted that the Party had a problem, citing incidents involving Gerry Downing and Vicky Kirby.

Now further controversy has erupted this week over comments by Naz Shah MP and Ken Livingstone, the former Mayor of London. Ms Shah was suspended on Wednesday for saying that Israel should be “transported” to the US, and Mr Livingstone got into great difficulty when trying to defend her comments as being “over the top” but not anti-Semitic.

The comments by Naz Shah have left Lord Levy, a Labour Peer, in “despair as to how people like this can enter our parliament with such a lack of knowledge, discretion and sensitivity".

But there is less surprise about Ken Livingstone’s comments. Paul Charney, Chairman of the Zionist Federation, has reminded us that a prejudiced stereotype has existed for years, in which supporters of Israel are said to use the claim of anti-Semitism as a smear. Thus “anyone who raised any concern about Jew hatred – especially on the left – will have been confronted with the accusation that they were doing so in bad faith.” 

Mr Charney went on to explain that this rhetorical move was given the name ‘the Livingstone Formulation’, due its repeated use by Ken Livingstone himself.  He it was who said he wanted to make London a 'beacon of Islam' when campaigning to become Mayor of London again in 2012. 

Thus Jeremy Corbyn is now under great pressure to stamp out Labour party anti-Semitism when he seems to have contributed to it by referring to Hamas as his “friends”.

Hardly surprising, therefore, that Sadiq Khan, Labour’s current candidate for Mayor of London, recognised the threat to his chances of election, saying: “Ken Livingstone’s comments are appalling and inexcusable. There must be no place for this in our party.”