Daniel Zeichner is the Labour candidate for CambridgeLouis Ashworth

A recent article in the Jewish Chronicle claimed to speak on behalf of all Jews in denouncing Jeremy Corbyn as an antisemite and implying that anyone who votes for him is one, too. On the other hand, Jewish Voice for Labour’s ‘Briefing for Canvassers’ implies that all the concern about antisemitism has been stirred up by the media. Many non-Jews co-opt these opposing Jewish voices in political sparring. The conversation has become increasingly polarised, with antisemitism having become one of several political fault lines along which we are told our loyalties should be drawn.

Not only does this notion of loyalty play into tropes about Jewish ‘dual loyalty’, it is also characteristic of our political times. Brexit is a prime example – with campaigns like ‘Another Europe is Possible’ drowned in a sea of voices claiming either that the EU was a corrupt and unsalvageable bureaucracy or completely unimpeachable. The referendum model itself set us up for a process of polarisation, insinuating that the purest form of democracy was a choice between two camps. There was never room for a critical commitment to Remain. Equally, there seems to be no room to criticise Corbyn’s leadership whilst recognizing that Labour’s 2019 manifesto is perhaps the most exciting, left-wing list of policy proposals our generation has ever seen. We don’t have to throw the baby out with the bath-water. In fact, we cannot afford to. 

The racist rhetoric that the Home Office has been spouting for years under Conservative government – their commitment to nationalism and the hostile environment – is antithetical to any project committed to opposing antisemitism. Far right groups have always targeted Jews, and Conservative party policy has repeatedly capitulated to this end of the political spectrum. Steve Bannon, a former adviser to President Trump, has combined a long history of anti-semitism with growing connections to the Conservative Party. The party’s vote against censuring Viktor Orban – the anti-semitic, authoritarian Hungarian Prime Minister – in the European Parliament follows this trend. A true commitment to the safety of the UK’s Jewish community is also a commitment to fighting fascism and the far right in all its forms, which, in our opinion, must include a commitment to getting the Tories out – a government that has pandered to these tendencies repeatedly.

Labour’s 2019 manifesto is a radical diversion from the New Right consensus that we have grown up under

Nonetheless, even if many of the attacks launched against Corbyn by the right wing press have been disingenuous and opportunistic, many Jewish members are concerned about their place within the party. Labour has to do better – it has to introduce an independent complaints procedure, separate from the National Executive Committee, and outfit it with substantial resources. It has to avoid cronyism and make the disciplinary process more transparent. With these changes, the party can begin to rebuild its relationship with the wider community in all its variety. However, we must also recognise the plurality of voices among British Jews, and acknowledge that there is a tendency, particularly among non-Jews, to ignore alternative Jewish narratives. This was particularly evident in Angela Smith’s condemnation of Corbyn attending a Jewdas seder, when she implied that Corbyn was associating with the ‘wrong kind of Jews’ (i.e. anti-Zionist leftists). It is not enough for non-Jews to listen only to those of us who share their opinions and use our experiences for political benefit.

Labour’s commitment to ending the hostile environment for migrants and refugees and to a second referendum represents an urgently needed reversal of the racist policies of the Conservative government we have now. This will be more important than ever in the coming decade, where the climate crisis will displace millions. As Jews, many of our ancestors fled their homes to come to Britain – it would be a betrayal of our history for us to turn our backs on those trying to do the same. More broadly, Jews have been central throughout the history of European left-wing politics: they fought in the Spanish Civil War against Francoism, in the Second World War against Nazism, and on the streets of Britain against Oswald Mosley. Our history is a history of rebellion, of survival in the face of violence – Jews belong on the left as much as anyone. The British Left in particular owes a great debt to Jewish thinkers – from Hobsbawm, to Miliband, to Laski, we are indispensable.


Mountain View

Jewish concerns about a Corbyn-led government should be taken seriously

There are limits to what party politics can change, but Labour’s 2019 manifesto is a radical diversion from the New Right consensus that we have grown up under: one characterised by brutal austerity, the erosion of worker’s rights, and apathy toward the climate crisis. It offers us hope – a Green Industrial Revolution, with an anti-colonial just transition, and a commitment to unionisation throughout, 100,000 council homes a year and the rebuilding of our public services. The Liberal Democrats are no viable alternative – they have no path to an independent majority and have suggested they would be willing to enter “discussions” with the Conservatives to keep them in power, but would not extend this to Corbyn’s Labour Party. 

A healthy skepticism towards the leadership does not change the fact that these are necessary steps in the fight for international justice and tikkun olam (healing the world). Furthermore, a Labour loss would only empower a right-wing Tory party that is also guilty of antisemitism. We will be voting Labour on 12th December with pride – for Daniel Zeichner in Cambridge and a Labour government nationwide. 

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