May 1, 2016 by IJV
We are concerned at the proliferation in recent weeks of sweeping allegations of pervasive antisemitism within the Labour Party. Some of these allegations against individuals are, in our view, baseless and disingenuous; in other cases, ill-chosen language has been employed; elsewhere, there have been statements which, deliberately or otherwise, have clearly crossed the line. We welcome the fact that the Labour Party has demonstrated its commitment to rooting out antisemitism with the seriousness of its response, including the setting up of an independent inquiry.
We are equally concerned, however, by the way in which such accusations are deployed politically – whether by the press, the Conservative Party, opponents of Corbyn’s leadership within Labour, or by those seeking to counter criticism of the actions of the Israeli government. The current climate is quickly coming to resemble a witch-hunt, in which statements and associations, some going back years, are being put under the microscope.
We appreciate the concern for anti-Jewish prejudice – a concern which we share. We are committed to our principles of opposition to all forms of racism, including antisemitism, anti-Arab racism or Islamophobia, in any circumstance. We are therefore dismayed by a lack of parallel attention to other forms of racial and religious bigotry, particularly given the current climate of growing Islamophobia across Europe. In the same week that the government refused to admit 3000 unaccompanied minor refugees to Britain, we cannot help but note the highly disproportionate attention paid in the media to errors of speech rather than errors of deed.
We also reiterate our view that the battle against antisemitism is undermined whenever opposition to Israeli government policies is automatically branded as antisemitic. Allegations of antisemitism foster an atmosphere increasingly hostile to those fighting for the rights of Palestinians at a time of growing opposition to Israel’s racist and discriminatory policies towards its Arab citizens and its ongoing occupation in violation of international law. What is clear to those of us who have been engaged in the movement for Palestinian rights, and who believe in the right to dissent of Jews in relation to Israel, is that the more public opinion turns against Israel’s indefensible actions, the more our opponents will resort to name calling in an attempt to discredit us. As Jewish critics of Israel’s policies, we urge people of conscience not to succumb to this campaign of intimidation and to continue the struggle for equal rights and freedom for all people.