Originally published June 12, 2019
After years of allegations of anti-Semitism, the UK Labour Party has become the subject of a formal investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, a UK watchdog group. While the BBC claims that the party has been plagued by these allegations since mid-2016, the roots of the issue are deeper than that. An analysis of the infestation of anti-Semitism in Labour shows dangerous comparisons to the anti-Semitism in the Democratic Party. If the Democrats ignore it, as they have been doing so far, they too will be tarred with this reputation for a generation.
It is important to understand that not all forms of bigotry are equal. Racism against blacks is not the same as anti-Semitism. Racism against blacks is rooted in treating them as if they are inferior in morals, intelligence, etc., because of their skin color. Anti-Semitism has multiple components, including Jews controlling the media and governments, and are a general threat to society that must be wiped out. Criticizing individual Jews is not anti-Semitism, just like criticizing individual African-Americans is not racism. Attacking the decisions of George Soros or Jared Kushner is not anti-Semitism, but blaming Jews in general for world problems is.
It’s also important to note that a lot of anti-Semitism these days is masked behind anti-Zionism, the falsehood that an anti-Semite doesn’t have a problem with the Jews, but only with the Jewish state. They do not criticize political actions or governmental policy, rather the existence of the state itself. They single out the Jewish state as a bad actor in the world stage while ignoring human rights violations occurring in a multitude of countries. They ignore the history of the regional conflicts and only focus on the fact that Israelis seem prosperous and Palestinians do not, so Israel must be to blame. Blaming the problems of Palestinians on the Jews is anti-Semitic, as the Palestinians squander every opportunity for freedom and prosperity given to them and instead choose to attack innocent Jews.
In this context, the British left has been engaging in anti-Semitism for years, and it’s been seeping into the Labour and Liberal Democratic parties at an ever-increasing rate. In 2003, Labour Member of Parliament Tom Dalyell said that Prime Minister Tony Blair was being influenced by a “cabal of Jewish advisors” regarding British positions in the Middle East.
In 2006, Liberal Democrat Member of European Parliament for North West England Chris Davies accused a Jewish constituent of “wallowing in your own filth” in a series of uncovered emails. He also said Israel is guilty of “posing as a victim,” “racist policies of apartheid,” and pronounced “I shall denounce the influence of the Jewish lobby that seems to have far too great a say over the political decision-making process in many countries.”
Labour MP Oona King wrote in a 2003 article, “Israel must break the cycle of violence… and withdraw from territories occupied in 1967.” She also referred to Israel as “the occupying power” and claimed “illegal settlements must be dismantled.”
Liberal Democrat Baroness Jenny Tonge has a lengthy history of anti-Semitism alone. In 2003, she visited Gaza with King and compared it to the Warsaw Ghetto. (Avner Shalev, chairman of the Holocaust Museum Yad Vashem, said the statements “completely distort historical facts and context.”) In 2004, Tonge said about Palestinian suicide bombers, “If I had to live in that situation – and I say that advisedly – I might just consider becoming one myself.” In 2006, Tonge said at a Liberal Democrat Party conference meeting, “The pro-Israeli lobby has got its grips on the Western world, its financial grips. I think they’ve probably got a grip on our party.”
In 2010, in a House of Commons meeting with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the Friends of Al-Aqsa, Labor MP Martin Linton said, “There are long tentacles of Israel in this country who are funding election campaigns and putting money into the British political system for their own ends.”
One of the longest-serving Labour MPs was Sir Gerald Kaufman, whose vocal criticism of Israeli policy bled into anti-Semitism as well. In 2002, he referred to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as “a war criminal.” In 2004 he wrote an article, “The Case For Sanctions Against Israel,” and compared Israel to an apartheid state. He openly compared Israel to the Nazis in Germany during the 2009 Gaza War. He claimed the British Conservative Party were controlled by “right-wing Jewish millionaires” in 2010. Kaufman was named Father of the House, an honorary title given to the oldest member of parliament. His anti-Semitic views did not hurt him politically.
So when the BBC writes an article about the EHRC investigation, and they write: “The party has been plagued by accusations of anti-Semitism since mid-2016,” they are ignoring years of history. They are only focused on Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-Semitism, which is widely known. This is the whitewashing of history that Americans who oppose anti-Semitism must not allow. In 2019, there have been multiple scandals in the Democratic Party based on anti-Semitic comments and actions. Ilhan Omar’s “Israel has hypnotized the world” tweet from 2002. The Post-It note from Rashida Tlaib’s office of the word “Palestine” replacing Israel on the world map. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaking with Jeremy Corbyn, claiming it was an “honor to share such a lovely and wide-reaching conversation with [Corbyn]”. Twenty-two Democratic senators (including multiple presidential candidates) voting against a Senate bill because it had an anti-BDS component. Nancy Pelosi’s refusal to condemn anti-Semitic remarks time and again. This can and will all be forgotten within a few years if Americans let it.
Americans need the Democratic Party to stand strong against the increasing encroachment of anti-Semitism in its ranks. When Israel becomes a partisan issue, it is a failure to recognize the shared values, the mutually beneficial relationship, and the common interests between the two. When the Jewish people can be lambasted and criticized writ large without consequence, the dehumanization that has occurred throughout history continues apace. Now is the time to cut out this cancer before it infects the entirety of the left in America as it has in England, to the point where formal investigations to the extent of the disease has spread.