A major new report has just been published by Fathom. In Contemporary Left Antisemitism and the Crisis in the British Labour Party Professor Alan Johnson explains why the party should now be seen as institutionally antisemitic, asserting that it has failed to:
- Understand contemporary antisemitism.
- Prevent the party becoming host to three different forms of antisemitism.
- Develop ‘appropriate and professional’ processes to deal with antisemitism and safeguard members.
- Eradicate the party’s culture of antisemitism denial and victim-blaming
The report opens with a devastating summary of recent events – the testimony from MPs and other members who have been driven to quit the party, the failure of Labour’s internal processes to deal with the problem, and the grave concerns expressed by Jewish communal bodies.
Johnson provides a really sharp and incisive account of the nature of antisemitism, conspiratorial and shapeshifting, in Part 1 of the report. Key characteristics of contemporary antisemitism – the replacement of the Jew by Israel in its discourse and the ‘Holocaust inversion’ that dubs Israel the ‘new Nazis’ – are clearly defined. He goes on to expose the left’s problem with the ‘two-camp’ world view which promotes alliances with fascists and extremists through a chilling process of moral contortion.
Part Two opens with a very helpful reminder of antisemitism’s historical relationship with the left before turning to the particular problems which beset the Labour Party. Brief case studies of several examples of antisemitic behaviour from Labour members drive the points home. This relentless roll call of shame runs through each section of the report – with examples to fit each category of problem – and this is a particularly useful resource.
Part 3 charts a combination of incompetence, dilatoriness and obfuscation in the Labour Party’s processes for tackling antisemitism – Johnson concludes, alongside many others, that this amounts to institutional antisemitism. Recent reports of interference from Jeremy Corbyn’s office in the complaints process are just one instance of this many-faceted problem. Jennie Formby’s complete failure to engage with the concerns raised about Alex Scott-Samuel is another. But the examples are endless.
The fourth section of the report offers a taxonomy of antisemitism denial – the categories include ‘whataboutery’ the Livingstone Formulation, and the insistence that ‘intent’ must be proved to be present before antisemitism can be identified.
The report concludes with a devastating summary of the problems with Jeremy Corbyn himself. As with every element of this study, there is much that might be picked out but one little detail, which I don’t think I had noticed before, struck me. Corbyn was involved in an attempt to rename Holocaust Memorial Day Genocide Memorial Day – because ‘all lives have value’. This echoes the ‘all lives matter’ response to ‘Black Lives Matter’ – widely seen as problematic even by those who don’t support the precise approach of BLM.
Finally Alan Johnson exhorts the left to work towards a more constructive way of approaching the Israel/Palestine conflict, one which doesn’t reduce it to a Manichean narrative with villains pitted against victims.
This is a really impressive compendium of argument and evidence and will be invaluable for those wishing to find out more about Labour’s problems with antisemitism – and perhaps particularly for those who already have a pretty good understanding but would benefit from a detailed and systematic aide memoire, a ready source of data to draw on when challenging those who claim it’s all a ‘smear’.