23rd February 2020
Pro-Palestine but against antisemitism – perfectly compatible
Voting for the Labour Party leadership will get underway this week, with the top job now narrowed down to three candidates; Kier Starmer, Lisa Nandy and Rebecca Long Bailey. To some extent all three are compromised, by supporting the Ten Pledges to End the Antisemitism Crisis diktat, by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, which seeks to impose external controls on how the Labour Party addresses allegations of antisemitism, stating that,
“An independent provider should be used to process all complaints, to eradicate any risk of partisanship and factionalism.”
The pledges include handing responsibility for training on antisemitism to one group in the Jewish community, the Jewish Labour Movement, and for Labour to,
“…engage with the Jewish community via its main representative groups, and not through fringe organisations and individuals.”
This latter being code for the Board of Deputies or groups it approves as being ‘representative.’
This presumably excludes Jewish Voice for Labour, for example, which has supported a rejection of the Ten Pledges by the leadership candidates.
Even Rebecca Long Bailey, the most progressive of the leadership candidates, has fallen victim to the antisemitism smear campaign, suggesting in Jewish News that,
“Unfortunately, some people who regard themselves as anti-racist may nevertheless, when talking about the legacy of colonialism or the distribution of power within our capitalist society, use some of the negative stereotypical ideas or images that have become embedded within our culture over time.”
Long Bailey could have more usefully made the point that conflating criticism of the Israeli government’s failure to respect UN resolutions and international law with antisemitism, is the most dangerous of the “negative stereotypical ideas or images” being systematically embedded within our culture.
In the Deputy Leadership race only Richard Burgon and Dawn Butler have not agreed to the demands of the Ten Pledges, a position which has brought on predictable vitriol from the Board of Deputies and its mouthpiece the Jewish Chronicle, which quoted Board president Marie van der Zyl saying it “beggars belief” that Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon and Shadow Equalities Minister Dawn Butler had withheld their endorsement.
Butler, in a statement as to why she would not sign the Ten Pledges made clear,
“If I thought that signing these 10 pledges would help solve the problem, I would do it. It would no doubt be the easy thing for me to do and I know the attention not doing so will bring. I endure racism on a daily basis. I know what it feels like. I have dedicated my career and life to doing just that, including in my current role as Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities.
That’s how I know that the easy route is not always the best route and I must do what I think is best. I fear that signing the pledges without further discussion will result in no positive change and I fear it will just be a token gesture.”
Her full statement is here:-
The Ten Pledges from the Board of Deputies has received far greater profile that the Ten Key Pledges to Support Muslim Communities, released by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) during the General Election campaign, and to which all leadership candidates have also signed up.
More information is here:-
It is interesting to note pledge 10 on the subject of Ethical Foreign Policy which states,
“Support a binding recognition of Palestine as an independent and sovereign state, and address human rights abuses abroad, including in Kashmir, Xinjiang and Myanmar.”
The Board of Deputies will no doubt have a view on the Palestinian question. It will be interesting to see how much time the successful candidate devotes to this MCB pledge, compared to those in the Board of Deputies set of pledges. There can be little doubt which will receive the most scrutiny from the media and which organisation has the strongest lobby, both inside and outside of the Labour Party.
One thing is certain, real leadership will come from the candidate who is not only vociferous in their condemnation of antisemitism but who calls out racism in any form. That will mean being prepared to make the case for the rights of Palestinians, in accordance with international law, however strong the pressure may be not to do so.