British Labour Party Crackup: A Warning of Things to Come

Corbyn wreath
Palestinian Embassy in Tunisia Facebook

Britain's Labour Party has undergone a kind of gravitational collapse. Its fringes have fallen into its center, forming a black hole that is a maelstrom of anti-Semitism. Hard to imagine that only a decade ago it was the most mainstream of parties. Its leader Tony Blair preached a mixture of social justice and free markets. The speed with which Labour has fallen to extremists should serve as a wake-up call.

For Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, it's been the summer of discontent. He struggles with a series of embarrassments—all self-inflicted—the most recent of which is the disclosure that he spoke at the wedding of Palestinian Authority adviser Husam Zomlot in 2010. (Zomlot is often accused of denying the Holocaust. Whether or not he did, he's made so many obnoxious, ahistorical remarks typical of PA members that it hardly matters.)

The Zomlot wedding discovery, which hit the papers on August 12, followed the more damaging revelation the day before that Corbyn had taken part in a 2014 ceremony in Tunis honoring Arab terrorists. Corbyn can be seen holding a wreath at a cemetery monument which includes the names of those who perpetrated the 1972 Munich Massacre. Pathetically, Corbyn confederates attempted to defend his participation by claiming he was there to commemorate 47 PLO members killed in a 1985 Israeli air strike, which is bad enough. (It emerged that their monument was in a different part of the cemetery.)

This cemetery fiasco followed yet another leak of a 2013 video showing Corbyn comparing Israeli rule in the territories to the Nazi occupation of Europe. The combination seems to have been too much for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who condemned Corbyn in an August 13 tweet.

The cascading waterfall of bad press began on July 17 when Labour's ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) approved a watered-down version of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's definition of anti-Semitism. The NEC left out four points found in the widely accepted IHRC definition.

  • Accusing Jews of being more loyal to Israel than their own nations.
  • Claiming that the State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
  • Applying double standards to Israel not expected of any other democratic nation.
  • Comparing Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.

This was the last straw for Jewish Labour MP Margaret Hodge who on the day of the decision swore at Corbyn calling him an "anti-Semite and a racist." Tellingly, the Labour Party opened an investigation into Hodge, who was informed only on August 6 that no action would be taken against her. (Labour MP Ian Austin, who had also protested the new anti-Semitism code, remains under investigation.)

Hodge reflected the feelings of UK Jewry. On July 25, three Jewish newspapers made headlines themselves by running the identical cover page editorial warning about Corbyn's "existential" threat to British Jewry. This was after efforts to improve the situation hit a blank wall. In late April the Board of Deputies of British Jewry and the Jewish Leadership Council had met with Corbyn for two hours without getting him to agree to a single one of the concrete actions to combat anti-Semitism in Labour they had advanced. After the unprecedented consensus editorial, Corbyn attempted damage control by releasing a video in which he admitted that "there is a real problem of antisemitism that Labour is working to overcome." This was surreal coming from Corbyn—a man who reportedly expelled a Holocaust survivor from a 2010 Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony for objecting to his comparison of Israel to Nazi Germany.

Corbyn is only the tip of the iceberg. Corbyn's official Facebook post acknowledging his party's anti-Semitism problem was immediately proven correct by the stream of anti-Semitic comments below it. "Calling the Rothschild and other Jewish illuminati for what they are is not antisemitism," one wrote. Currently, some 75 Labour members are being investigated for anti-Jewish conduct. Over 200 cases of anti-Semitic behavior have yet to be investigated. Unsurprisingly, the NEC is dragging its feet. Only 11 cases have been concluded.

What Labour support there is for Israel seems to have little influence. The Labour Friends of Israel caucus condemned the NEC's revisionist definition of anti-Semitism to little effect. Jewish Labour Party councilors are made to feel unwelcome. In March, two former councilors, Joe Goldberg and Natan Doron from North London, quit because of the Jew hatred in their district. "Many members have repeated to me assertions about Jews having big noses, controlling the media, and being wealthy," Goldberg said. Doron said he was told how Israel was a Nazi state.

Warning for America

The Labour Party proves that even middle-of-the-road parties can go rogue. Can the same thing happen here? Sadly, there are disturbing trends within the Democratic Party. Hillary Clinton's leaked campaign emails showed how she wanted to play down talk of Israel during large rallies, an acknowledgment of anti-Israel attitudes among the crowds. At a townhall in 2014, Bernie Sanders' milquetoast remark about how Gazans used some of the construction materials Israel sent them to build terror tunnels was met with outrage. Queens County primary winner Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is only the most prominent of a number of Democratic up-and-comers who openly criticize Israel.

A Pew Research Center survey conducted in mid-January found that the percentage of Democrats who sympathize more with Israel than the Palestinians dropped from 38 percent in 2001 to 27 percent in 2018. Among those who identify as "liberal" Democrats the number is still more dramatic—from 48 percent in 2001 to 19 percent in 2018.

These are worrying numbers. Anti-Israelism is more than a gateway drug to anti-Semitism. It is the new anti-Semitism. American Jewish leaders who should be warning of the danger are focused on far right-wing anti-Semitism, far less dangerous today, while the more popular, virulent kind spreads directly under their noses and in the party to which nearly all of them belong.