John Harris

Journalist & Author

The unanswered question: why do antisemites think Labour is the party for them? | John Harris

The left used to side with the victims of bigotry. Now it’s denying and doubting them

I had a conversation last week with a Jewish woman from a family of Holocaust survivors, and people murdered by the Nazis. She has been a Labour party member for nearly 40 years. “It feels like being in an abusive relationship,” she said. A year ago she made an official complaint to the party about what she has experienced, but aside from an acknowledgment, she has heard nothing. During debates in her constituency general committee about issues of antisemitism, she has been jeered – by as many as 30 people – for trying to point out the gravity of the issue. At one party event about hate speech, she was prevented from speaking. Some of her supposed comrades have said that claims of antisemitism have been invented to undermine Jeremy Corbyn; she knows of at least one suggestion that such accusations are the work of Israel.

She told me that the people responsible seem to fall into two broad groups: a belligerent and relentless hard core including a few people who seem to be “attracted to conspiracy theories”, and an element who seem much less zealous, but are “swept up by a kind of tribalism”. “A lot of my Jewish friends have left Labour,” she told me. “I feel that I have to stay and fight. But I’m on the brink.”

Related: How Labour has fought to gain control of the antisemitism issue

Related: Brexit: Labour will whip MPs to back second referendum, says McDonnell

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