November 28, 2019   5 mins

People of any political persuasion must always acknowledge three basic things:

1) That every party will have some policies you don’t like.
2) Every party will also have rogue members, or leaders, who have said nasty things.
3) Usually, if a party has policies you disagree with, you simply don’t vote for them.

For Britain’s Jews and their allies and friends, however, the issue with the Labour Party is none of the above. Some smart people out there don’t see this because they have been hoodwinked by dishonest political hacks, or are simply too tribal to accept that something abnormal is going on with one of our major parties.

But, and I repeat, the problem with Labour is none of the above and Corbyn’s supporters need to stop obfuscating, strawmanning and deflecting. The issue is that the Labour Party stands accused of being institutionally anti-Semitic — and racist.

This is very different from finding individual policies you hate, or representatives who utter bigotry. For a body to be institutionally racist (ironically, a phrase coined by a Labour government inquiry in the Nineties) not every member is necessarily a racist, nor even necessarily is the leader. Intention and individual behaviour aren’t the primary issue, but rather outcomes are also considered. If the totality of this body’s procedures, institutions and structure lead to racist outcomes, then sincerity and individual intent is no defence.

This is why the Labour government’s 1999 McPherson Inquiry (rightly) deemed the Metropolitan police to be “institutionally racist” after the unpunished racist murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence. They were not calling all police officers racist. Nor did it mean that other UK organisations didn’t suffer racism too.

Today, British Jews and their allies are accusing this Labour Party under Corbyn of being “institutionally anti-Semitic”. This means precisely that the party’s mechanisms, procedures and institutions lead to racist outcomes against its Jewish members.

This does not mean that every Labour member is racist. It also does not necessarily imply that even Corbyn is (although he might be). Rather, it points to the failure of Corbyn’s ship, with him as captain, to steer away from anti-Semitism; sincere individual intent is not a condition here.

What British Jews are (correctly) alleging is that the Labour Party discriminates against them, as a party machine, and that the outcomes in that party no longer protect them against racism. This is an institutional failure.

Any instinctive defence, any “Whataboutery” response or or even allegations of hypocrisy — like “why aren’t you doing more to address racism in your own party?” — all entirely miss the nature and seriousness of what is accurately alleged.

British Jews and their allies are not in a state of alarm because Labour has individual racists in it (which is bad enough as it is). No. The Tories, Lib Dem’s, Brexit party others all have bad apples.

The issue very precisely and seriously is that, under Corbyn, Labour seems not only to have ignored the problem, or denied it, but in many cases doubled down on it and — worse still — even blamed the victims for reporting it. In other words: the Labour Party machine has been co-opted by racism.

If one understands the nature and seriousness of the allegations, then one would never reply by saying, by way of example: “but what about Johnson and niqabi Muslim letterboxes?” It was a bad thing to say, but not evidence that the Tory party machine discriminates against Muslim members.

It’s also very important to recognise that criticising ultra-conservative Muslim dress is a political right, because the “choice” to adopt fundamentalist dress is a valid societal choice that must equally be subjected to scrutiny — like any religious conservativism must be.

No. Racism is not the same as criticising my religious choices, or lack thereof. You can (politely) criticise my religion, because it’s an idea, and all ideas must be scrutinised. But one cannot insult another’s race, without being rightly deemed a racist.

Jews are both a people and a religion. European anti-Semitic tropes against Jews concern their supposed habits as a “people”, not their religion. It is indeed racism to suggest that all Jews are secret greedy capitalists, for example, as several party members have been found saying.

On the Israel issue, no serious Jewish voice or organisation has ever said it’s racist to criticise the country. This is a complete strawman. I criticise Netanyahu’s policies regularly and know many Jews and Israelis who do so too.

The issue is about four things.

1) Traditional European antisemitism flooding back into Labour, illustrated by the east London “Freedom for Humanity” mural that Corbyn defended, and which perpetuated ideas about Jewish world domination.

2) Holding Israel’s Jews to a higher standard than the rest of the world.

3) An obsessive focus on Israel for errors that are far worse elsewhere.

4) Supporting or otherwise praising genocidal, Jew-murdering terrorist groups.

There are numerous examples of all four of these, and plenty of evidence to be found.

People like Baroness Warsi totally miss the point. The Tory peer seems to have made a career of late deflecting the anti-Semitism issue in Labour by attacking her own party instead over “Islamophobia” (sic).

Yet Boris Johnson, or any rogue Tory MP or member, can and do say racist or borderline racist things, but does the party with a Muslim-origin Chancellor really discriminate against Muslims institutionally? Does it then double down and deny its racism?

This Muslim believes not, and I have never voted Tory in my life, and will not do so this time either. There are problems in the Conservative Party, yes. I disagree with them, yes. But they are yet to meet the test of being institutionally anti-Muslim.

The comparison of Tory anti-Muslim bigotry would only be appropriate if Boris Johnson had called the Neo-Nazi Christchurch killer his “friend” and had taken money, personally, from a state that funded that killer.

If Johnson, Jo Swinson, or anyone other party leader, let alone individual MPs, had shared a panel in Parliament with members of the now banned terrorist group National Action, almost all of us would be disgusted by now.

Yet Corbyn not only shared platforms with Jew-killing Hezbollah and Hamas terrorists, he not only called them friends, but took anything up to £20,000 from their sponsor, the Holocaust-denying theocratic dictatorship of Iran. Now…imagine you’re Jewish, and then imagine Corbyn in No.10 as PM. Precisely

Until the day that Boris Johnson flirts with actual Muslim-killing terrorists it’s disgusting to draw such analogies, because they are deeply insensitive to our Jewish friends. What’s also disgustingly insensitive is to compare any policy of the Israeli state with a terror group

Truth is, there is only one major political party right now that has had senior former cabinet members resign over this alleged institutional racism. There is only one party that is being investigated by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission over said racism. That party is Labour.

After the Holocaust, we vowed in Europe Never Again — then Bosnia happened. Europe is not immune to repeat offending. We must never be too arrogant to think we are. Brexit or Remain, we do have choices other than Labour. We must not betray our Jewish cousins over a tribal vote

After all this, if we still choose Labour, at least let’s stop pretending we are “progressives”, or that we care about racism and minorities or that we “listen to victims when they tell us we’re hurting them”. It’s all BS.

Just admit that you really don’t give a damn about Jews.

Maajid Nawaz is a columnist, LBC presenter and Founding Chairman of Quilliam.