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Antisemitism: A battle which still isn’t over

The EHRC report has proved what my community and our allies have been saying for years now; Labour is an antisemitic enterprise from the top down, says Nicole Lampert.

Sadly, there isn’t a German word which can sum up the mixture of feelings I’m experiencing now; elation, fury, vindication, sadness, happiness, frustration…

The EHRC report has proved what my community and our allies have been saying for years now; Labour is an antisemitic enterprise from the top down.

It’s nice to be believed. To have an august institution back up what we’ve been saying. Even though it was both ridiculous and unbelievably heart-breaking not to be believed in the first place. But even now the Labour antisemites are out in force. As I write this, one person has just told me: ‘Enjoy the Tories; it is not antisemitic to be against the illegal occupation of the West Bank. You probably agree with the Tory Islamaphobia.’

I’ll add that to the pile of insults which call me a ‘Nazi Zio whore’, ‘apartheid-loving baby-killer’ and which – most chillingly – told me: ‘The Jews deserve what is coming because of people like you.’

Seeing Corbyn finally lose the whip and be suspended by the Labour Party felt like a bittersweet victory. This is a man who has not only presided over five years of the party becoming increasingly antisemitic, but he has also radicalised a new army of antisemites around the country.

People who have probably never met a Jew (there are just 300,000 of us in the country) or thought much about us, suddenly had deep feelings about how Zionists controlled the media, won’t let people say bad things about Israel and only didn’t like Jeremy Corbyn because he was the only politician we couldn’t buy. And people who always harboured dark thoughts about Jews were given free rein as long as they changed the word Jew to Zionist.

They won’t go away.

Keir Starmer has made a good and decisive first move – albeit one Corbyn left him with little choice over. But I’ll also never forget that this was a man who sat in the shadow cabinet with Jeremy Corbyn and barely squeaked a word about antisemitism. Some argue that he has only been able to regain the party from the ‘looney left’ by sitting it out. It may be so. But we needed him to speak out. Instead he sat on the couch on the Andrew Marr show and said he ‘couldn’t accept’ the idea that Jews were right to be worried about antisemitism in Labour.

Corbyn going has to be the start of a sea change. He cannot be the single scalp in a party which has not only allowed antisemitism to go on unpunished but has told the Jewish community who spoke up about it that our fears were smears, that our worries were made up because Jeremy was pro-Palestinian.  

My own journey into realising the left wasn’t the actual anti-racist force I thought it was predates Jeremy Corbyn by a year. There was an anti-Israel rally and there were signs up which said; ‘Hitler was right.’

When Corbyn became leader, I read about some of the things he had said and done but never imagined just how bad things could get. When I stood with around 1,000 other Jews outside Parliament in 2018 saying – pleading – Enough is Enough over the growing antisemitism in the party and the failure to punish Ken Livingstone for equating Zionism with Nazism, I genuinely never imagined things could get worse. But they did.

There is no point telling me that this person, this movement, is anti-racist when it clearly isn’t. If it has a blind spot over antisemitism it should at least have had the empathy to try and learn why so many Jews were so upset.

The British Jewish community isn’t one that generally raises our heads to shout about our own oppression. Almost all of us in this country are the descendants of refugees; we’ve always been grateful for a safe place. The UK is one of the few places in Europe which didn’t see Jews almost entirely wiped out 70 years ago. Every Shabbat in synagogues, we pray for the safety of the royal family and the government; we know that our safety is at their whim.

So, when it came to talking out about antisemitism, we needed non-Jewish allies to help us voice our concerns. These people are true anti-racists who spoke up against antisemitism because it was the right thing to do. I will always be grateful to them, especially as I know many of them in Labour were forced out of their friendship circles, the party and even their jobs for their bravery.

In contrast, thousands of so-called anti-racists in the Labour movement stood by and let it happen. They should genuinely be ashamed.

Many people in this fight have been left severely traumatised by it. For me the ground beneath my feet disappeared; I’ll never feel completely secure again. This was like seeing a cult up close; it was Kafka-esque in the way people would refuse to listen and twist every argument, even as they insisted Jeremy Corbyn was a good man being crucified by Zionist trolls who ran the MSM.

But I have also met many wonderful people along the way. Real life warriors. We fight on together knowing that this is just the start of ridding one of our two main parties from the scourge of antisemitism.

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Nicole Lampert

Nicole Lampert is a freelance journalist. A former showbusiness editor of the Daily Mail, she is also a best selling ghost writer, and now specialises in entertainment and opinion pieces. You can see her work in the Daily Mail, Drama Quarterly, Haaretz, The Spectator, The Independent, The Jewish Chronicle and Glamour.

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