Antisemitism in Modern Society

Part of Exiting the European Union (Agriculture) – in the House of Commons at 6:36 pm on 20th February 2019.

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Photo of Joan Ryan Joan Ryan Independent, Enfield North 6:36 pm, 20th February 2019

It is a great sorrow that we are once again debating the rise of antisemitism. As a Labour party member for 40 years, now a former member, I am sickened and ashamed that we have seen antisemitism rear its ugly head in British society—and at the core of British politics: in Her Majesty’s official Opposition.

Yesterday, I made the terribly painful decision to resign as a member of the Labour party. I could not remain a member of a political party whose leadership allows Jews to be abused with impunity and the victims of such abuse to be ridiculed and have their motives questioned and integrity called into doubt. It is that antisemitism that is found on the left, and the connection between it and anti-Zionism is what I particularly want to address today.

There is nothing antisemitic about criticising the policies and actions of the Israeli Government—millions of Israelis do so every single day—but there is an undeniable link between antisemitism and anti-Zionism: those who deny the Jewish people’s right to self-determination, who attempt to demonise and delegitimise the world’s only Jewish state and who invoke antisemitic conspiracies accuse Jews of dual loyalty and—most offensive of all —compare Israel’s actions to those of the Nazis during the holocaust. To deny the link does a disservice to the victims of antisemitism and prevents us from tackling evil.

Let me be clear: no one can pretend to be an ally to the Jewish people while denying their right, and only their right, to self-determination in their historic homeland. No one can oppose antisemitism if they also oppose the existence of a state that exists to provide the ultimate safe haven for Jews facing antisemitism. No one can declare themselves to be a lifelong anti-racist if they single out for disproportionate criticism, above and beyond that expected for any other democratic nation, the world’s only Jewish state and its citizens and deny the religious significance of Israel to the Jewish people.

Over the past three years, we have seen in the Labour party how quickly hatred of Israel and attacks on Zionists can morph into vile racism against Jews—whether through repellent myths about the Rothschilds or the sewer of holocaust denial. Those in the current Labour leadership opened this door. They have shamed and demeaned a once-great party. They have allowed its bonds with Israel to be severed, its anti-racist credentials to be shredded and Jews to be driven from its ranks. I can no longer fight for the values that brought me into politics—equality, solidarity and against discrimination—from such a party. I respect my former colleagues—and still my friends—in the Labour party who have made it clear that they will carry on that fight from inside the Labour party. It needs to happen inside and out. I hope that what I and other colleagues have had to do will be a real wake-up call.