Jews throughout history have grown accustomed to hearing the warning signs that take longer for others to hear. And too many Jews today have alarm bells going off in their head about the state of the Labour Party.
This is a piece that I was asked to write for the Daily Mirror. The paper published a much shortened version in the end.
I thought I would publish the full one here:
My grandfather, Jack, served in the Second World War in the Far East. He was captured by the Japanese and held along with hundreds of thousands of others as a Prisoner of War. He was held in the infamous Changi and Kranji prisons in Singapore and used as a slave labourer on the construction of the Burma-Thailand Railway. After the war, he received a BEM for helping tackle an outbreak of cholera amongst other inmates with his limited medical skills.
He was also Jewish. He returned from the war and continued his life, settling with his family in a home in East Finchley, North London and building a successful business. Jack was clearly proud of two things. Being British and being Jewish.
My other grandfather Morris was born in Warsaw in Poland in 1901. He and his family had fled violent European antisemitism and made Britain their home. They were members of the Jewish Tailors and Tailoresses Trade Union of Great Britain — now part of the GMB Union.
I am proud of being a British Jew, and I am also proud to call myself a socialist. I have been a Labour Party member since I was a student in 2006 and for the last four years I have had the great honour of being elected to represent the people of West Hendon as an opposition Labour Councillor on Barnet Council in North West London.
I joined the party because I believe in a more fair and equal society. This belief is in part due to my upbringing in the Jewish community and my Jewish values. The Jewish values of Tikkun Olam [repairing the world] and Tzedek Tirdof [the pursuit of social justice] are central to me.
Since being an active member and later a councillor I have spoken to thousands upon thousands of residents whilst canvassing in Barnet. From more prosperous parts of Barnet to countless hours on the Grahame Park estate in Colindale. I constantly see first-hand how unequal this society is. And it is not good enough.
I know how bad my local Tories are in Barnet. They have made hundreds of families homeless by demolishing council estates through botched regeneration projects — over 3000 children in Barnet were homeless at Christmas, they have outsourced most of the council to failing Capita, they have allowed our children’s services, supporting our most vulnerable to be declared ‘inadequate’ and just this week we have discovered that whilst they are planning a council tax freeze for the wealthiest in the borough, they are planning on raising council tax by £150 to any vulnerable person receiving financial support from the council. They are hopeless nationally and heartless locally.
It remains my duty to fight against this injustice, starting in the place I call home.
The Labour Party I joined over a decade ago has changed and in many ways the change is welcome. Labour now has over half a million members, it has a radical socialist economic programme for government, it has reaffirmed its total and complete commitment to fairness in our economy — all of which I welcome. But alongside this shift there has been a growing and recognisable darkness in the guise of Jew-hatred that has accompanied this renewal. Ideas and views that I knew existed on the hard left of British politics have entered the mainstream zeitgeist. Antisemitic conspiracy theories that Jews or Jewish Zionists control the world, the media, banking and are part of a shadowy elite. That the Israeli government harvest organs of children (a modern day blood libel), that the Jewish Labour Movement — which I help lead — is a wing of the Israeli Mossad.
I and thousands of Jewish Labour supporters and members have begun to feel very uneasy, knowing that there is a serious problem in the way in which Jews are referred to and discussed within the context of the Labour Party and more recently how our complaints have been handled by the party. We have felt even more uneasy about the reactions from many Labour supporters, both verbally and on social media.
Many of my friends and thousands of others loudly said enough is enough just a few weeks ago in Parliament Square.
Labour must conduct an exorcism of this sickness from our party. Antisemitism leads to other prejudice and Labour as one of the two main parties in this country must confront this issue. Our democracy cannot allow for this and all good people must take up this battle to stop its spread.
I have the unfortunate pleasure of having access to the mailbox of the Jewish Labour Movement. Each time I open the inbox I dread what I will find. Daily on our email, Twitter and Facebook channels we are treated to a deluge of antisemitic and offensive messages — and from all sides.
From the antisemites we are accused of duplicitously trying to attack our Leader. We are accused of being stooges of the right wing Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu or the Rothschilds. Supporters of settlement expansion and the dispossession of the Palestinians.
From my own community we are attacked by some too. We are told that we are propping up a party plagued by antisemitism. We are accused of slavishly supporting Jeremy Corbyn who to many Jews is seen as an imminent and direct threat to Jewish life in Britain. Telling us to leave the Labour Party. Join the Tories.
For most of us Jewish Labour Party members who remain in the party (a great many have already left) there are serious and unprecedented worries that for the first time our identity is in conflict; our identity as socialists and our identity as British Jews. I spoke to current and former Jewish Labour voters all of the time as a Councillor on Barnet Council. I am told that they are politically homeless. My response is that myself and others have it worse. We are political prisoners within the Labour Party.
You see, for most of us we have nowhere to go.
But Jews throughout history have grown accustomed to hearing the warning signs that take longer for others to hear. And too many Jews today have alarm bells going off in their head about the state of the Labour Party.
I cannot and will not run away from this fight but it’s devastating that others have come to the understandable decision that they cannot stay. I will keep on fighting with the thousands upon thousands of perfectly sensible allies and friends within the Labour Party at the forefront of this fight, the very same people who have been hugely supportive of myself and other mainstream Jewish Labour Party members. Including all of my colleagues standing for election with me in Barnet.
This is a battle that cannot be lost. Enough really is enough. The battle for a healthier democracy is being waged inside of the Labour Party and we Jewish members alongside our non-Jewish allies need the support of anyone who cares for the wellbeing of our democracy — especially our Leader Jeremy Corbyn.