8 steps Labour needs to take to tackle antisemitism in its ranks

First published on the Mirror

Labour has a problem with antisemitism within its ranks, says Progress chief Richard Angell. Here’s what he thinks the party should do about it

Labour
has a problem with antisemitism within its ranks. That much at least is clear.

The condemnation is becoming stronger, the action is however still lacking.

What is to be done about it sends people in all kinds of directions.

Here is an eight point plan of what can be done to make a dent in the problem and change the culture in and around Labour and the left more generally.

1. Training for the NEC in modern antisemitism and unconscious bias

All National Executive Committee (NEC) members are properly trained on modern antisemitism by the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) or its nominee, and in unconscious bias training by leading experts in the field. It seems members of the disputes panel need this as a matter of urgency. Similar training should be rolled out in the professional and voluntary wings of the party and trade union movement.

2. A vice chair of the NEC equalities committee for the Jewish community

The NEC should invite JLM to sit on the NEC equalities subcommittee alongside BAME Labour, LGBT Labour and the like. That committee has a vice-chair covering all the other equality strands. This has been insufficient to date on these issues, so it should add to its number a vice-chair for the Jewish community.

3. New capacity of the compliance unit

A serious review of the capacity of the compliance unit should be undertaken and extra resources should be forthcoming. Immediate and additional staff – beyond those recently advertised – should be recruited. The party continues to attract brilliant staff and this is equally true in the compliance area, but they cannot be expected to work every hour the almighty sends to keep on top of this workload.

4. Time to clarify the rules

By the time of Labour party conference a rule change should be ready making clear that all racism is dealt with equally and that serious sanctions should be in place for those considered to have been part of Jew hate and other forms of hatred.

5. Third party reporting or an independent ombudsperson

It is time the Labour party commissions a trusted organisation to be a third party reporting mechanism, or go one better and consider an independent ombudsperson – a Queen’s counsel or the like that stands separate from the party – to consider complaints.

6. Self organised groups for Jewish youth and student members

I personally hope that Jan Royall’s review gets to the nub of the issue at Oxford and in our movement. I would not be surprised – and I have no knowledge or inside track on this – if the former leader of the Labour group in the House of Lords recommends self-organised caucuses and groups for Jewish members in Labour Students and Young Labour in order to help recreate the safe spaces needed.

7. A modern understanding of antisemitism

Moreover, I hope her review is an opportunity for the leadership and the party corporately to understand antisemitism not as a political judgement, but how Jews experience antisemitism. We after all have a duty of care to our Jewish members. They have the same right to be involved in events and campaigns, to stand as our candidates and decide policy as every other member. On most issues my Jewish friends joke about ‘two Jews, three opinions’.

This is the same on Middle East policy too and this should not be forgotten. However, there are ways that the debate can be become poisonous and offensive. The way the word ‘Zionist’ is spat by some on the left is a case in point.

There are intellectual critiques of Zionism, and many of them should be considered and openly debated, but the fact that ‘Zio’ is a form of abuse the way ‘gay’ was shouted at me in the school playground by homophobes should worry the most ardent supporter of Palestine, of which I include myself by the way.

On closing the comments section of an article on antisemitism over at Left Futures, its editor Jon Lansman remarked ‘it is not acceptable to use the term “Zionism” as a term of abuse’. I agree.

8. Join the Labour Jewish Movement

If you are not part of the party’s leadership but want to see a better response on antisemitism, do one thing now: join JLM – affiliated to Labour since 1920 – as an associate member at http://www.jlm.org.uk/join . It needs your solidarity more than ever.

Labour needs to act fast otherwise it will find the Jewish community have given up on the party, the way many people feel it is has given up on them.

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