Labour’s antisemitism shame: the fallout of the EHRC report

On Thursday the Equality and Human Rights Commission released their long-awaited report on antisemitism in the Labour Party. The party was found to have broken the law, with those in power actively interfering in the process of dealing with complaints, the result being the institutionalisation of anti-Jewish racism. If Labour are prepared to act on this report, they may now be in a position to make a concerted effort to repair the damage caused to relations with the Jewish community.

The report sets out in forensic detail the failure to deal appropriately with the internal crisis, concluding that the consequences “appeared to be a result of a lack of willingness to tackle antisemitism rather than an inability to do so”. It is therefore unsurprising that despite the findings, the attitude of Jeremy Corbyn, the man in charge of the party during the period in question, appears unchanged.

On Thursday morning he refused to accept the report, whilst conceding that the recommendations will be implemented. He spoke of opponents inside and outside the party, as well as in the media, who have ‘dramatically overstated’ the scale of the problem ‘for political reasons’. This revelation is a shocking one, as it shows no deviation from the message he promoted whilst leader, and therefore a lack of understanding about the contents of the report.

A few hours later Corbyn was suspended from the Labour Party.

The key legal finding of the EHRC is that “suggesting that complaints of antisemitism are fake or smears” amounts to antisemitism in itself, and in some cases has been a form of unlawful harassment. Therefore, the correct form of action was indeed to suspend the man who oversaw these violations, and who now refuses to accept the harm caused. The Labour Party should not belong to those who cannot see that there have been serious failings on this issue. There should be no place for those who perpetuate the narrative of a Jewish community who have “dramatically overstated”  the crisis they have faced. This gaslighting has to end.

The next step must be to challenge the position of those at the top of the Labour Party who turned a blind eye to the events of the last few years. Shami Chakrabarti chaired an inquiry which found that there was no endemic antisemitism in the party. She was subsequently awarded a peerage. Her findings and her promotion were questioned by many at the time, but in light of the report, it is now questionable whether she can maintain her position in the House of Lords. It is paramount that she is held to account and made to answer for her actions.

Keir Starmer has said that the party he leads accepts this report, implying that he believes those who do not agree with it contradict the tenets of the Labour. He was right to welcome the findings and to criticise those denouncing them. However, it it too early to tell whether his words will be enough to reassure the Jewish community and all those horrified by Thursday’s report. After all, it was Starmer who supported Jeremy Corbyn in his Shadow Cabinet during this period; it was Starmer who didn’t stand down when his party faced investigation; it was Starmer who was complicit in the original crime. This, along with the findings of the report, cannot be forgotten.

The EHRC findings speak for themselves. The words of Corbyn speak for themselves. The words of all his defenders speak for themselves. Now we must trust that this sordid chapter in the Labour Party’s history can be put aside, but not forgotten, and note the feeling of deja vu when we say that antisemitism on this level must never happen again.

Emily Bell

Image source: Pixlebay