Luciana Berger, who is Jewish and has been the MP in Britain’s Parliament for Liverpool Wavertree since 2010, resigned from the Labour Party this week, together with seven other MPs. She said that, “a catalogue of terrible incidents brought shame to the Labour Party,” and that she left her political home of 20 years because she saw no hope the situation could be remedied.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post on Thursday, Berger said that the antisemitism that has taken root in a significant section of the Labour Party was “shocking,” and that the increase in antisemitic incidents and attacks across Europe was of increasing concern.
Berger resigned from the party on Monday due to the severe antisemitism that has gripped significant numbers of members in the party, as well as Labour’s failure to put forward a coherent policy regarding the UK’s departure from the European Union.
And the harassment she has been subjected to even in the short amount of time since that decision demonstrates the magnitude of the antisemitism problem afflicting the hard Left in the UK, harassment which the MP highlighted in a speech in Parliament on Wednesday.
“Shame on Luciana Berger a Zionist B**** I hate her her baby her Isreal, [sic]” wrote 75-year-old Christine Abram on Twitter, who has more than 2,000 followers.
Her Twitter handle reads “Christine Abram #JC4PM2019,” where JC4PM means Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn for prime minister.
Other Twitter users accused Berger of being a “fifth columnist,” with one saying that she should be criminally charged “with acting for a foreign power,” while others have alleged that the Independent Group set up by the departing Labour MPs is being funded by Jewish financier George Soros, playing into the classic antisemitic trope of Jewish global power.
“It’s all very shocking and unacceptable – and that’s why we have to call it out at every available opportunity, and challenge it and do something about it,” Berger said. “We wouldn’t accept it in the UK for any other type of discrimination or racism, so we should call it out when it comes to antisemitism.”
The Labour Party and its leadership have proven to be extremely reluctant to punish antisemites in its midst; have dragged out disciplinary procedures against members charged with antisemitism; and have refused to acknowledge how the intense antipathy for Israel in the party and on the hard Left has morphed into classic Jew hatred.
Berger says that she has heard “lots of warm words” about tackling antisemitism, noting that Corbyn himself has talked of a “zero-tolerance attitude” to it, but that little has actually changed.
“There’s clearly a gulf between the warm words and the promises, and what has actually happened every step of the way – and regrettably, there is a catalogue of terrible incidents which in my view bring shame to the Labour Party,” she said.
The MP said that ultimately, she left the party because she had done everything she thought possible to challenge the rising antisemitism in Labour, including speaking about it and bringing forward motions to deal with it within the party, as well as challenging it in public, but all of that did not have the desired effect.
“I left because I thought I’d done everything I could to challenge it from within – and that despite my best efforts... I was seeing things getting worse, not better,” Berger said.
She said that the decision to leave the Labour Party, of which she had been a member for the last two decades and with whom she was elected three times to parliament, had been “very difficult and painful,” but that eventually “enough was enough.”
Asked about dealing with rising antisemitism in the UK, which witnessed a 16% jump in antisemitic incidents in 2018 and the highest tally of such incidents on record, she said that the phenomenon was a problem throughout Europe, pointing to recent antisemitic attacks in France as an example.
Berger said that there was a lack of understanding about modern antisemitism and that people “understand well how antisemitism manifested itself in the last century in the 1930s and 1940s,” but not how it has mutated in the 21st century.
“That understanding hasn’t developed and evolved to catch up with new ways that antisemitism is presenting itself,” she said, a reference to the way in which extreme hostility to the State of Israel has evolved into a new strain of antisemitism.
Berger said that debate regarding the Israel-Palestinian conflict in the UK is seriously flawed, and that many people have taken a “binary, black and white” stance on the complex nature of the conflict.
“We see a standard applied when discussing Israel-Palestine which isn’t applied to other countries, in that there is only one prism [through which the conflict is seen], and it is only seen on behalf of one people rather than on behalf of both peoples. That is irresponsible at best and reprehensible at worst,” she said.
Berger also noted the “plurality and range of opinion in Israel itself” on the conflict with the Palestinians which is lost due to the “very narrow debate in our country,” on the issue, noting that she herself has been “a critic of [Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies, but equally a firm supporter of the State of Israel, the right of Israel to exist and of the Israeli people.”
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