Gordon Brown: Labour owes Jewish community an unqualified apology

Former PM also calls for automatic expulsion of antisemites from party

July 8, 2019 16:27
3 minute read.
Gordon Brown announces he will step down by Septem

Gordon Brown to step down 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)


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Former UK prime minister and Labour leader Gordon Brown has called on the Labour Party to “automatically expel antisemites,” and said the party owed the Jewish community an “unqualified apology – but that is only a starting point in rebuilding trust.”

Brown’s comments follow an ongoing antisemitism row in the Labour Party that deepened after top lawyer Gordon Nardell, who was hired by the party in 2018 to help deal with the antisemitism crisis and oversee the response, quit his post.

Brown also called for “a radical overhaul of Britain’s methods of combating racism, including the Labour Party agreeing to a raft of tough new measures to tackle antisemitism.”

During his speech at the 17th annual Isaiah Berlin Lecture in Hampstead, London, on Sunday night, Brown said that “better education is needed in schools and new laws are urgently required, preventing messages of hate across the Internet.”

Brown said that he would also urge the party to rebuild its trust with the Jewish community by creating the role of a newly designated minister and global ambassador to fight antisemitism.

“To the Jewish community, we promised ‘never again,’” he told the audience. “We promised that the crimes of hatred, discrimination and persecution would never recur. We promised we would offer support and protection. But at a time when attacks on Jewish schools have risen 100%, attacks on or near Jewish synagogues 400%, and attacks are carried out on social media thousands of times over, we have not lived up to that promise.”

Brown made clear that antisemitism must be called out by all for what it is: “racism – and in this case, anti-Jewish racism.”

He promised the Jewish community that “whenever prejudice and intolerance arises, I and whomever I can persuade are not going to remain silent or stand aside or desert the Jewish community or neglect it or forget… It is a promise based on our understanding that while your freedom as a Jewish community depends on all of us, the quality of our freedom depends on yours.”

Brown explained that the Labour Party needs “a radical change of policy” that it would implement starting at its September conference, “not just to eliminate antisemitism but to change the culture of our movement.”

The former Labour leader listed several suggestions on how to deal with these issues. “First, automatic expulsion. When an offense is as counter to our core principles as antisemitism, we cannot, in all conscience, be less demanding and less immediate in our response. And we should automatically expel – and not just suspend – in cases where there is irrefutable evidence of antisemitism or any kind of racism.

“Second, independent appeals,” explaining that the right to an appeal will be ensured, but from outside the party, not inside.
“The appeal system has to be independent of the Labour Party’s hierarchy, with members chosen for their standing and integrity among the public – and after consultation with Jewish and other communities.

“Third, racist poison is not restricted to antisemitism. It includes the efforts of Islamophobes who are using social media to condemn the entire Muslim community, demonstrating the still-widespread racism that disfigures more and more of our society.”

In addition, Brown emphasized the need for “a new and broader strategy that begins with better education in our schools, and includes stronger laws against racism in all its forms.”

Brown said that he would also support “an extension of the Holocaust Educational Trust program, which has been... successful in making young people aware that we should never, never forget what happened at Auschwitz and beyond, and that such atrocities should never be allowed to happen again.”

He also suggested that the next Labour government appoint a minister and an ambassador dedicated to “combating antisemitism nationally and globally. We cannot go on ignoring the consequences of the upsurge in hate and hate speech. Opposing antisemitism and every manifestation of racism goes to the heart of who we are and what we stand for as Labour. To fail to act against the abuses we have witnessed runs counter to the very principles of the Labour Party we joined.”

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