Tony Blair: How is antisemitism in Labour Party tolerated?

Tony Blair, former UK Prime Minister, questioned whether this sort of antisemitism in the Labour Party would have been conceivable during his leadership.

February 11, 2019 06:47
2 minute read.
Britain's former Prime Minister Tony Blair attends an event at Thomson Reuters in London, 2018.

Britain's former Prime Minister Tony Blair attends an event at Thomson Reuters in London, Britain, October 11, 2018.. (photo credit: REUTERS/SIMON DAWSON)


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Former UK Prime Minister and Labour Party Leader Tony Blair criticized the party for its heavy use of antisemitic rhetoric in a Sky News interview on Sunday, asking, "How can we say it's tolerable to have a certain level of antisemitism?"

After being asked by the interviewer about the heavy criticism of antisemitism in the party, Blair responded that they "should eradicate antisemitism for the Labour Party."

"We're supposed to be a progressive political party," Blair explained. "Yes, there are parts of the left, not the whole of the left, that have a problem with antisemitism, and you see this in their attitudes to the State of Israel."

Blair was referring to the current Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has on numerous occasions spoken and acted in an antisemitic manner: Laying a wreath for one of the 1972 Munich Olympics terrorists, claiming the EU only supports Israel because of the Holocaust, repeatedly supporting and later denying support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, to name a few.

Blair clarified that people may criticize Israel how they like. However, "their continual focusing on Israel all the time, over a long period... you're left with the feeling that they're in a sense targeting it because it is a Jewish state."

The former prime minister went on to bring up the case of Luciana Berger, a Labour MP around which an ongoing investigation is taking place over her alleged bullying, possibly tied to her Jewish heritage.

Liverpool Wavertree, the branch of the Labour Party accused of the bullying of Berger for having discussed a no-confidence motion against her, rejected claims of antisemitism.

Berger has been a longstanding critic of the party's take on antisemitism, as well as Brexit.

"The fact that someone like Luciana Berger, who's a smart, capable, active member of parliament should be subject to a no-confidence motion with this type of allegation swirling around is shameful for the Labour Party," Blair commented on the ordeal. "Can you imagine when I was leader of the Labour Party, having a conversation with me about whether antisemitism is in the Labour Party or not? We wouldn't even have that conversation."

"There is, I'm afraid, a kind of... alliance between the kind of Islamist politics and the left, and you don't just see this in the UK, you can see it across Europe," said Blair. "And yes, it gives rise to antisemitism."

Blair clarified that it is not a case of "your traditional antisemitism of the right-wing nature of not wanting Jewish people in golf clubs and that type of thing, but it's every bit as malicious."

The interview ended with Blair trailing off, saying, "To have a situation where you have Labour MPs worried because they happen to be Jewish..."

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