MEMBERS OF the Labour party in the House of Commons.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Socialist International (SI) is the worldwide organization of social democratic, socialist and labor parties. It currently brings together 147 political parties and organizations from all continents. Twenty eight member parties are in government. The UK Labour Party is an observer. SI’s main message is that it is in favor of progressive politics for a fairer world.
For more than three years much information about antisemitism in Labour has been published worldwide. The party is led by Jeremy Corbyn, who has empathy for terrorists, having called genocidal murderers his “brothers” and “friends.” The organization’s leaders and officials would have no credibility if they claim ignorance about the widespread antisemitism in Labour. The more so as the SI offices are in London.
Alan Johnson is a former university professor of democratic theory and practice, who is himself a member of Labour. He recently published a 135-page report that concludes the Labour Party is institutionally antisemitic. Its title indicates this: “Institutionally Antisemitic Contemporary Left Antisemitism and the Crisis in the British Labour Party.”
Johnson’s main arguments about why antisemitism in Labour is institutional are damning for the party. The many cases he mentions to substantiate his claims include examples of the Labour Party failing to safeguard its Jewish members. It also fails to understand and empathize with the Jewish experience. Labour does not effectively deal with antisemitism, but rather makes overly tolerant decisions in regard to individual cases. The party also fails to educate members about antisemitism. In addition, Johnson states that Labour has not ended the party’s culture of antisemitism-denial and victim-blaming.
The Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), which has been affiliated for many years with Labour, this month passed a motion of no confidence in party leader Corbyn over his handling of antisemitism complaints. The former British prime minister on behalf of Labour, Gordon Brown, who is not Jewish, has joined the JLM as an affiliate member, out of protest against the antisemitism within his own party.
Already earlier, the JLM referred the Labour Party to Britain’s Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), a public body. The EHRC published that Labour may have “unlawfully discriminated against people because of their ethnicity and religious beliefs.” It still has to decide about a full-fledged investigation. Since then, additional information has become available about the inaction of the Labour leadership to deal with hundreds of complaints about antisemitism.
SI HAS an ethical charter. This includes a total commitment to the values of equality and solidarity. SI members solemnly undertake to respect, defend and promote these values in the spirit of the fundamental declarations and campaigns of the SI. It would be absurd for the organization’s leadership to claim that Labour’s frequent disregard of extreme antisemitic remarks made by various elected officials fits SI values.
In its ethical charter, SI also says that it respects the defense of pluralistic democracy which inter alia implies the respect of the rights of minorities and individuals. In Labour Party meetings, some Jewish MPs had to appear accompanied by a bodyguard. This was extensively reported in the media. Such protection was necessary in view of the thousands of hate mails they received. If the presidium of SI considers that respect of the rights of individuals in the Labour Party includes allowing such a reality, which requires bodyguards for some MPs at meetings, the SI should explicitly say so.
The Labour Party hasn’t addressed extreme verbal attacks on Jewish individuals. This is contrary to another section of SI’s ethical charter that says under all circumstances the respect of human dignity should be guaranteed. Also stated in SI’s ethical charter is the fight against all forms of discrimination, including on the basis of ethnic origin or religion. In addition, the charter says the members of SI will fight against racist trends.
The SI ethics committee is in charge of monitoring the code of conduct by all its member parties. It is empowered to formulate recommendations or even proposals of sanctions to the leading organs of Socialist International. It is reasonable to assume that there is no discount on SI ethics for parties which are not members but only observers of it, such as Labour.
The current president of SI since 2006 is former Greek prime minister George Papandreou. He is a former leader of the Greek Socialist Party, Pasok. This party carries major responsibility for the financial disaster of the country. Its influence has greatly declined due to that. Nowadays, its small faction is in opposition and consists of 19 out of the 300 Greek parliamentarians.
Papandreou is not suspected of antisemitism. Yet in his party there have been extreme cases of it. His father, Andreas Papandreou, when he was prime minister and leader of Pasok, accused Israel of Nazi practices.
SI has two Israeli members: the Labour Party and Meretz. The outgoing Labour leader, Avi Gabbay, has cut ties with Corbyn and his office over Labour’s handling of antisemitism. It would be becoming for the Israeli members to ask for an investigation of the UK Labour Party by SI. In the meantime, the observer status of Labour should be suspended.The writer is emeritus Chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He was given the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Journal for the Study of Antisemitism, and the International Leadership Award by the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
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