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Guardian rejects Jewish group’s criticism of its coverage of ‘Labour anti-Semitism’  

March 18, 2019 at 2:41 pm

The leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn in London, UK on 15 March 2019 [Tayfun Salcı/Anadolu Agency]

The Guardian newspaper has refused to publish a letter by a Jewish women’s group challenging the allegations of anti-Semitism within the Labour Party. The signatories of the letter revealed that they “grew up in the shadow of the Holocaust” and said that they were “baffled, hurt and infuriated” by the newspaper’s “standard failure” to check or challenge the allegations made by critics of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

One of those who signed is Julia Bard, who is active in the Jewish Socialists’ Group. She told the Morning Star that over 200 Jewish women had signed a letter complaining about an article by Dame Margaret Hodge MP on anti-Semitism in Labour’s branches. “Mostly, the article was old stuff rehashed,” explained Bard, “and it was characterised by the standard failure to check Hodge’s allegations.” The Morning Star published the text of the letter on 15 March.

The letter complained that while Hodge asserts that anti-Semitism has been “given permission to come into the mainstream and, like a cancer, is infecting and growing throughout the party,” she “provides no evidence of such horrific wrongdoing by Corbyn.”

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In rejecting the letter, the Guardian said that the issues addressed by the group of Jewish women had “already been aired before.” However, Bard told the Morning Star that, “Those of us who signed this letter are ordinary Jewish women and our diverse voices are being drowned out by the cacophony coming from people like Margaret Hodge.

“The Guardian and other media repeatedly hand them a microphone to broadcast a narrative distorted by their own political agenda, allowing them to make unfounded allegations and claims over and over again. This is what has ‘already been aired before’ and responses have repeatedly been stifled.”

The text of the letter submitted to the Guardian on 10 March is as follows:

We, all Jewish women, are baffled, hurt and infuriated by your unquestioning coverage of Margaret Hodge’s campaign against Jeremy Corbyn (“Just Close them down: Margaret Hodge on antisemitism in Labour’s branches”, 9 March). Hodge extends her allegations that Corbyn is an ‘”anti-Semite and racist” under whom anti-Semitism “has been given permission to come into the mainstream and, like a cancer, is infecting and growing through the Party”.

Hodge provides no evidence of such horrific wrongdoing by Corbyn, nor by “mainstream” Labour members. Her own submissions to the Labour Party certainly don’t do the job: General Secretary, Jennie Formby reported that Hodge’s 200 complaints concerned 111 individuals, of whom only 20 were actually Party members.

Hodge’s demand that the Labour Party close down entire branches for supporting Chris Williamson MP, or for rejecting the IHRA anti-Semitism document, also passes unexamined.

Yet Williamson presents a legitimate critique; Labour’s response to anti-Semitism accusations has been unnecessarily defensive, he said, not that it has been “too apologetic about anti-Semitism” itself. Meanwhile, no mention that the IHRA document has been shredded by two QCs, plus Jewish human rights specialist, Sir Geoffrey Bindman and Jewish retired Lord Justice of Appeal, Sir Stephen Sedley.

All signatories to this letter grew up in the shadow of the Holocaust. We know we must maintain eternal vigilance against anti-Semitic resurgence. But we also celebrate our Jewishness, especially the disputatiousness (pace our aphorism: two Jews three opinions) central to Jewish identity. We are terrified by Margaret Hodge’s attempt to hijack our history and rewrite our identity and by unwillingness to investigate, fact check and challenge her allegations.”

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