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‘A vote for Labour is not a vote for antisemitism’, insist prominent British Jews 

The leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn on 19 June 2017 [Tayfun Salcı/Anadolu Agency]
The leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn on 19 June 2017 [Tayfun Salcı/Anadolu Agency]

Last week’s appeal by a number of British personalities urging UK voters not to vote for Labour due to what they described as “concerns about anti-Semitism”, has been met with a powerful response by prominent members of the Jewish community insisting that “a vote for Labour is not a vote for antisemitism.”

In their letter to the Guardian yesterday, which also published last week’s letter endorsed by non-Jewish media figures, 14 members of the British Jewish community condemned what they believe to be an attempt to exploit anti-Semitism by opponents of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. “As British Jews, we are not prepared to be used as cannon fodder in what is really a political siege of the Labour party,” they said in the letter.

Denouncing the 15 November message to the British public, endorsed by a number of controversial figures, the signatories said that they “were alarmed to read, yet again, a list of evidence-free accusations charging Jeremy Corbyn with antisemitism.”

READ: Jewish Chronicle urges Britons not to vote for Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn

Describing themselves as “British Jews, most of whom have family in Israel and lost family in the Holocaust, and all of us with plenty of experience taking on antisemites face to face across the political spectrum”, the signatories blamed the media for stoking up anti-Semitism with its anti-Corbyn bias.

“We are not the least surprised” that British Jews are frightened about the prospect a Corbyn government, they said, explaining that British Jews “repeatedly read and hear unsubstantiated allegations in pages of newsprint and hours of broadcasting, while the vast amount of countervailing evidence that has been collected by highly reputable researchers, many of them Jewish, is entirely disregarded.”

Endorsed by a dozen or so Jewish professors and academics, the letter described Corbyn as “the first Labour leader in decades to promote a policy agenda that rejects neoliberalism and austerity” and suggested that it was his progressive socialist agenda that made him a target for mainstream media who are afraid of a “counter-narrative”.

They urged the signatories of last week’s letter and their Jewish friends “to check out the alternative voices”.

READ: Israel academics, artists urge against equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism

Amongst the signatories of the anti-Corbyn letter is Ed Husain, formally of the right-wing think tank the Quilliam Foundation. The controversial figure who was a speaker at an event in September marking the legacy of late Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin hosted by Conservative Friends of Israel, organised a tour for British imams that was widely denounced as “soft propaganda” for the Zionist state.

Another signatory of the anti-Corbyn letter is Maajid Nawaz. In a tweet defending his endorsement, Nawaz, also of the Quilliam Foundation, compared the Labour Party under Corbyn with the Nazis. “I signed this letter to the Guardian. During Weimar years, Hitler’s National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nazi) used democracy to win. There was *always* an excuse to betray Jews. It was *never* quite bad *enough* to support them. Why say #NeverAgain?” said Nawaz.

This isn’t the first time members of the Jewish community have been forced into defending Corbyn. Last year, the Guardian newspaper 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 said that they “grew up in the shadow of the Holocaust” and that they were “baffled, hurt and infuriated” by the newspaper’s “standard failure” to check or challenge the allegations made by critics of the Labour leader.

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