Leader comment: Two test cases for Labour on anti-semitism

Jeremy Corbyn and Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard have failed to show their are passionately opposed to anti-semitism in the party (Picture: John Devlin)
Jeremy Corbyn and Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard have failed to show their are passionately opposed to anti-semitism in the party (Picture: John Devlin)
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Party’s actions towards Margaret Hodge MP and a suspended Fife councillor will be telling.

In March, after an open letter from two leading Jewish groups claimed Jeremy Corbyn shared “a far-left worldview that is instinctively hostile to mainstream Jewish communities”, The Scotsman suggested the Labour leader needed to demonstrate he was passionate about opposing anti-semitism. Failing to do so would only encourage this evil prejudice within the party.

Corbyn has failed to do so. It is, therefore, hardly surprising that the situation has become considerably worse and has now reached the point at which some Labour supporters are questioning whether they can continue to vote for the party. Dame Margaret Hodge, a well-respected Labour MP, was so dismayed that she confronted Corbyn and, in her own words, “blew my top”, calling him an anti-semite and – allegedly – swearing at him.

She told Corbyn that “for Jewish people to vote Labour was becoming exceedingly tough”, she said later. Hodge is currently facing disciplinary action over the incident.

READ MORE: Leader comment: Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-semitism problem

Another Labour member with questions to answer is Mary Lockhart, a Fife councillor. She was suspended from the party after writing on Facebook that a decision by three of the UK’s main Jewish newspapers to publish the same front page – claiming that a Corbyn government would post an “existential threat to Jewish life” – might be a plot by the Israeli secret service.

“If it is a Mossad assisted campaign to prevent the election of a Labour Government pledged to recognise Palestine as a State, it is unacceptable interference in the democracy of Britain,” she wrote.

Assuming the councillor for Lochgelly, Cardenden and Benarty does not have special knowledge of the actions of foreign spies, this appears to have been entirely made up.

It suggests British journalists working for Jewish newspapers are essentially fifth columnists working against the UK on behalf of another country.

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance gives the following accurate example of anti-semitism: “Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.” Labour’s new code of conduct on the issue adopted the IHRA’s working definition of anti-semitism but did not include this example.

The action taken against Hodge and Lockhart will tell us much about the state of the Labour party.

READ MORE: Rhea Wolfson: I’ve been a victim of anti-semitism, but I trust Corbyn