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18 July 2018updated 09 Sep 2021 3:41pm

The Labour party was my home – but anti-Semitism is forcing me to leave it

As a British Jew, I no longer feel part of what the Labour party represents today. 

By Tal Ofer

Up till yesterday evening, the Labour party has been my home. My parents are lifelong Labour supporters and since I was 16 I was involved with the Labour party as I believe in social justice and equality – principles which also guide our lives as Jews. Seeing Tony Blair elected in 1997 was one of the happiest moments in my life – after so many years in the wilderness, Labour became a party of power and won three successive elections and introduced many things, among them for example the national minimum wage. I worked for a Labour MP in Westminster, I have represented the party twice in local elections, I canvassed dozens of times for party candidates and I have made many friends among our parliamentarians, councillors and activists.

Sadly, I can no longer feel part of what the Labour party represents today. The decision of the National Executive Committee not to adopt the full definition of anti-Semitism as agreed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance was the final straw for me. I do not believe in quitting and I could have resigned my membership quite a few years ago, but I stayed and fought, hoping that the leadership will see sense and listen to the concerns of the Jewish community.

It is symbolic that Labour’s decision to reject the full IHRA definition took place during the nine days when Jews mourn the destruction of the first and second holy temples – just another example of the indifference and ignorance shown to the Jewish community by the Labour party. Labour has been given many chances by the Jewish community but proved time and time again that it wasn’t interested seriously in our concerns. It dodged a decision over Ken Livingstone’s future in the party, despite his track record of making unneccessarily offensive comments towards the Jewish community. It did not clear a backlog of anti-Semitic cases, it produced a report on anti-Semitism that many felt was a whitewash and tried to play “divide and rule” with our community after Passover. The party’s insistence on telling Jews what anti-Semitism means is quite preposterous: it is up to the victim to define what discrimination is. 

Just on Monday night, the parliamentary Labour party approved overwhelmingly a motion calling the party to adopt the full IHRA definition. In my view, this was Labour’s last chance to show that it understand the concerns of the Jewish community.

Labour managed to unite the Jewish community not just with an unprecedented demo in Parliament Square, but also a letter by 68 rabbis from different denominations and an intervention by Chief Rabbi. Well done to Labour party for managing to create consensus among British Jews who usually disagree with each other on almost every possible topic (come  to a Friday night table and hear the debates).

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All signs from the last few years show that Labour has a problem with anti-Semitism, a problem it does not seek to solve. As long as Labour do not deal with anti-Semitism, it is not fit for power and it can’t be a party for the many. As long as this remains the case, I can no longer be a member of the party. My fight against anti-Semitism in Labour party will have to continue from the outside.

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