Anti-Semitism in Britain is Finally Recognized as Serious

Anti-Semitism in Britain is Finally Recognized as Serious


Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

The premiere and longest running news program, comparable to 60 Minutes, is BBC Panorama. On Wednesday evening it aired an hour show entitled Is Labour Anti-Semitic? In a truly remarkable investigation, Panorama pulled few punches as it described the growth and the depth of anti-Semitism that has virtually taken over the British Labour Party since 2015, when Jeremy Corbyn became the party leader. (As an aside it should be noted that this program was broadcast on the BBC which has been criticized and attacked for many years for positions which showed serious anti-Israel and anti-Semitic bias in its reporting.)

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The program involved interviews with numerous current and former Labor MP’s as well as Labour Party staffers. Many of the Jewish party workers gave explicit and detailed reports of the blatant prejudice and bigotry exhibited by Corbyn and other members of the Labour Party leadership. It depicted, as well, the gross cover-up perpetrated by the Labour Party as it conducted farcical investigations and studies of the problem of anti-Semitism in the Party.

Much of what was reported—aside from the specific very compelling personal interviews—was known but frequently denied. The Jewish leadership had clamored for several years for more aggressive reporting about the activities of Corbyn and the party leadership. Jewish leaders from communal to defense groups all banded together to present a united picture of the seriousness of this problem. While the BBC was remarkably candid in its presentation, the major question was whether this powerful program will change anything in Britain.

British politics is currently in state of turmoil. The country is watching the Conservative Party pick its next leader within weeks. The leading candidate, Boris Johnson, immediately will have to address the Brexit fight, with the clear possibility that Parliament may not support his desired exit of Britain from the EU by the end of October.

Corbyn, meanwhile, has been in trouble within his own party unrelated to the anti-Semitism issue, so that many believe he will be unable to maintain the leadership of the Labour Party; not to suggest that many of the other Labour leaders are much more sympathetic to British Jewry.  Removal of Corbyn from the leadership of the Labour Party will begin to assuage some of the concerns in the Jewish community, but the rest of the leaders as well as many of the rank and file have not been very critical of the anti-Semitism that pervades the Labour Party.

The prospect of a new election also looms in the near future, but the issue of anti-Semitism is unlikely to emerge as a serious campaign question; given the fact that there are fewer than 300,000 (.05%) Jews in Great Britain. What is important is that the television program highlighted an issue that many public figures preferred to ignore or to which they were indifferent. The Parliament will now have to answer to a public television program which was widely seen, which may encourage some MP’s to create a more organized effort to control future anti-Semitic incidents and demonstrations. This program might also encourage a more intensified effort by public figures as well as journalists throughout Europe to pay closer attention to the growth of anti-Semitism in their own countries.

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