This past December, Jon Lansman, the founder of Britain’s premier far-left group, Momentum, offered a frank assessment of the anti-Semitism scandals that have plagued the U.K. Labour party. As has been extensively reported, under the leadership of leftist MP Jeremy Corbyn, whom Momentum propelled to power, Labour has been forced to suspend scores of officials for anti-Jewish invective, including a former mayor of London. Some of these bigots claimed Jewish bankers control Britain. Others insisted the Mossad was behind ISIS and the Sandy Hook massacre or falsely labeled Jews the “chief financiers” of the African slave trade. The problem became so acute that 100 of the party’s 229 MPs issued a statement rebuking their own party for failing to confront anti-Semitism. One of Labour’s Jewish MPs famously declared, “a Labour Party under his [Corbyn’s] stewardship cannot be a safe space for British Jews.” Last election, only 13% of British Jews said they would vote for Labour, an identical percentage to the number of Muslims who voted for Donald Trump. And yet, despite all this, Lansman observed, “there is a lot of denial of anti-Semitism” in the party.
Lansman was likely referring to leftist activists on the ground who have attacked the party’s nascent efforts to expunge anti-Semites as a “witch hunt.” But he might as well have been referring to activists on the internet, who have been quietly attempting to erase traces of the party’s Jewish problem from Wikipedia.
Last month, these enterprising editors attempted to delete the entire “Anti-Semitism in the Labour Party” page from the online encyclopedia. The ensuing debate over the prospect can be read here. The initial advocate for deletion called the entry “an attack page” that “lacks notability,” as though an outpouring of prejudice that caused nearly half of the Labour party’s own sitting politicians to denounce it was simply a slander served up by shadowy (presumably Jewish) smear artists. Other similarly inclined editors asserted that there should be no “Anti-Semitism in the Labour Party” page given that there was no parallel “Anti-Semitism in the Conservative Party” page, as though the solution to incomplete documentation of hate is to suppress that which has already been documented.
To be sure, like many Wikipedia pages, this one could surely have used more citations, research, and polish. But that was clearly not what its critics had in mind. They did not want to remedy the page’s deficiencies, but to eliminate it entirely. Ultimately, the facts of the case won out, and no consensus was reached to delete the page. It remained published but in limbo.
Having failed to remove the evidence of Labour’s anti-Semitism outright, the activist editors moved instead to obfuscate it. A proposal was put forward to rename the page “Labour party (UK) antisemitism allegations,” thus casting doubt on the existence of this well-documented prejudice in the party. This effort, too, failed to achieve consensus after a lengthy debate. As of this writing, the “Anti-Semitism in the Labour party” page remains, though it will undoubtedly be assailed again by those who’d rather suppress awareness of prejudice in Corbyn’s Labour party than confront it.
Indeed, tellingly, the word “anti-Semitism” does not appear on Jeremy Corbyn’s own extensive Wikipedia page, despite the fact that it has been a defining issue of his leadership tenure.
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Yair Rosenberg is a senior writer at Tablet. Subscribe to his newsletter, listen to his music, and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.