Yesterday’s New York Times featured an illuminating profile of Momentum, the hard-left political activist organization that has effectively captured Britain’s Labour party for its radical leader Jeremy Corbyn. Co-written by reporter Stephen Castle and the Times‘ excellent London bureau chief Steven Erlanger, the article opened with an enthusiastic quote from the group’s vice chair, Jackie Walker, who exclaims, “We’re part of the biggest political movement in the last 50 years! The seeds we are sowing, who knows what fruit they will bring?”
What the piece does not mention is that Jackie Walker is an anti-Semite who blamed the Jews for being the “chief financiers” of the slave trade, falsely criticized Britain’s official Holocaust Memorial Day for not commemorating non-Jewish victims of genocide (it does), argued that Jewish schools do not need extra security in the face of threats, and said she hasn’t “heard a definition of anti-Semitism that I can work with.”
After her comment about Jews being behind the slave trade—a popular anti-Semitic conspiracy theory debunked by academics—Walker was suspended from the Labour party in May. But by the end of the month, she was reinstated, with no explanation from the party as to why she’d been cleared and no apology on her part. This week, Walker went after Holocaust Memorial Day and security at Jewish schools, provoking outrage across the political spectrum. (The recording of Walker’s most recent comments was leaked the day of the Times’ story, so it could not have been included.)
In response, Karen Pollock, the CEO of Britain’s Holocaust Educational Trust, said that Walker had “undermined and belittled” Jews. Jeremy Newmark, head of the Jewish Labour Movement, called on Walker to resign or apologize. “I am appalled that somebody who has already caused great hurt and pain to so many Jewish people by promoting an anti-Semitic myth would come to a training session designed to help Party activists address anti-Semitism and use the occasion to challenge the legitimacy of the training itself,” he said. Manuel Cortes, head of the country’s second largest railway union, called on Walker to resign or be removed from both the Labour party and Momentum. “TSSA will seriously reconsider our union’s support for Momentum if she is still in post by this time next week,” he said. Under pressure, Walker apologized, something she refused to do for her previous anti-Semitic outburst.
In an effort to shield herself from criticism, Walker has claimed to have Jewish ancestry, as though racism is only racism depending on who expresses it. In fact, as any student of anti-Semitism knows, there is a long history of anti-Semitic Jews, including in Britain, where one of the most famous examples resides today in Gilad Atzmon, an Israeli musician who has dubbed American Jews “the enemy within,” questioned the historicity of the Holocaust, and claimed that “robbery and hatred is imbued in Jewish modern political ideology on both the left and the right.”
The Times writes that “in the battle for Labour’s direction,” Walker’s Momentum group “is winning.” Unfortunately, the fact that Walker holds such a prominent position on Britain’s far-left is sadly not a coincidence or an aberration. It is representative of a deeper rot that has taken hold of the Labour party under its new leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Simply put, much like there is no Trump campaign without his horde of anti-Semitic promoters, there is no Corbyn movement in Britain without those who despise Jews. Corbyn himself has a long history of unsavory associations and appearances with Holocaust deniers and propagators of other anti-Semitic libels, who seemed to be attracted to his work. Corbyn’s personally-appointed confidante Ken Livingstone was suspended from the party after infamously claiming Hitler was a Zionist. Other pro-Corbyn supporters, party officials, and donors have been suspended for claiming Israel or Jews were behind everything from 9/11 to ISIS to the Sandy Hook massacre. When London’s Muslim mayor Sadiq Khan endorsed a challenger to Corbyn, he was immediately hit with a barrage of anti-Semitic abuse on social media.
In other words, the reason Walker has felt comfortable voicing her anti-Jewish sentiments is because she exists in a culture where such sentiments are often taken for granted. Her reinstatement and repeated offenses reveal a party whose leadership is clearly not committed to seriously combating anti-Semitic prejudice in its ranks.
In this light, it’s not surprising that a recent poll found that nearly 9 out of 10 British Jews feel that the Labour party is soft on anti-Semitism. What is surprising is that this is something that is happening in a Western democracy in 2016.
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