Joe Carlebach is a councillor in Hammersmith and Fulham.
Like many, I have quietly been watching the increasing tirade of anti-Semitic comments and undertones coming out of some sections of the Labour party over the last few months.
I have largely kept my concerns and unease to my family and close friends, but the latest events have moved me to write this. I had hoped that we had learnt the hard lessons of the past about the evils associated with anti-Semitism, or any form of racism or discrimination for that matter.
History has taught us that anti-Semitism led directly to the unimaginable horrors of the Holocaust, which claimed the lives of (depending on your definition) six million and eleven million innocent men women and children. This included my grandparents and three aunts, who were children at the time they were murdered, shot for no other reason than they happened to be born Jewish.
I want to be clear that I still believe the vast majority of Labour Party activists are not bigots or anti-Semites. I may have many differences with them on matters of policy and government, but this is an acceptable part of our democratic process.
Neither should anti-Semitism be confused with legitimate criticism of Israel, which is perfectly acceptable, as should be criticism of any state and its behaviour including our own.
What is not acceptable is to label all Jews as having a unique responsibility for all the actions of the State of Israel, irrespective of where Jews live or even what nationality they hold. That is anti-Semitism.
Comments coming out of some Labour party activists have crossed this line. Absurd accusations that Jews control the press, or that Jews are all rich, or that all Jews are agents of Israel, are all too familiar racial slurs with long histories. Some of these are resurfacing publicly in the Labour party of 2016.
What is equally alarming, is the apparent reluctance of the Labour Party hierarchy to respond to these comments. It seems only after there is an outcry that action is taken: often too little too late.
Just this week the comments of Naz Shah MP were only acted on after significant pressure from the press, the Conservatives, and the public at large.
It gets worse as this recent extract from Guido Faukes shows: “Guido kids you not, another Bradford councillor has tweeted anti-Semitic propaganda. Councillor Istiaq Ahmed posted a link to the Nazi film “The Eternal Jew”, which was commissioned by Joseph Goebbels”.
Then, inexplicably, Ken Livingstone has just publicly claimed that Hitler in the early days of his government was a Zionist! This was his attempt at defending Shah.
Many of us in London have long regarded Livingstone as a rather offensive buffoon, who did real damage to our great capital during his terms of office with his left wing policies and his penchant for cronyism. This comment, however, is beyond the pale.
It shows he is ignorant of Hitler’s racist, anti-Semitic beliefs, which are so virulently spelled out in Mien Kampf. Livingstone, if you have not read it, then you should. This kind of claim is usually only peddled by the very extreme right.
I have taken some comfort from the small number of Labour MP’s who have demanded Livingstone’s expulsion from the party and in particular John Mann. However, the Labour leadership has been too slow, too reticent, and frankly too ineffective in stamping out this unacceptable behaviour.
I have fought racism, bigotry, and intolerance all my life, but I never thought even in my darkest hour that I would have to write an article like this, about a major British political party, Her Majesty’s Official Opposition no less.
No one should be left in any doubt this is not a matter of political correctness. This is deeply offensive. Offensive for those of us who lost loved ones in the Holocaust, and to the vast majority of people in the United Kingdom.
The Labour Party leadership needs to get a grip on this situation. It needs to sign up to a zero tolerance policy for any and all forms of racism including anti-Semitism, and ensure that this is enforced, well understood and adhered to throughout its membership and party apparatus.
It needs to do this now.