Anti-Semitism is Racism

I and my fellow Lib Dems support every word in today’s statement from the Board of Deputies. We stand alongside Luciana and the others of the Jewish faith in the City who are distressed by what is happening here and abroad.

I have real difficulty understanding what goes through the mind of some people in the Labour Party when they approach the subject of anti-Semitism. To me it’s incredibly simple. Anti-Semitism is racism.

Let me try another Country. If I started attacking Christians in this Country because a so-called Christian President of America and head of a predominantly Christian Country is doing things around the world that I don’t approve of would you think I was being reasonable or unreasonable? As it happens, I don’t like much of what President Trump is doing but I certainly wouldn’t slag off the Christians in his Country never mind ours because of it.

As I write this there are alarming reports of armed action between India and Pakistan. These are two Countries with predominantly different religions fighting over a border which we created which effectively forced the migration of millions of people from those Countries to safety in another Country. Do I slag off Hindus and Moslems in this Country because of that? Of course not, because it would be grossly unfair. Geo-politics often uses religious differences as an excuse for political and military action.

Yet we have a situation now where a small part of the Labour Party is utilising similar circumstances to attack the Jewish Community in this Country. I say a small part because I am aware that the vast, vast majority of Labour members view anti-Semitism with the same abhorrence that I do.

This came to a head today with actions and foul comments by Chris Williamson both in terms of what he said at a meeting in Sheffield and his attempts to bring a film created by someone who is suspended by the Labour Party to be viewed in the House of Commons. He is a long-serving MP and will have been absolutely aware that what he was doing was divisive and would receive massive amounts of publicity. I seek to heal divisions and he seeks to create them.

Of course, this is a persecution that goes back down the millennia. When there’s a problem seek a scapegoat. Ah the Jews will do. “They have all our money which they stole from us. They want their pound of flesh let’s chuck them out”.

This is compounded by events continuing in the Middle East today. I do not agree with some of the actions of the Israeli Government, Israel is the only Jewish state in the World so easily identifiable with anti-Jewish sentiment. I and many of the Jewish people I know also are unhappy about some of the actions of that state. I have particular concerns about the treatment of Palestinians. They say and do things about what that State does and I have been present at meetings when the Israeli Ambassador was absolutely put in the spot by Jewish believers in London.

In the UK and other European Countries Jewish communities are being targeted because of what is happening in the Middle East and that is grossly unfair.

In Liverpool we have a very long-standing Jewish Community. Members of the Community have given steadfast service to our City for at least 200 years as a recognisable community and probably for far longer than that. There have been at least 6 Jewish Lord Mayors since WWII when the Jewish community here, as elsewhere was expanded by the Kinder Transport and other flights from the Nazis.

Some of those Jewish people feel that their City and their Country is turning against them. They are more careful when they go out and who they associate with. Some of them are thinking of leaving Liverpool and going either to Manchester where there is a bigger community or to Israel. In some ways they can get accustomed to cranks and lunatics having a go at them — that is regrettably their history. It becomes a lot more serious when MPs, Councillors and others in positions of trust and power repeat the allegations and incite the hate. It becomes more difficult to resolve when much of the hatred is played out on social media where people hide behind false names and anonymity.

I follow the Twitter account of Luciana Berger and have been appalled at what she has had to endure on a daily basis. It becomes even more dreadful when some people hope for the death of her as yet unborn child. I would not have the bravery to endure what she has endured publicly and then go into Labour meetings and be shouted down by a vicious but determined anti-Jewish minority.

These are not isolated cases. There are a huge number of cases which have been reported inside the Party where either nothing has happened or slaps on the wrist have been given but no real action. There seems to be one treatment for some but a different treatment for those who are close to Jeremy Corbyn who has made no secret of his pro-Hammas sentiments.

I am involved in this not because of what happens to or in the Labour Party but because it is affecting on a daily basis my constituents. 3 of the main Synagogues in the City are just outside my ward and I have a large number of adherents to the Jewish faith in my ward.

I always supported Luciana Berger on these matters when I could when she was in side Labour and it easier now to work with her for our joint constituents in Childwall, Wavertree and Church and across the border in Allerton. I will fight anti-Semitism with all the strength I have just as I would fight any other sort of racism. It’s now well past time for Corbyn & co to act so we can stand together on this terrible injustice in the City and in the Country.

About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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