Jeremy Corbyn does not lead an anstisemitic party. But he is too complacent and reactive to a vile issue that threatens his moral authority
Antisemitism is and must be morally repugnant to every person who believes in liberal and anti-racist values. Most members of the Labour party, and of most other parties too, are in no doubt about that. The opening line of the Chakrabarti report in 2016 – “the Labour party is not overrun by antisemitism” – was true at the time and remains true now. Jeremy Corbyn was accurate to talk this week of “pockets” of antisemitism within the party. But this does not deal with the issue. Not being overrun is not good enough. One pocket is one too many. It does not make the issue minor. Under Mr Corbyn, Labour has not been quick, clear or uncompromising enough to deal with those shameful remaining pockets.
This is not to make the mistake, too readily made by Mr Corbyn’s political enemies, of pretending that Labour is the only British political party or the only demographic in British society to be infected with antisemitism. It was a Conservative MP, not a Labour one, who complained in the House of Commons in 2014 about “well-funded powerful lobbying groups and the power of the Jewish lobby in America”. Those on the far right remain much more commonly antisemitic than those on the far left. But two (or more) wrongs don’t make a right. A 2017 study found that while only 2% of British people could be called “hard core” antisemites, about 30% hold one or two viewpoints that most Jews would consider antisemitic. No one can afford to be complacent about either figure.