Being Jewish at university and watching the student outpour of love for Corbyn’s Labour is deeply painful
Over 85 per cent of British Jews surveyed think Jeremy Corbyn is antisemitic
I’ve been trying so hard all year to avoid writing anything like this. I’m not a member of or activist for any political party, but this is an issue I cannot in good conscience stay silent about.
In true Orwellian fashion, when it comes to being equal in the Labour party, seemingly some are more worthy of equality than others. Since so-called "lifelong anti-racist campaigner" Jeremy Corbyn became party leader in 2015, over ten MPs have resigned the Labour whip, all citing a culture of antisemitism as at least part of the reason why. Jewish MPs and party members have said they have had to endure not only daily abuse relating to their identity, but also gaslighting from those very same abusers that antisemitism is not an issue in the party.
A recent poll by Survation found that 78 per cent of British Jews would prefer a no-deal Brexit over the prospect of Corbyn becoming Prime Minister. In 2018 another Survation poll revealed more than 85 per cent of British Jews think Corbyn is antisemitic. Whether or not he is, I cannot look into his heart to tell. But what I do know for a fact is that Labour has a huge problem with antisemitism and many students are sweeping it under the rug.
Following the announcement of a December 12th general election, I sat on Facebook and watched as post after post appeared from friends urging fellow students that a vote for Labour is a vote for equality and anti-racism. With each one I felt a sting to the soul. Had they just not heard about the antisemitism seemingly rampant in the party?
Then there are those students who upload the usual ‘vote Labour’ status, but with the added caveat, ‘I have some issues with the Labour leadership, but the overall picture is SO MUCH more important’. It’s a punch to the gut every time. Even the loud Labour voices that once spoke out for my community have now remarkably softened, as if the issue is simply not worth compromising results at the ballot box. The silence is deafening.
At night I lie awake for hours wondering what makes the Jew different; why our experiences are so often dismissed as unimportant or invalid by the very same students who would be in uproar if this were happening to any other minority. These are students who will rightly criticise racism coming from MPs belonging to any other party, or even any other wing of Labour, yet would move mountains to defend Corbyn and his inner circle against accusations of bearing any responsibility over antisemitism in the party.
I wonder whether it is related to (justified) disgust at members of the Israeli government? But then again surely university students are smart enough to know that British Jews bare literally zero responsibility for the actions of a foreign government. Perhaps it is because many (though certainly not all) Jewish students don’t look different from the average white student and therefore it’s not possible that they can experience racial oppression? But then again surely students are educated enough to understand that the physical appearance of Jews was no saving grace when it came to the Holocaust, the Russian pogroms or any of the other countless episodes of oppression we've endured past and present.
There are some great figures who remain in Labour, including Jewish MPs, who are staying in order to 'fight prejudice from the inside'. Many of my close friends will be voting Labour and my boyfriend, whose family members are respected MPs in the party, will be out canvasing for Labour too.
I want to clarify this is in no way a plea to direct student votes toward or away from any specific party. I respect students who vote Labour out of admiration for values of equality and hope for a kinder, fairer future.
However, if you claim to be against racism and you really mean it, please spare a thought for the many Jewish students and members of Britain’s Jewish community who await the next general election in fear and anxiety. Don’t throw us under the bus by burying the issue of antisemitism till a more convenient time, or even worse, ignoring it altogether. Own up to the problem, recognise the problem. At the very least we are owed that.