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Whitewashed: Anti-Semitism in the U.K. Labour Party


Ali Rosenblatt, Brandeis Blog

August 16, 2017
 

The film, Whitewashed: Anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, can be found online at J-TV, a YouTube channel dedicated to global Jewish interests and issues. A short documentary, it is a partner film to a book of the same title and these are part of The Whitewashed Project. The project was produced and self-financed by a group of individuals in the United Kingdom who are invested in the subject matter.

David Hirsh is the main narrator of the film. As a member of a trade union, a member of the Labour party, and as a Professor of Sociology at Goldsmiths University of London – all this while being Jewish – he was inspired to partake in the project.

Overall, the project can be seen as a direct response to the Chakrabati Report, a report written after Shami Chakrabati led an inquiry regarding anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. In her findings, Chakrabati concluded that there was not systematic anti-Semitism to be found within the rank and file of the UK’s Labour Patrty.

Immediately after being published, the report drew criticism from many individuals in the Jewish community. Taking just two months to complete, the report appears to have been put together hastily and to have disregarded key content. Many submissions of written testimony by Jewish members of parliament (MPs) were cast aside, bypassed, or otherwise condensed to seemingly belittle the issues these submissions rose. This film is important in bringing the omissions to the public’s attention; a report which ultimately found there to not be an issue of anti-Semitism, was in fact anti-Semitic in dismissing many of the claims otherwise.

The issue with anti-Semitism in the Labour party is the same issue seen in many circles on the Left and that is that anti-Semitism in these spheres is manifesting itself in the form of anti-Israel and anti-Zionist rhetoric. Many individuals who are the worst offenders in the Labour party have been excused as being merely critical to Israel. In fact, those alleging anti-Semitism are discredited by claims that they are “disingenuously trying to silence criticism” of Israel. However, as Dr. Eve Garrard clarified, while anti-Zionism “need not be anti-Semitism,” it “most often is” which is an important statement to distinguish the difference. The Chakrabati Inquiry erred in characterizing anti-Israel statements and anti-Semitism as two different things absolutely, ignoring the instances when the anti-Israel statements crossed the line.

Whether you are an MP or a concerned citizen, whether you are in the UK or otherwise, it is nonetheless important to watch this film. If anything, it should expose the viewer to concrete examples of modern-day anti-Semitism on the left, and how easily it is now being overlooked.

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Over 50% of Jewish American college students report that they experienced or witnessed anti-Semitism on their campuses during the 2013-2014 academic year. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has announced that campus anti-Semitism “is a serious problem which warrants further attention.” Campus anti-Semitism can include subjecting Jewish students to different treatment, harassment, violence or a hostile environment. In some cases, campus anti-Semitism is related to anti-Israel sentiment. In other cases, it is not. For most purposes, we define anti-Semitism according to the U.S. Department of State definition of anti-Semitism. .
 
 
 
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Ruth R. Wisse
Ruth R. Wisse is the Martin Peretz Professor of Yiddish Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard University, and has taught at McGill, Stanford, New York, Hebrew and Tel Aviv universities.
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