In 2019, four years after Jeremy Corbyn’s election to the Labor party’s leadership unleashed a torrent of anti-Semitism in its ranks, the MP Luciana Berger quit the party—driven out for being Jewish and for having the temerity to confront the anti-Semites. Since replacing Corbyn in 2020, Keir Starmer has striven to clean house, and recently issued a formal apology to Berger on Labor’s behalf, prompting her to rejoin in what Stephen Daisley terms “a supreme act of forgiveness.” Daisley provides some context:
Berger’s great-uncle was Manny Shinwell, Labor MP for Seaham and a straight-talking left-wing Jew. During a 1938 Commons debate, Shinwell was on his feet when the Conservative MP Robert Bower shouted: “Go back to Poland.” Shinwell paused his speech, walked across the gangway, socked Bower right in the jaw, then turned to the speaker and said: “May I make a personal explanation?” Berger is more forgiving.
The moral bankruptcy shown up by [the Corbyn-era anti-Semitism] affair was not merely of the hard left but of the soft left. The soft left of the Labor party seldom hesitates to speak out against racism. It was not slow to embrace Black Lives Matter and to take the knee. It drew attention to anti-Muslim racism within the Tory party. Labor MPs are among the first to speak on allegations of institutional racism elsewhere in society. Yet when their party was swamped with anti-Semites, many of them went silent or, worse, tried to deny it.
The only difference was that, however progressive their outward politics, these people simply did not consider anti-Semitism to be “real” racism, or as bad as other forms of racism.
So the Labor party does owe Luciana Berger an apology. It could apologize every day from now until the end of time and it still wouldn’t be enough.
More about: Anglo-Jewry, Anti-Semitism, Jeremy Corbyn, Labor Party (UK)