Since taking over the leadership of Britain’s Labor party in 2020, Keir Starmer has done much to tackle anti-Semitism in the party ranks, which festered and spread during the leadership of his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn. One would hope, then, that prominent Labor politicians would have kept their distance from the Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who has a record of anti-Semitic declarations and animus toward Israel. Instead, writes Ian Austin, they “fawned over” her during her recent visit to the UK:
Unfortunately, it now seems easier for Labor’s leader to speak positively about Israel at lunches than challenge the hatred that took hold under Jeremy Corbyn. The Bradford MP and shadow minister for community cohesion Naz Shah called Omar an “inspiration.” The shadow justice minister Afzal Khan described her as “incredible,” adding: “We stand united against Islamophobia.” The London mayor Sadiq Khan said it was a “pleasure” to meet Omar, “to discuss how we keep building bridges, not walls.”
It is a disgrace that Muslim politicians are attacked because of who they are, what they look like or how they worship—but there are mainstream Democrats the mayor could work with on inclusion that have not caused offence with controversial statements like Ilhan Omar.
Labor has taken action to deal with the anti-Semitism that flourished under Corbyn. But progress has been slow and some people who ought to be nowhere near a mainstream party are given temporary suspensions when they should be permanently expelled. Starmer’s cheerleaders criticize those who make this point, but more thoughtful members of the party . . . agree it is clearly much too soon to claim, as Sir Keir did recently, that he has “rooted out the poison of anti-Semitism.”