Today is Holocaust Memorial Day. It is also over a week since I renewed my affiliate membership of the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), and nearly a year since I first signed up in protest and in solidarity due to the despicable way in which some Jews were being persecuted inside the Labour Party.
When I first joined the JLM, I wrote an article for Jewish News explaining why I felt the need to do so. I described just some of the incidents of open anti-Semitism to which a blind eye was being turned by senior Labour figures who should have known better. Sadly, and despite the publication of an internal Labour inquiry into the issue, my fellow JLM members tell me that Labour is still far from free of the rotten stench of anti-Semitism.
Shortly after I joined the JLM, the now-ennobled Shami Chakrabarti published her inquiry into anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. At the launch of the report, Jeremy Corbyn managed – inadvertently or otherwise – to compare Israel to ISIS. I tweeted my disgust and declared myself ‘Red with fury’, which somehow managed to find its way into 30 international newspapers, as well as onto BBC News. If that didn’t scare me off blurting out my thoughts on social media, nothing will.
It was at this launch meeting, too, that the rightly-admired Ruth Smeeth MP left in tears because a Momentum activist, Marc Wandsworth, took it upon himself to label her with that well-known anti-Semitic trope which holds that the global media are controlled by a Jewish conspiracy. The fallout of that incident has been widely-reported, and I will not repeat it ad nauseam, but you can find it here.
Now, it is true to say that appalling, publicly-reported incidents such as this have not been as common in recent months. But those of us with our ear to the ground know that it would be premature to take comfort from this. Indeed, anti-Semitism is such a sinister, old disease that it will never truly die. If anything, the fact that things seem to have gone quiet, at least publicly, makes me worry that the presence of the disease within Labour’s ranks has become evermore ubiquitous and normalised.
And there is a more sinister menace looming in our midst, too. Beyond the faltering boundaries of the Labour Party itself, the world is falling into the grips of extremists – and not just in far-flung corners of the world. I will not retreat from calling the newly-elected President of the United States a dangerous extremist. Currently in his sights are Muslims and Mexicans. And when all racist views are equal in their barbarity, rallying to the defence of the persecuted must stretch across all borders.
Human beings have a terrifying ability to forget the past. As the last human memories of the Holocaust fade and die, it falls to the next generation to resist the sinister spread of fascist, racist dogmas. The presence of anti-Semitism within the Labour Party, and Donald Trump in the Whitehouse, shows that, for all our pride in our Western values, no society is permanently immune from the spread – and even the potential victory – of evil.
Those of us on the left in particular have the moral and political obligations to stand up to this tyranny. So, on Holocaust Memorial Day, 2017, why not join an organisation like The Jewish Labour Movement, or the brilliant Hope Not Hate? And together, we can repeat the heroism of previous generations who saw evil coming, looked it in the face, and defeated it.