Updated: Oct 12, 2021
CAMPAIN will shortly be sending this OPEN LETTER to Keir Starmer, David Evans and all the members of the Labour Party National Executive.
Our message is very simple: the current witch-hunt against the Labour left must stop. It is unacceptable to all those British people who believe in evidence-based discussion, free speech and democracy. It is not just problematic for the Labour victims, but for all those who care about these things, of whatever political persuasion. Moreover, the antisemitism smear campaign and the related witch-hunt highlights a deep moral flaw in British society, one for which the Archbishop of Canterbury, and countless others, bear responsibility. We explore this in the paragraphs below.
We ask you to support the Open Letter, and ask others to do likewise. You simply need to notify me, Jonathan Coulter, by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org, and provide brief bio including town (or borough) of residence, and role/occupation. I shall then add you as a signatory.
Our moral flaw: Britons "walking by on the other side"
We like to pride ourselves on “British values” and the “heroism” of our forebears who stood up to the horrors of fascism during World War ll. However, the smear campaign and witch-hunt highlight a seamy side of the British character, best illustrated by the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. "Look after him", he said, "and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have". Luke 10:30
Many British people understand what is going on but behave just like the priest and the Levite described by Luke. Since 2015, they have observed the news media “tarring and feathering” Jeremy Corbyn and his left-wing supporters as “antisemitic” day after day, in thousands upon thousands of articles. However, for a mixture of motives – including fear, opportunism, rivalry, sectarianism or simply the desire for a quiet life – they choose to “pass by on the other side”. Indeed, they often go beyond this and endorse the smear, without proper evidence.
Thus, we have seen right-wing Labour politicians, including Tony Blair and Keir Starmer cynically weaponising the smears to discredit their left-wing rivals. Conservative leaders like Theresa May and Boris Johnson, and many Conservative MPs, have used the smears to discredit the entire Labour Party in the run-up to the General Election of December 2019. Even the Lib Dems leaders joined this cynical bandwagon, while censoring anyone who dared challenge them on the Party’s internal discussion platforms.
Probably the worst example of this is someone who knows all about the Parable of the Good Samaritan, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. Robert Cohen, a Jewish writer married to an Anglican priest, discussed this in his Open Letter of 2018 called “Jewish-Christian dialogue must be more than taking tea and talking antisemitism”. Cohen refers to a video clip in which the Archbishop and the Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis drink tea and, in chummy dialogue, condemn antisemitism in Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party.
Evoking the Holocaust, the Chief Rabbi said there was “far too much poisonous comment laced with hatred”, complained of years of “inaction” and asked for zero tolerance. The Archbishop talked of “a deep sense of insecurity” in the Jewish community in Britain, and enthusiastically endorsed the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Association (IHRA) definition “without riders or caveats of any kind”. Neither leader considered statistical evidence showing that, while there existed some anti-Jewish prejudice in the UK, it was much lower than prejudice against some other minorities, and that prejudice against all minorities including Jews, was higher on the right of Britain’s political spectrum.
In his letter, Cohen tells the two prelates: “as matters currently stand, both of you give the appearance of being morally compromised”. They had exaggerated the problem in the Labour Party and put inter-faith politics before genuine inter-faith dialogue while failing to address the most important issues facing that dialogue, notably the ongoing dispossession and marginalisation of the Palestinians in a “vastly asymmetrical conflict” with Israel.
Cohen also pointed to the narrow politicisation of Zionism on the Jewish side and berated the Chief Rabbi and the Jewish Board of Deputies (BoD) for stirring up anxieties about the prospect of a Corbyn-led Government among some Jews, causing them to consider whether they had a future in Britain. At the same time, he took the Archbishop to task for failing to listen to the many Jewish voices not represented by the Chief Rabbi and the Board of Deputies of British Jews, as well as the Palestinian Christians who had repeatedly called for justice, and for his acquiescence in closing down political or historical debate about Zionist doctrine.
Much of these failings can be attributed to structural factors within British society, notably the influence of elites and powerful lobbies, and bias within the mainstream media. However, these forces will only prevail as long as the population remains divided along sectarian lines and is led by people who have lost their moral compass. So please sign our Open Letter and stand in solidarity against the current Labour leadership’s appalling conduct.