Howard Jacobson tackles Labour anti-Semitism at ‘Whitewashed’ film launch

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Howard Jacobson tackles Labour anti-Semitism at ‘Whitewashed’ film launch

Newly-released documentary investigates claims that submissions to the Chakrabarti inquiry were ignored by its author

Labour MP John Mann has issued a rallying call to the Jewish community to continue the battle to wipe out anti-Semitism from his party.

Mr Mann, the MP for Bassetlaw, alongside fellow MPs Louise Ellman and Labour Friends of Israel chair Joan Ryan, said: “My message is don’t be despondent, be organised and be active. We are not giving up. We are going nowhere. Where-ever anti-Semites stand up, they will be challenged. What we say is give us your support when they do.”

Mr Mann was speaking at JW3 in north London at the launch of a JTV documentary produced by Judith Ornstein, in addition to book and website, called “Whitewashed”.

They tell the story of how the submissions of 17 individuals to the Chakrabarti report into anti-Semitism and other forms of racism in the Labour Party, published almost a year ago, were largely ignored by its author, Lady Shami Chakrabarti. She received her peerage only a couple of weeks after the report was published, an award that raised eyebrows about its timing.

The 35-minute documentary, which featured a number of those people, was fronted by academic, author and card-carrying Labour party member Dr David Hirsh.

After it was shown, Dr Hirsh and acclaimed author Howard Jacobson discussed some of the issues raised.

Mr Jacobson revealed that he had submitted a contribution: “I was commissioned by the Catholic Herald to write a cover story on anti-Semitism and I let them have it with both barrels.

“They took it and they liked it. Then Mark Gardner (of the CST) saw it and said to me that I should submit it to Chakrabarti.”

David Hirsh
David Hirsh

He brought laughter from the sell-out crowd when he admitted that at elections “my job is to dither, to show the confusion I’m in. I try to go on holiday when there are elections.” He voted Lib-Dem at the election as an anti-Brexit vote.

Dr Hirsh said that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn “always says he is against anti-Semitism. What he refuses to do is reassure the community that he understands what it is.”

He said that contemporary anti-Semitism is “when the Jews are always suspected of being up to something. When we raise the issue of anti-Semitism, we’re up to something. Even non-Jews who raise it are treated as though they are acting dishonestly.”

To groans, Mr Jacobson said there was reason to believe that there would be a Labour government before the end of the year.

“We were told that (Jeremy Corbyn) is a most sincere person. We now know that he is much more versatile than that.”

However, the debate soon widened into a more general examination of Labour’s ongoing problems with anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, particularly when the audience were asked for questions.

The first questioner said: “Why would a man who has insulted Israel for more than 35 years change?”

Questioner two from Kilburn, north west London, told how she felt intimidated going to her local Labour party meetings.

Howard Jacobson
Howard Jacobson

Next came an American woman who lives in Corbyn’s constituency in Islington. She wanted to know what she should say to pressure him if she was to meet him.

It was John Mann who answered her to applause: “Ask (Corbyn) why haven’t you expelled (Ken) Livingstone from the Labour party? Why is (Corbyn) not prepared to make a speech to outline why anti-Semitism is the worst racism? That’s what you should ask him.”

Joan Ryan described the documentary as “powerful”. She said: “I’m not prepared to walk away from the party I love because it has not done all it should have about anti-Semitism.

“I am willing to fight and I don’t care how much Twitter abuse I get. I joined the Labour party to stand up for what I believe in.”

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