Dear Jeremy Corbyn, Jennie Formby and members of the NEC,
We are a group of young, grassroots, enthusiastic activists in Barnet who are committed to the Labour Movement. We first joined the Labour Party because we were, and remain, horrified at the damage that the Conservative Government has wreaked on communities up and down the country with their programme of austerity. We wanted an end to the ideological and ruinous privatisations perpetrated by the Tory run Barnet Council, which has long prioritised profit over people. We know that Labour’s vision of a better world is radical and transformative, and we got involved to help bring that day about. We want to help Labour be the best it can.
Unfortunately, this task is being made impossible by the Labour Leadership’s repeated inability to get to grips with the issue of antisemitism. We are socialists, and will always standing with our oppressed comrades in solidarity. We joined Labour for this reason, because we know how good its record in Government is on bringing about legislative equality. But we are horrified at the victim-blaming, bigotry, and incompetence that has been all too characteristic of the approach towards dealing with antisemitism. This has been most recently expressed through the NEC’s incomprehensible decision to abandon the IHRA definition of antisemitism, which is in use throughout thousands of British institutions and across 31 countries, in favour of a watered-down definition. Under the NEC definition, the antisemitic trope of alleging that Jews, by virtue of their identity, have their loyalties primarily to the State of Israel, is being deemed acceptable. Furthermore, the assertion that the intent of the perpetrator is most important gives a get-out-of-jail-free card to antisemites, and disregards the Macpherson principle, which Labour uses to arbitrate on allegations of prejudice towards every other group within our movement.
We live and campaign in Barnet, a borough that has the highest concentration of Jewish residents in the country. While we have always opposed antisemitism for the same reason that we and our comrades have opposed all prejudice – because it’s the right thing to do; the impact it is having on our election prospects in Barnet is undeniable. Throughout the recent local elections campaign, we canvassed hundreds of households to try and convince them of the future we wanted to see, a Labour Council. Our policies were incredibly popular on the doorstep, and indeed until the story about the antisemitic mural surfaced, our numbers predicted an unprecedented Labour majority of 4-7 seats. Yet, as the depth of Labour’s antisemitism problem unfolded, we came across more and more voters – Labour voters – who refused to give us their support. We met left wing Jewish residents, many of whom had been lifelong Labour voters, yet they couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Labour this time, even though they agreed with our policies. We encountered Jewish voters crying because they agreed with our vision for Barnet, but because of the national failure to deal with antisemitism, they felt politically homeless. We were told of Jewish members who joined in 2016 to vote for Corbyn, yet no longer felt they could remain a part of the party they loved.
Labour must regain the support of the Jewish community, not because it will win us votes, but because it would be morally abhorrent to do anything else. We desperately want to help Labour to do that, but because of a national consistency in ignoring Jewish voices within and outside of the party, our task becomes harder and the damage becomes deeper.
We ask you, in the spirit of the solidarity, tolerance and respect that our party was founded on, to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism as the first of many steps in tackling this evil. To do anything else would be unforgivable.
We look forward to your response.
Benjamin Lorie – Chair of Barnet Young Labour
Viljo Wilding – Secretary of Barnet Young Labour, Youth Officer of Hendon CLP
Jack Lubner – Campaigns & Membership Officer of Barnet Young Labour, Diversity Officer of Finchley and Golders Green CLP
Dominic Breen – Vice Chair Treasurer of Barnet Young Labour
Sadiyah Akther – Vice Chair Women’s Officer of Barnet Young Labour
Luisa Attfield – Disabilities Officer of Barnet Young Labour, Women’s Officer of Finchley and Golders Green CLP
Rachel Barker – LGBT Officer of Barnet Young Labour, LGBT Officer of Hendon CLP, former Barnet council candidate
Alex Luxford – Under 19s Officer of Barnet Young Labour
Tom Barker – Hendon Officer for Barnet Young Labour
Dominic Norcliffe-Brown – Trade Union Liaison Officer of Barnet Young Labour
Liron Velleman – Youth and Students Officer at the Jewish Labour Movement, former Barnet council candidate