Hundreds of Londoners rallied against the attacks on Jeremy Corbyn and Palestine on Tuesday, Shabbir Lakha reports
Over 500 people packed out London's Conway Hall on Tuesday evening to rally in defence of Jeremy Corbyn, against antisemitism and in solidarity with Palestinians. A number of people had to be turned away because there wasn't even standing room remaining in the hall.
The rally comes in the midst of ongoing and intensifying attacks on Jeremy Corbyn over antisemitism in the Labour Party. Not satisfied with calling Corbyn a "f***ing racist and antisemite", Margaret Hodge recently compared the threat of disciplinary action against her to the treatment of her father in Nazi Germany. The smear campaign came to a head with the false accusation that Jeremy Corbyn had laid a wreath for terrorists in Tunisia - which earned the condemnation of notorious war criminal, Benjamin Netanyahu.
The attacks have emboldened pro-Israeli activists who feel justified in levelling all kinds of accusations against the left. People in the queue to get into the rally were harrassed by a small group of protesters draped in Israeli flags, who called people Nazis and fascists, and shouted vile antisemitic abuse at the Jewish people in the queue.
It's clear the campaign against Corbyn isn't going anywhere. On 4 September, the NEC will be voting on whether or not to keep the code of conduct they currently have or to adopt the IHRA definition in full with all of its examples. If the NEC adopt the IHRA definition, it will be a blow to the left and an attack on Palestine activism in Labour. And if it wasn't clear enough for people who think compromising will make it all go away, Joan Ryan MP, chair of Labour Friends of Israel, said it in plain words in an article in the Jewish Chronicle on Tuesday:
IHRA needs no additions, deletions or qualifications.
Nor should we pretend that even full acceptance of IHRA ends the battle against antisemitism in the Labour Party.
As Richard Kuper of Jewish Voice for Labour said in his speech, the IHRA definition isn't just used as a means to attack BDS activity, it stops people from criticising Israel for fear of being labelled antisemitic.
Huda Elmi, a young Labour activist who is currently standing for a position on the NEC spoke of how the debate on the definition of antisemitism has been used to erase Palestinian voices from describing their own oppression. She also gave the example of Austria, which has adopted the IHRA definition, and is also governed by a far-right party, where a proposal to make Jewish people register for Kosher meat is being discussed. This somehow doesn't fall under the IHRA definition of antisemitism. "This definition is failing Jewish people and criminalising Palestine activism."
Lindsey German said:
What is going on at the moment in the Labour Party is nothing short of a politically motivated witch-hunt. There's only one way to deal with a witch-hunt - you stand up to it.
Tariq Ali said that this was part of an attack designed to remove Jeremy Corbyn, who he described as "the only leader the Labour Party has had who has been consistently against imperialism and colonialism" and on Palestine "has been rock solid". He said the PLP and the unions who now suddenly care about antisemitism are not the ones that brought the near-victory for Labour at the General Election last year, and it's the movement that did that they fear.
It's a volatile situation. People are looking for change, domestically and internationally.
The people at the rally looked almost relieved to hear the words of the speakers and see how many people turned up, knowing that they aren't the only ones that can see the smear campaign for what it is, and that together we can fight back. Tariq Ali received a standing ovation, and by the end there was an air of determination and willingness to fight in the room.
There will be more rallies like this one around the country in coming weeks and there will likely be a demonstration at Labour Party conference where the Labour Right are planning to ramp up the attack on Corbyn. In the meanwhile, Labour Party members can lobby the NEC to stick to their code and there will be a mass lobby outside Labour Party HQ on 4 September when the NEC votes.
What's abundantly clear is that this is not something that will go away, and it's not something that will come to an end by compromising. It's a political battle and it will have to be fought. The more organised and ready to mobilise the left is, the better the chance we have of winning.
Shabbir Lakha is a Stop the War officer, a People's Assembly activist and a member of Counterfire.
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