Holocaust Educational Trust Blog

A space for featured guest bloggers and members of the Holocaust Educational Trust team to comment and reflect on timely issues.

Why is the struggle against antisemitism no different four years on?

Just over a year ago I stood in Parliament Square with thousands of others from the Jewish community and all decent people and we said “enough is enough”. We were challenging what felt like a relentless tide of incidents where Jew hatred was not being taken seriously by a mainstream political party. One year on and what has changed? Nothing. If anything, it’s worse.

Nowhere is this encapsulated more than the series of leaked emails that have come to light showing political interference in a supposedly apolitical complaints process. A sitting councillor let back in to the party after comments about “Jewish” media attacks and the Rothschild family. Members investigated for posting online “Heil Hitler”, “F*** the Jews” and “Jews are the problem”, yet not being expelled; cheerleaders insisting that it’s all a “smear”.

The Jewish community was explicitly told that the leader’s office was not involved in the complaints process. These emails clearly show this was not the case and the call for an independent ombudsman has been vindicated. Labour’s spokesmen and women come out with the same tired old lines about being opposed to antisemitism but there are no actions to back up the words.

At the beginning I wanted to believe that it was incompetence. Four years on there is no choice but to conclude that this is a political and moral choice that the leadership of the Labour Party has taken. A party that believes it stands for equality allows antisemitism to grow and flourish within living memory of the Holocaust.

With the exception of a few notable allies this has been left to the Jewish community to fight. How long until decent people do something that actually makes a difference? Don’t tell me that antisemitism is appalling and wrong. Do something.

Last week at a school in Liverpool, with a group of 13-year olds, we discussed the Holocaust and what they had learnt. I was so impressed with their knowledge but above all their questions. They asked how survivors coped after the war.

They asked about the people who risked their lives to save others. They asked about antisemitism today — 13-year olds acutely aware there is a problem. But how can we teach the history of antisemitism, the consequences of racism and hate, when the world’s oldest hatred is allowed to flourish in 2019, our leaders refuse to tackle it and good people stand by?

Next week Jews across the country will sit with their families and friends to celebrate Passover, the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. We ask one central question around the Passover table: why is this night different from all other nights?

The sentiments are mirrored in our questions to the Labour Party:

Why, after so many years, is there still not a complaints procedure fit for purpose?

Why is the leadership of the Labour Party intervening to protect abusers, not the victims?

And maybe, most importantly, why, years after this first reared its head, is the struggle against anti-Jewish racism no different four years on?

We are asking the same questions and are yet to see a different answer.

This is not normal. We cannot allow this to become normalised.


Karen Pollock, MBE, is chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust

This piece was originally printed in the Times RedBox on 9th April 2019

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