A Jewish former UK Labour lawmaker has condemned the frontrunners in the race to replace Jeremy Corbyn as party leader, saying they are “cowards” in confronting the rampant anti-Semitism in the party and are unfit to lead.
Ruth Smeeth, who lost her seat in the December election, has headed the Jewish Labour Movement, which broke with Corbyn, accusing him of anti-Semitism.
Writing in the Jewish Chronicle on Tuesday, Smeeth slammed leading contenders like Rebecca Long-Bailey, Keir Starmer and Emily Thornberry, saying they were hypocrites as the anti-Semitism debate raged in the party.
“Too many leaders-in-waiting were prepared to speak out if it was politically convenient, not because it was the right thing to do,” Smeeth wrote. “That means that no currently serving member of the Shadow Cabinet deserves our vote.
“They have been timid when we needed strength,” she said. “They have failed us when we needed them most. They enabled Mr Corbyn and his friends to make us a target.”
“For me, therefore, expunging anti-Jewish hate from our politics must mean that the next leader of the Labour Party has to be one of the backbenchers who have stood by us, whether that’s Jess Phillips, Lisa Nandy, Dan Jarvis or Yvette Cooper. They have all shown leadership on racism when others were cowards,” Smeeth said.
British Jews deserted the party in droves because they believed that Labour had become institutionally anti-Semitic under Corbyn, a pro-Palestinian politician who was elected to lead the party in 2015.
Corbyn has been accused of failing to deal with hundreds of incidents of anti-Semitism within his party, as well as his reluctance for the party to agree to a definition of anti-Semitism that included some anti-Israel language.
His ties to members of the Hamas and Hezbollah terror groups and photos of him laying a wreath at the grave of a Palestinian terrorist also sparked worries among UK Jews and Israelis, who feared that the Jewish state could lose its close alliance with the UK if Corbyn won.
In an unprecedented move, the chief rabbi of Britain, Ephraim Mirvis, in November published an op-ed in The Times of London, effectively calling on voters not to vote for Labour over the anti-Semitism issue, saying that Corbyn is “complicit in prejudice.”
Still, Smeeth urged Jews to remain involved in the party and help choose the next leader, saying it was the only way to take back Labour from the anti-Semites.
“The next leader of the Labour Party can either make zero tolerance of antisemitism within our own ranks an immediate priority or they can continue to empower and facilitate racists, allowing the politics of hate to drive our politics,” she wrote.
“Which means the outcome of this election is vital for the community. You can sit back and let the horror of anti-Jewish hate continue to pervade the Labour Party or you can join the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) and get a vote for the next leader. I beg you to do the latter,” Smeeth said.
“What happens next in combating anti-Jewish hate does depend on who wins the leadership election. But what I can promise you is that although I may no longer be an MP, this is not a fight I will be walking away from,” she concluded. “But I’m going to need your help to fix it.”