UK notables say they can’t vote Labour because of anti-Semitism

John le Carré, Jimmy Wales among signatories of open letter saying backing opposition party over Brexit sends signal that ‘anti-Jewish prejudice is a price worth paying’

UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn talks with locals during an election campaign visit to Linlithgow, west of Edinburgh, Scotland, on November 14, 2019. (Andy Buchanan/AFP)
UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn talks with locals during an election campaign visit to Linlithgow, west of Edinburgh, Scotland, on November 14, 2019. (Andy Buchanan/AFP)

Over two dozen British public figures, including authors, historians and actors, issued an open letter Thursday, saying they could not vote for the Labour Party in upcoming elections due to the UK opposition party’s anti-Semitism scandals.

The issue of anti-Semitism in Labour under far-left leader Jeremy Corbyn has featured prominently in the run-up to the December 12 elections, which are expected to be fought in large part on the issue of Brexit.

The letter, published in the Guardian, was signed by spy author John le Carré, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, military historian Antony Beevor and actor Tom Holland, among others.

“We listen to our Jewish friends and see how their pain has been relegated as an issue, pushed aside by arguments about Britain’s European future. For those who insist that Labour is the only alternative to Boris Johnson’s hard Brexit, now, it seems, is not the time for Jewish anxiety,” the signatories wrote.

British author John Le Carre at the UK film premiere of “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” in London, September 13, 2011. (AP Photo/Sang Tan, File)

The letter said the issue of anti-Semitism was “central to a wider debate about the kind of country we want to be” and that to ignore it because of Brexit would signal that tolerating “anti-Jewish prejudice is a price worth paying for a Labour government.”

“Which other community’s concerns are disposable in this way? Who would be next?” it said.

Fighting against racism cannot be accompanied by giving up on opposing anti-Semitism, wrote the letter’s authors.

Jimmy Wales. (photo credit: CC BY Jol Ito, Flickr)

“Yet that is what it would mean to back Labour and endorse Mr. Corbyn for Downing Street,” they said. “The path to a more tolerant society must encompass Britain’s Jews with unwavering solidarity.”

While declining to endorse a party, the signatories said they could not “in all conscience” call on others to back a party they would not. “We refuse to vote Labour on 12 December,” they wrote, some of whom had been vocal against Corbyn before the letter.

It also noted the investigation by the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission into Labour for allegations of anti-Semitism and said Corbyn “has a long record of embracing anti-Semites as comrades.”

In response, Labour noted a number of the signatories have expressed support for the Liberal Democrat and Conservative parties.

“We take allegations of anti-Semitism extremely seriously, we are taking robust action and we are absolutely committed to rooting it out of our party and wider society,” a party spokesperson said.

Illustrative: People hold up placards and Union flags as they gather for a demonstration organized by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism outside the head office of the British opposition Labour Party in central London on April 8, 2018. (AFP/Tolga Akmen)

Labour is facing accusations of anti-Semitism involving Corbyn, who has come under scrutiny for his alleged failure to stop the hate speech and for past actions in which he appeared to ignore, condone, or encourage it.

Following Corbyn’s takeover of the party in 2015, hate speech against Jews and Israel began proliferating in Labour’s ranks. Thousands of incidents have been recorded both by internal Labour groups like Labour Against Antisemitism, and external ones, including the Campaign Against Antisemitism.

Some of the accusations stem from Corbyn’s past support for pro-Palestinian causes and refusal to adopt a universally accepted definition of anti-Semitism — a position he has since partly revised.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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