Young Jewish UK Labour leader: ‘Extremely hard’ to back party in elections

‘Anti-Semitism is extremely widespread, it exists kind of everywhere,’ says Izzy Lenga about her own party, at special conference ahead of March of the Living in Poland

Jewish UK Labour member Izzy Lenga at a conference in Krakow, Poland on May 1, 2019 (Yossi Zeliger)
Jewish UK Labour member Izzy Lenga at a conference in Krakow, Poland on May 1, 2019 (Yossi Zeliger)

KRAKOW, Poland — A Jewish youth leader in the British Labour Party said Wednesday that it would be “extremely hard” for her to support her own party in general elections because of party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has long been accused of anti-Semitism and of failing to root our Jew-hatred from the country’s main opposition party.

“It’s tough. I’d find it extremely hard to go out campaigning for the Labour Party,” Izzy Lenga, 25, told The Times of Israel when asked what she will do if general elections are called soon — a likely scenario in light of the political crisis over Brexit.

“The party, my party which I have supported all my life, has been infested. Anti-Semitism is extremely widespread, it exists kind of everywhere,” she said. “Labour can’t be serious in winning a general election if it continues to be plagued by anti-Semitism. It’s going to be very difficult for Jewish people to feel like they can ever trust the Labour Party and vote for them.”

Lenga was participating in a first-of-its-kind “emerging leadership conference,” part of this year’s March of the Living events in Poland. She is among a select group of 20 youths from around the world — chosen for their leadership capabilities — who gathered in Krakow ahead of Thursday’s march in Auschwitz.

Along with hundreds of other youths from around the world, they discussed the challenges of surging anti-Semitism and signed a commitment to combating anti-Jewish hatred, along with other forms of racism and intolerance. That declaration is to be publicly announced during the March of the Living main ceremony, the organizers said. Its goal is to “create a network of leaders from around the world that can be activated to advance March of the Living initiatives aimed at combating anti-Semitism, racism and intolerance.”

During the ceremony, Lenga spoke about anti-Semitic abuse she suffered when she studied at University of Birmingham. She said she constantly saw swastikas painted on walls and stickers distributed saying “Hitler was right.” When she took to Twitter to condemn the sticker, a torrent of anti-Semitic comments and threats forced her to get police protection.

Participants of the yearly March of the Living walk in the former German Nazi Death Camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, in Brzezinka, Poland, May 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)

Speaking later with The Times of Israel, Lenga said that was just one example among many during her studies, adding that she had also experienced many anti-Semitic incidents and received slurs within the Labour Party — online, in party meetings and in person.

She also said she had personally heard of many instances in which Labour MPs — some, but not all, of which are no longer in the party — peddled anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, failed to speak out against anti-Semitism, or were complicit in Corbyn’s actions.

In the latest of an endless series of scandals involving the party leader since he was elected in 2015, British press reported Tuesday that Corbyn wrote a preface to a book that claimed Jews run banks and the press. He also praised the book — written in 1902 by economist John Hobson — in a 2011 event launching a new edition.

British opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn leaves his home in north London on April 4, 2019. (Tolga AKMEN / AFP)

“There are some MPs who are defending those actions,” Lenga commented. “Corbyn claims he’s a life-long anti-racist. Seems like he’s the most unlucky anti-racist in the history of anti-racism. He should himself be defending — or not defending — his actions, and explaining why he did that in the first place.”

She said Corbyn’s public efforts to fight anti-Semitism within the party were “words without actions, it’s meaningless.”

Having spoken with many members of the UK Jewish community, she said it has been “absolutely heartbreaking,” as many people who had been voting Labour for their entire lives “said they just can’t vote for it, because their identity is under threat.”

“I won’t be deterred from being a progressive and fighting for social justice,” Lenga vowed. “My identity is under attack, they abhor not just my politics, but my mere existence in the party, and potentially in society. I’m not going to pander to it, you don’t beat hatred by pandering to it, you beat it by fighting it.”

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