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Where have all the accusations gone?

After Labour faced claims of being anti-semitic, a talk on the Left at the JW3 cultural centre was surprisingly genteel

02 June, 2017 — By John Gulliver

Dave Rich

I EXPECTED a bit of knockabout politics as I made my way to the JW3 cultural centre in Swiss Cottage for a talk on the Left and its apparent Jewish problem.

But throughout the evening as I sat in an audience of a mere 20, the atmosphere so genteel I may as well have been at a church gathering.

Where had all the anger gone, accusing Jeremy Corbyn of being anti-semitic? In the past year the Labour Party has been riven by schisms on the subject. Is he – or isn’t he?

According to the speaker, Dave Rich, a question mark hangs over Corbyn. Introducing his book, The Left’s Jewish Problem, Jeremy Corbyn, Israel and Anti-Semitism, Rich said he had adapted his PhD to put the book together. In his opinion, Labour had to get to grips with members who, perhaps unwittingly, held anti-semitic ideas – the former MP Tom Dalyell – who died recently – had referred to a “Jewish cabal” in society – while it remained baffling Ken Livingstone was still allowed to remain a member after being condemned by the party’s national executive council for his remarks about Zionism.

He asserted that more than 70 or 80 per cent of British Jewry supported Zionism but when questioned it turned out he didn’t mean their support of the ideology of Zionism but that of support of Israel.

But when someone asked whether he thought the Labour Party was “institutionally” anti-semitic, he said: “You could make an argument of that.” And that was about as near as he got to saying what everyone thought he meant.

At last, a quiet storm seemed brewing when someone said Rich was a member of the Community Security Trust, which, he said, was allied to the Jewish Board of Deputies, and shouldn’t he have made this clear in his talk. He didn’t reply, and the chairman, Lawrence Joffe of Meretz UK, quickly wound up the question-and-answer session. There had been a bit of a squall at the end, but the meeting passed off quietly, almost mournfully.

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