My experience of antisemitism - Ella Rose
"It is not your responsibility to finish the work of perfecting the world, but you are not free to desist from it either."
Rabbi Tarfon, Pirkei Avot 2:21
In 2010, the last achievement of the previous Labour government was passing the Equalities Act. It protects minorities across our great country. It is nothing short of a tragedy that, only 10 years later, the institution that a Labour government created is investigating if the Labour Party breached their act of Parliament.
For many, Labour antisemitism was just a headline or dinner discussion, but for Jewish Labour members, it was a very real part of our everyday lives. Over the past five years, anti-Jewish racism has become so common in our politics that it has been very easy to forget the direct impact; the bullying and harassment of minority individuals.
I joined the Labour Party because my Jewish values inspired me to fight for social justice and equal opportunity for all. The left felt like a natural home. Rabbi Tarfon’s missive on the responsibility to change the world has always formed part of my drive.
I never thought I’d ever experience antisemitism in the party I thought was anti-racist, but yet it hit me like a wave that kept coming back. From verbal abuse and people screaming in my face, to death threats and online abuse, and even people coming to antisemitism awareness training sessions with pre-prepared antisemitic questions with the intent of goading me. It had a huge impact on my mental health, and is something that I can only speak about today thanks to the wonderful support of my family and friends. Those who deny the antisemitism in the Labour Party deny the experiences myself and so many others who lived through it for years.
The antisemitism I saw in the Labour Party encompasses the whole spectrum of the long history of the hatred of Jews, everything from Holocaust denial to classic medieval antisemitism. Whilst working at JLM, there wasn’t a week I didn’t get a call about another member, councillor or labour representative spreading antisemitism, including a meme mocking the Holocaust on Christmas Day. It was this huge responsibility to tell the truth about what was happening. It was hard to go to synagogue, speak to family and friends or even be proud of my Labour membership. I constantly worried I was letting my family down by remaining a member of a party I was increasingly certain was antisemitic.
The pain our Party has caused our community is immense, and the Party failed in its basic duty to protect its Jewish members. To go to a Conference and not get abuse for being Jewish is not too much to ask. We have given the Labour Party so many chances to change course and to stem the flowing tide of antisemitism. They didn’t, so now the EHRC must step in. The EHRC will throw down that gauntlet for Keir to pick up. I hope he does with humility and responsibility.
We will never finish the job of perfecting the world, but if we can successfully put this disastrous crisis behind us, we will be one step closer to doing so. No Labour member is free from the responsibility of driving antisemitism out of our party.
Ella Rose - Jewish Labour member