My experience of antisemitism - Stephane Savary
I am an activist, and probably will always be. I first came into politics when I was 15, in France. Back then the far right was getting stronger, so I joined an anti-fascist group (Ras l’front) in 1995. And then I joined the Trotskyist Ligue Communiste Revolutionnaire of Alain Krivine 5 years later. And like many others before me, I then joined our sister party in France Parti Socialiste in 2004. Naturally, when I arrived in the UK, I joined the Labour Party. I have been a member since 2009. I am branch secretary and even had the chance to be a candidate in local elections.
Until Jeremy Corbyn became leader Labour was my home. At some point in my life, it was everything. My wife was a member too, a CLP Secretary, until she resigned in 2019. I campaigned everywhere, in each election and no matter the weather or the candidate. So, when I received my first ever antisemitic abuse from a new member of the party on social media, I was deeply surprised to see that in my party there were people who thought I shouldn’t be a member.
It was in 2015, a few weeks after Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader. Back then, I was still one of his supporters. And yet, a member of my party noticed that I had shared an article from an Israeli newspaper on my Facebook. He could not resist but to ask me if I was a Rothschild Zionist. And then he went on sending me links about David Icke. As I had no idea what a Rothschild Zionist was, so I did not answer. It is only later that I realised what he meant. But I was naïve and did not want to make a fuss about it. After all, it was just a member.
It took then another year before I started realising that people’s attitudes towards me had changed. Left-wing activists started to wonder if I was a Jew, and so what was my position on Israel. No matter what we were talking about, I was always ending up explaining my position on Israel, its government and on Palestine. I had to prove that I was a reliable member of the labour party to people who had only joined a year ago and had never campaigned for the party before. But this was not enough for them. I had to be what they wanted me to be, a Corbyn fanatic ready to say “as a Jew” I do not think Labour is antisemitic. They wanted me to say it. I could not do that because I knew there was something wrong with them. They reminded the French far right in their attitudes towards minorities, and especially Jewish people.
The year 2017 is when everything changed for me. It is the year when more new local members realised I was Jewish. My wife was then systematically questioned on why I never said it before, why she was not Jewish, what she would do if I wanted her to convert. Every social event that the party organised; she was harassed by some Corbynites. It was an obsession, they wanted to know every aspect of our life.
From that moment the abuse just got worse. In 2018, a labour party member in Glasgow, who identified himself as a national-socialist, posted a video on his facebook page in which he called me a ‘f**king jew’ and was promising to come to Manchester to punch my face. This was in reaction to me joining the Jewish Labour Movement. As I was still believing that Labour will do the right thing, I complained to the party, and contacted the Police. Within a few hours I was told that he was not a member. But when the Police classified this as a hate crime and called the Labour Party HQ, they managed to find him, to give his address to the Police and to suspend him within 20 minutes. This is when I lost faith in my party and understood that it was institutionally antisemitic. It was their party, and I was no longer welcome. Antisemitism is part of their political world.
From that moment, and within 15 months I had the police three times in my home after violent threats were made against me and my wife. I had my home address published online with a call to pay me a visit by some holocaust deniers who had joined the party for Corbyn. I had online threats sent to me by members who knew where I lived. Having the police in your home, on a Friday night telling you to call them if you see anything suspicious, is a horrible experience. All of this happened because I am Jewish in what was then Corbyn’s Labour Party.
I know many of those who believed in Corbyn will do what they know best, they will continue to justify the indefensible. They cannot admit they (we) got it wrong. We had a leader that did not want to deal with this issue. We had a group of people who wanted the control of the party, to launch a war against British Jewry. They made our lives a living nightmare and they nearly succeeded in destroying our party.
Stephane Savary - Jewish Labour member