Opinie: Arbeid het 'n belangrike stap geneem om antisemitisme aan te pak

Opinie:  Arbeid het 'n belangrike stap geneem om antisemitisme aan te pak
Changes to rules on how party members can complain may appear dull and boring on paper, but they are crucial to helping us root out racism, bullying and harassment

This weekend the Arbeid Party took a vital step on its journey to eradicate the Jew hate that has tragically gripped our party over recent years. The dry changes in our rules represent a turning point in the battle on antisemitism, and while that fills me with both enormous relief, it also fills me with cautious optimism. The rule changes may appear dull and boring on paper, but they are crucial to helping us root out racism, bullying and harassment. After five long years of hell we can finally look forward with hope.

It will always remain a stain on our history that it took a highly critical report from the EHRC (Equality and Human Rights Commission) to force us to act. That report, published nearly a year ago, found that Labour had acted unlawfully in relation to antisemitism on three separate counts: harassment of individuals; political interference in the complaints’ system; and a failure to properly train those involved in handling complaints.

The venomous abuse directed at Labour members by others within the party was real. It was relentless. And for those of us who were the targets of the abuse, it was harrowing and deeply, deeply hurtful.

All too often our complaints were “misplaced” or ignored. Vile antisemitic and misogynistic insults were trivialised by our party structures because the allegations were often levelled against a political chum of the Corbyn leadership clique.

This is why the reforms to the complaints mechanism are a crucial tool in eliminating antisemitism.

The much hated National Constitutional Committee that considered all the allegations of antisemitism in such a factional way will no longer consider complaints of antisemitism, or of any forms of discrimination. It will be replaced by a new body, the Independent Review Board (IRB). All decisions will now have to be signed off by an independent lawyer drawn from the IRB. Any appeals against these decisions will be heard by a panel from another new body, the Independent Complaints Board. This three-member panel will involve an independent lawyer, an independent HR or regulatory professional, and a lay Labour Party member.

These reforms will bring to an end the factionalism and prejudice that characterised the previous system, they will stop political interference in the handling of complaints, and they will bring to an end the era when antisemitism was allowed to fester and flourish unchecked.

The reforms will not just help to stamp out antisemitism, but they will also help the party tackle bullying, sexual harassment, Islamophobia, anti-Black racism, homophobia and all the other abusive and discriminatory behaviour that party members have been subjected to for a long time.

I have encountered far too many cases of women who have been bullied and harassed by party members and whose complaints have been ignored for years by the party hierarchy and patriarchy. If the terrible story of antisemitism leads to improvements in responding to complaints in relation to other protected characteristics, that surely must be a welcome outcome.

Rooting out antisemitism from our ranks will not be magically realised by these rule changes. We have also started to suspend and expel those Labour members who promote and express the hatred of Jews. We are running a massive training programme so that people better understand the hurt they can cause from the language they use.

In recent times, antisemitism moved from the fringes to the mainstream of our party. Transforming the culture and restoring our reputation as an anti-racist movement will take time. Every careless word and every antisemitic act by any member of the party will damage and delay that transformation.

Rebuilding trust with the Jewish community remains a work in progress. It will take a long time to restore confidence in Labour and all our energy needs to focus on that task. It will not be easy, but nor should it be.

Keir Starmer deserves great credit for the determined action he has taken to tackle this hideous problem. But the three women with whom I worked over the years also deserve recognition and thanks for the campaigning they did and for the suffering they enduredRuth Smeeth, Louise Ellman and Luciana Berger. It is a terrible reflection on what happened that of the four Jewish women Labour MPs who fought antisemitism, I am the only one left standing in parliament.

Equally, in the post-war period, 42 van die 57 Jewish MPs in parliament were Labour MPs. Now most Jewish MPs are Conservatives. Our party was the natural home for Jews because of our commitment to equality, anti-racism and international solidarity. Restoring credibility in our traditional values will not just help to restore trust among the Jewish community. It will help us to build trust among all people and all voters.

My final message is simple. Never again. Never again can we allow antisemitism to spread unchallenged. Never again should Jews feel unsafe in the Labour Party. Never again can we betray those principles of fighting racism and prejudice that for generations have been a hallmark of who we are. Never, ever, again.

Margaret Hodge is a British Labour politician, who has been the Member of Parliament for Barking since 1994.

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