Why The Conservative Party Will Never Solve Its Islamophobia Problem
The Labour Party has a problem with antisemitism. So we are constantly told by the media. If you deny this, you are part of the problem, Jeremy Corbyn says. In contrast, no other party has a race problem.
The Conservative Party does not have an Islamophobia problem, despite at least 12 council candidates from the 2018 elections currently suspended for Islamophobia, and highlighted incidents involving Bob Blackman and Boris Johnson, whose egregious comments have been defended by Tory MPs.
Conservative peer Sayeeda Warsi has been on national TV to speak out, and the Conservative Muslim Forum have made a few murmurings, but Theresa May has successfully pushed back calls for an inquiry, and the media have not pressed the case.
So what’s the difference? Firstly, there’s the acceptance of Islamophobic views in British society generally as opposed to antisemitism. In 2015, Yougov discovered 37% of Britons admitted they would be more likely to support a policies to reduce the number of Muslims in Britain, 62% agreed that Britain would lose its identity if more Muslims came to live here (vs. 48% in 2003), 80% of readers’ comments from a range of newspapers are critical or highly critical of Islam, and “the hateful way views are expressed against Muslims is notable, 55% would be bothered by the prospect of a mosque being built in their community, a quarter of Britons blame Muslims for the existence of Islamophobia, 33% agreed with the suggestion of UKIP leader Nigel Farage that ghettoes had sprung up in Britain where Sharia law prevailed and from which the police and other legal authorities had withdrawn, and almost 70 % think that Islam encourages repression of women.
Contrast with antisemitism, where in 2017 the Institute for Jewish Policy Research conducted what it called “the largest and most detailed survey of attitudes towards Jews and Israel ever conducted in Great Britain.” The survey found that the levels of anti-Semitism in Great Britain were among the lowest in the world, with 2.4% expressing multiple anti-Semitic attitudes, and about 70% having a favourable opinion of Jews.
Secondly, there is the history. The main representative of Jews in the Labour Party, the Jewish Labour Movement, was founded in 1939, whereas there is no representative organization for Jews in the Conservative Party, although there have been many Jewish Conservative MPs despite the Conservatives long tradition of antisemitism. In contrast, the main representative of Muslims in the Conservatives, the Conservative Muslim Forum, was only founded in 2005, although there is no representative organization for Muslims in Labour despite its many Muslim MPs and members.
Nonetheless, in 2017, before the Labour antisemitism scandal had properly erupted, 26% of Jews voted Labour as opposed to 63% for the Tories, but for Muslims it was Labour 85% to 11% for the Tories.
Labour didn’t appear to have an antisemitism problem before Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader in 2015, although Ken Livingstone had been criticized for comments about Jews being too wealthy to vote Labour, Gerald Kaufman’s “here come the Jews” jibe at Louise Elman, Tam Dalyell’s concerns at the “Jewish Cabal” advising Tony Blair, and the campaign against Michael Howard’s Conservatives which was every bit as vile as Zac Goldsmith’s London Mayor campaign in 2016.
However Labour’s refusal to adopt 4 of the 11 examples to the IHRA’s working definition of antisemitism for fear of infringing Palestinian and non-Zionists rights caused it to be labelled “institutionally racist”.
A report was launched into antisemitism in the Labour Party, known as the Chakrabarti Report. At the launch Corbyn said that “Jews are no more responsible for the actions of the government of Israel than Muslims are for the actions of self-styled Islamic States”. He was accused of comparing Israel to ISIS. Also at the launch black activist Marc Wadsworth verbally attacked (unknown to him) Jewish MP Ruth Smeeth for colluding with the right-wing media. He was accused of making an anti-Semitic trope. He was suspended from the party pending a disciplinary hearing. Ruth Smeeth publically marched to the hearing accompanied by 50 mostly Jewish MPs to give the sense of victimhood. Wadsworth was duly expelled from the party, not for antisemitism, but for “bringing the party into disrepute”.
A Jewish charity, the Campaign Against Antisemitism, investigated the Labour Party for 3 times as many anti-Semitic incidents as all other parties combined, despite their admitted facts that the Labour Party had indeed adopted what they called the “International Definition of Antisemitism” (i.e. the IHRA definition). The CAA is not considered an authoritative voice in the Jewish community, the main bodies being the Board of Deputies, the Jewish Leadership Council, the Community Security Trust, and the Chief Rabbi.
The CAA expanded it saying “Our research into antisemitism in political parties cites examples of discourse that enables antisemitism and the dissemination of antisemitic ideas, as follows:
1. A direct breach of the definition, for example, saying that “Jews…were the chief financiers of the slave trade” or claiming that “Jewish money…bias[es] the Conservatives”.
2. Denying antisemitism exists where there is clear evidence that there has been a breach of the definition. For example, Ken Loach, for many years a Labour member, a founder of the Left Unity Party and a public supporter of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, told the BBC’s Daily Politics he had been attending Labour meetings for 50 years and had “never in that whole time heard a single antisemitic word or a racist word” and that allegations of antisemitism were a fallacy “without validation or any evidence”.
3. Accusing Jews who cite evidence of antisemitism of lying, conspiring or having deceitful motives in doing so (the so-called ‘Livingstone Formulation’) where there is clear evidence that there has been a breach of the definition. A common accusation is that Jews are dissembling to protect Israel from criticism, or in order to attack people who have criticised Israel, such as Jeremy Corbyn, or are in a ‘right-wing’ alliance against progressive politics.”
There is no problem in my opinion with the first example, which illustrates that the IHRA definition may not be as watertight as its proponents would seem to believe. The other two examples are clearly mischievous. They write “when there has been clear evidence”, yet the illustrations indicate they consider any denial to be anti-Semitic, regardless of the evidence.
It is clearly absurd to suggest that not seeing antisemitism is itself evidence of antisemitism, just as it is absurd to suggest that no Jews are lying or trying to shield Israel from criticism (as it is absurd to suggest ALL accusations of antisemitism are lies or trying to shield Israel). Nonetheless, despite the Yougov report into antisemitism the CAA commissioned, which, without referencing the IHRA definition at all, concluded that Labour supporters were less likely than those of right-wing parties to endorse any of their anti-Semitic statements.
After it re-emerged, having first been publicized without remark that Corbyn had defended a mural in 2012 which contained anti-Semitic imagery, the British Jewish establishment organized a demonstration in Trafalgar Square against antisemitism in Labour in which the party were urged to adopt the Chakrabarti Report’s recommendations, despite that report previously being labelled by the Jewish establishment a “whitewash”. They held placards with the slogan #enoughisenough and anti-Labour slogans, such as “For the many, not the Jew”, implying that Jews don’t belong in Labour.
The CAA has themselves since organized two demonstrations outside Labour headquarters against Labour antisemitism. A parliamentary debate into antisemitism turned into an anti-Corbyn hate fest. Corbyn did agree to meet leading Jewish establishment figures, and did an interview with the Jewish News, but these efforts only succeeded in ramping up the anti-Corbyn and anti-Labour hysteria, with selectively leaked “exposes” slowly being featured in the media, to keep the issue of Labour and Corbyn’s antisemitism firmly on people’s minds.
Most of these exposes focused on attacks on Israel and supposed support for its enemies, rather than on any expressed hatred for Jews. In one case a Jewish Holocaust survivor was accused of antisemitism. Three leading Jewish newspapers printed the same front page claiming Labour was an “existential threat” to British Jewry because they distinguished between general antisemitism and “political antisemitism”.
One Jewish MP was shocked that Corbyn organized a certain event, until she was reminded that she had attended, stayed longer than Corbyn, and expressed no concern at the time. Jewish MP Margaret Hodge called Corbyn in front of the media, “a f*cking anti-Semite and racist”, as well as attacking a Jewish MP who had stood by Corbyn, and claimed she was calling out antisemitism.
Another MP, Ian Austin, verbally attacked other MPs and likewise claimed he was calling out antisemitism. The CAA promptly disassociated themselves from the Jewish MP who had stood by Corbyn, and appointed Hodge and Austin as patrons.
Following the release of Labour’s Code of Conduct in July 2018 and Jeremy Corbyn’s umpteenth condemnation of antisemitism in August, itself apparently insensitive as it was released on a Friday, a #WeAreCorbyn internet campaign to support the left-wing leader was launched, and was also branded insensitive. Gideon Falter and Jonathan Sacredoti of the CAA admitted that adoption of the IHRA definition’s examples would see Labour forced to expel Jeremy Corbyn, which did not prevent the Parliamentary Labour Party from almost unanimously calling for the NEC to adopt the examples unamended. In the worst case scenario, many antizionist Jews and non-Jews will be purged from the party, as has already begun to happen.
So to Muslims and the Conservatives. The above can serve as a primer how to make your cause successful, and free one of Britain’s major parties from a vile prejudice. Firstly, create a long-winded definition of Islamophobia, which effectively penalizes critics of certain Islamic regimes, the actions and beliefs of prominent Muslims and Muslim traditions, and denounces anti-immigration sentiment.
Put pressure on as many organizations as you can to accept the definition. Accuse any organization which does not of being institutionally Islamophobic. The Establishment organizations should organize a demo in Trafalgar Square, with placards with a catchy phrase and anti-Conservative slogans.
Then open up a pressure group independent of the established Muslim Council of Britain, Tell Mama, and others. Have this group organize demonstrations outside Conservative Party headquarters. Their leaders should announce that this definition of Islamophobia is designed to bring down leading Tories.
Demand an investigation into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party and if you don’t like its conclusions, declare it a whitewash. Have 50 prominent Muslims accompany complainants to disciplinary hearings (if any are held). Have the leading Muslim community newspapers unite to call the Conservatives an existential threat to Britain’s Muslims, especially if they don’t recognize “political Islamophobia”.
Have supporters in the mainstream media constantly leak recordings of Tory MPs attacking Muslim countries, criticizing Muslim behaviour, dress, etc. Have Sayeeda Warsi publically confront Theresa May calling her a “f*cking Islamophobe and racist”. Demand that Boris Johnson and Bob Bradley, among others, are immediately expelled.
But none of the above has begun to happen in the Muslim community. They remain political outsiders in this country, with little expectation to gain the influence the Jewish community has obtained in the national institutions. Once Muslims gain the prestige and privilege that Jews have they will be able to make the same demands of the wider community, and once they gain the recognized leadership that the Jewish community have earned by default they will be able to create a Muslim norm and to suppress any internal dissent. So perhaps we have to back up.
Muslims have to be seen as part of the fabric of life in Britain. There is too much of a perception that Muslims, unlike Jews, either won’t integrate or cause too much harm to non-Muslims, claims that have in the past been made about Jews. Perhaps there are too many Muslims to change that, paradoxically. The less they need to integrate, the less they will, which is their right in a democratic country.
Perhaps the mentality of many British people has to change. If minority communities can be proud of their identities without considering themselves superior to others or a law unto themselves, white British communities can do the same. Celebrate their religion or non-religion, or local traditions. But Islamophobia in the Conservative Party will not be successfully challenged until Islamophobia in British society in general has been successfully challenged.
For more by this writer, visit Moshe Mankoff's Medium site