The British Labour party last week elected a new leader in Keir Starmer, who plans to do more than just replace former leader Jeremy Corbyn: He plans to “tear out” the “poison” of anti-Semitism that had become associated with Corbyn and the party. “We have to face the future with honesty. Anti-Semitism has been a stain on our party,” said Starmer in a video posted to his Twitter feed. “I have seen the grief that it has brought to so many Jewish communities.
“On behalf of the Labour party, I am sorry. And I will tear out this poison by its roots, and judge success by the return of our Jewish members and those who felt that they could no longer support us.”
Israel welcomed the new Labour leader, especially his approach to anti-Semitism. Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz tweeted, “I congratulate
@Keir_Starmer on his election to lead the UK Labour Party. I hope he will live up to his promise to eradicate anti-Semitism that has emerged in the party in recent years & like former Labour leaders, he will strengthen the friendship between Britain and Israel.”
Mark Regev, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom, pointed back to history between the Labour party and Israel as well. “Mazal Tov @Keir_Starmer. Time to reembrace the principled solidarity with Israel of Nye Bevan, Harold Wilson and so many @UKLabour luminaries,” tweeted Regev, who included a photo from 1982 of former Labour leader Wilson with then-Israeli Labor party leader Yitzhak Rabin.
Starmer’s scored an overwhelming victory in the Labour party election—the party’s website said he won 56.2% of the vote, besting second-best Rebecca Long-Bailey by nearly 30 percentage points. That shows party support for a candidate aiming to bring the Labour party back to power after a humbling defeat in the last UK parliamentary elections. Starmer, who pushed for party unity in his videoed speech on Twitter, still tipped his hat to Corbyn despite the latter’s soiled reputation.
“I want to pay tribute to Jeremy Corbyn, who led our party through some really difficult times, who energized our movement and who is a friend, as well as a colleague,” said Starmer.
However, Starmer’s stance against the anti-Semitism that had become associated with Corbyn has given some Jews in the UK hope. Former Labour Minister of Parliament and former Parliamentary Chair of the Jewish Labour Movement in the UK Ruth Smeeth tweeted on Saturday, “I always said that to end the shame of antisemitism in the Labour Party it had to mean wholesale cultural change, having spoken to @Keir_Starmer this afternoon I am convinced that he understands this and has plan to once again make our party a home for the Jewish community.”
However, the Jewish Labour Movement itself was more hesitant in their congratulatory message posted to Twitter. After wishing Starmer a “mazel tov” for his victory, the statement said that “this change of leadership must mark a turning point for Labour in its relationship with the Jewish community.”
Looking ahead, the Jewish Labour Movement expressed optimism in noting plans for change, but also voiced caution. “The past five years have without doubt been one of the darkest times for Jewish Labour members and supporters,” said the statement. “We will dare to be optimistic that the Party can once again be a safe place for Jews, but we are equally clear that this is just the beginning of that process.”
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, April 5, 2020)