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BY-NC 4.0 license Open Access Published by Academic Studies Press January 12, 2022

In the House of the Hangman One should not Mention the Noose: Jewish Voice for Labour’s Attack on the Equality and Human Rights Commission

Derek Spitz

Abstract

In May 2021 Jewish Voice for Labour (“JVL”) published a combative document entitled How the EHRC Got It So Wrong-Antisemitism and the Labour Party. The document criti­cises the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s October 2020 Report of its investiga­tion into antisemitism in the Labour Party. The Commission found the Labour Party responsible for antisemitic conduct giving rise to several unlawful acts in breach of the Equality Act 2010. In addition to its legal findings, it also made critical factual findings, identifying a culture of acceptance of antisemitism in the Labour Party, which suffered from serious failings in leadership, where the failure to tackle antisemitism more effectively was probably a matter of choice. The essence of JVL’s attack on the Commission’s Report is as follows. First, it is said that the Commission did not and could not lawfully investigate antisemitism as such; to the extent that it purported to do so, its findings of unlawfulness are purportedly meaningless. Secondly, JVL claims that the Commission made no finding of institutional antisemitism. Thirdly, by failing to require production of evidence referred to in a certain leaked report, probably prepared by Labour Party officials loyal to Jeremy Corbyn, the Commission is accused of nullifying at a stroke the value of its own Report as a factual account. Fourthly, JVL claims the Commission’s Report is not just legally unten­able, but purportedly a threat to democracy. Finally, JVL claims the Commission’s analysis was not just wrong, but that it exercised its statutory powers in bad faith. This article offers a response to each of the five pillars of JVL’s attack, all of which collapse under scrutiny. As to the first pillar, the article identifies the disappearing of antisemitism as the linchpin of JVL’s argument and shows how JVL’s criticism is underpinned by a political epistemology of antisemitism denialism. As to the second pillar, it shows that the absence of the term “institutional antisemitism” in the Commission’s Report is a semantic quibble. In sub­stance, the Commission found that the conduct under investigation amounted to institu­tional antisemitism. As to the third, the article demonstrates that JVL’s complaint about the Commission’s failure to call for production of the leaked report is perverse because that report constitutes an admission of the correctness of the complaints put before it. More­over, the Corbyn-led Labour Party itself decided that it did not want the Commission to consider that material. As to the fourth pillar, the article shows that far from being a threat to democracy, the Commission’s Report grasps the nettle of antisemitism denial. It con­cludes that continuing to assume and assert that Jews raising concerns about antisemitism are lying for nefarious ends may itself be, and in at least two cases was, a form of unlawful anti-Jewish harassment. As to the fifth, the article rebuts the extraordinary charge that the Commission exercised its powers in bad faith. Rather strikingly, neither JVL nor Jeremy Corbyn was willing to take the Commission on judicial review. The article concludes by considering how the poverty of JVL’s reasoning, coupled with the extravagance of its accu­sations, invites a symptomatic reading of Antisemitism and the Labour Party as a disap­pointing illustration of left-wing melancholia.

Published Online: 2022-01-12
Published in Print: 2021-12-01

© 2021 by Academic Studies Press

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

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