Last week, Londoners elected Sadiq Khan, a human rights lawyer and a former member of Parliament for the Labour Party, as their first Muslim mayor. Khan was predicted to win, but in the last minute an ugly row over anti-Semitism in the party ranks threatened to derail his election and forced Khan to denounce Ken Livingstone, a former London mayor who is stalwart of the Left.
Livingstone had floated the myth of a pact between Adolf Hitler and Zionist leaders, a trope often used by Holocaust deniers. The former mayor later went on to justify himself and others in the party who have now been accused of anti-Semitism by explaining on the BBC that real anti-Semites hate their Jewish neighbors in Golders Green, a North London neighborhood, apparently condoning hatred of Jews living in Israel.
Calling for the expulsion of Livingstone, Khan promised to be mayor “for all Londoners” and chided the party leadership for its failure to act against anti-Semitism in the party. But the party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has found it difficult to acknowledge the well-documented presence of Holocaust deniers within his party. It has now emerged that 50 members have already been suspended for anti-Semitic remarks.
The row over anti-Semitism in the Labour Party has significance far beyond the immediate leadership battles. Combating the new threat of anti-Semitism in Europe is inextricably linked to the fight against terrorist extremism. Khan may unexpectedly be the person to bring change. Some years ago, Khan described British Muslims who worked with the government’s anti-extremism initiatives as “Uncle Toms.” He has now apologized for this slur and is poised to take the lead in combating anti-Semitism and latent Holocaust denial in the party.
REASONED RHETORIC, MUDDLED REALITY
Accusations of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party were set off by the election of Malia Bouattia as president of the National Union of Students. Bouattia had refused to support a resolution condemning the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) and was recorded describing Birmingham University
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