July 24, 2020 — London
Having long partnered with Lord John Mann, first during his many years as a British Member of Parliament, then as the UK’s Independent Adviser on Antisemitism, AJC is especially pleased to be asked by him to publish his piece on consistency and consequences. Last year, seven antisemitism whistleblowers within the Labour party spoke out in a BBC Panorama program, displaying immense courage. Labour has now apologized and finally agreed to pay “substantial” damages to the seven former employees. Lord Mann explains that this is the start of a process, not the end.
By John Mann
Consistency and consequences. This was my clarion call to American Jewish Committee (AJC) as I sat on a panel with U.S. State Department Special Envoy Elan Carr at the AJC Global Forum in Washington, D.C., in 2019.
William Bennett, a British Barrister, tells the High Court that before the BBC Panorama documentary on Labour antisemitism was broadcast, Labour had “issued a press release that contained defamatory and false allegations against the whistle-blowers” This is the news in Britain today. That the Labour Party has apologised to a group of whistle-blowers for its treatment of them.
This was the British Labour Party, led by Jeremy Corbyn, Member of Parliament (MP), Her Majesty’s official opposition, the would-be Prime Minister of one of the world’s largest economies, longest surviving democracy, Security Council Permanent Member. The Country that turned back the advancing Nazi stormtroopers.
The Party that my family, living in the same terraced house for over 60 years with its two bedrooms, cobbled street, outside toilet, created alongside Jewish garment workers in 1906. The Party that I joined at 14, met my wife in, that my parents met in, that my grandparents and great grandparents created, shamed by a leadership that allowed a wave of antisemitism to sweep through its lungs.
And yet normal, decent people resisted. Of course, there were high profile warriors, casualties. Extraordinarily, I could not allow my name to go forward to represent the Party in my blood at the December 2019 UK election.
But that is nothing compared to the sacrifice of the names you have not heard.
The MP, non-Jewish, low profile, chosen as a proxy to murder because Jewish MPs and Synagogues were seen by fascists as being too well protected. The young people abused routinely because they dared to hold firm to their belief that self-identity and self-determination is a right that must extend to Jewish people. And the courageous Labour whistle-blowers.
One old hand who I know well, but the rest of the young people, enthusiastically starting their working lives by taking jobs with their political party. Not just low profile, but usually no profile. Quiet, unassuming, normal, decent British young workers.
And what did they do when they saw the scandal emerging and swirling around their workplace: they stood firm, they acted with propriety. They countered the racism they saw and heard in an almost routine, non-assuming manner. Then, when the time came, they acted with integrity and courage. They spoke out, not just to the press but in sworn statements to the UK Human Rights watchdog. They broke confidentiality agreements to do so.
It’s what normal decent people do. They stand up against injustice. But we owe them a deep debt of gratitude for doing so. History is littered with those who could have spoken up but found an excuse not to do so. Not the young Labour whistle-blowers.
Consequences. That is what I called for at the AJC Global Forum. Consequences for the antisemites. This public court apology is a crushing defeat for the antisemites, their cheerleaders and their followers.
But I also called for consistency. This is the start of a process, not the end. Now we will wage war on them. Creating consequences for all those who opened doors and waved through the antisemites. A consistent approach.
With the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism to remove obfuscation, we must unite across the seas to take our battle to the antisemites.
I have always maintained that if everybody does their little bit then we will win. These young whistle-blowers did more than their fair share because they could. Normal people do what normal people do, being decent human beings, to them we say a big and warm thank you.
Lord Mann of Holbeck Moor is the United Kingdom Government’s Independent Adviser on Antisemitism.