To Combat Antisemitism, We Must Oppose Anti-Zionism—at Home and Abroad | Opinion

Last month, two Orthodox Jewish men were attacked with a smashed glass bottle as they closed up a shop they work at in north London. This vicious attack, which left both men in hospital, did not grab nearly as many international headlines as the Beth Israel synagogue siege in Colleyville, Texas, last month. But it, too, is a symptom of the growing wave of antisemitism which threatens Jews across the globe.

This is, of course, a law-enforcement issue. But it is also, and more importantly, an ideological battle, one that like climate change, terrorism or COVID-19, we have to fight across international boundaries.

To me, it's also deeply personal.

Three years ago this month, I resigned as a Labour Member of Parliament because I could no longer in good conscience remain in a party led by Jeremy Corbyn.

I was proud to serve as a minister under Tony Blair. But I was ashamed by the hard-left ideology and culture which thrived under Corbyn, one in which Jews were driven from the party while members who spouted antisemitism went undisciplined.

Thanks to social media, Jew-haters can spread their poison across borders, inciting violence and hatred. The British hostage-taker in Colleyville, Malik Faisal Akram, for instance, is reported to have watched Pakistani sermons in which preachers called Jews "the biggest agents of Satan" who were "akin to pigs."

But antisemitism doesn't just come in the form of racist street thugs, Islamist terrorists and the keyboard warriors who spend hours posting bizarre but toxic conspiracy theories about QAnon, the Rothschilds and "lizard people." Nor is it confined to hate-filled rallies like the annual Al Quds Day marches, which draw large crowds from Tehran and Damascus to London and Berlin.

Instead, in many ways, the more pernicious manifestations of antisemitic anti-Zionism come from supposedly more respectable sources.

This ideology—antisemitic anti-Zionism—is on the march. It is an ideology rooted in ancient hatreds which targets for hate and opprobrium the modern-day State of Israel. And tragically, in the West, it is Europe—in whose bloodlands six million Jews were murdered eight decades ago—which is at its epicentre.

Last week, for instance, Amnesty International published a report which compared Israel to apartheid-era South Africa. Factually inaccurate and intellectually dishonest, the report has little to do with legitimate concerns about the plight of the Palestinian people. Instead, it's part of a continuing effort by some on the Left to demonize and delegitimize the world's sole Jewish state.

The "apartheid smear" originated in the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign, a movement which focuses obsessively and exclusively on Israel's "crimes" and which has done nothing to further the cause of peace in the Middle East. That's not their goal. As Bassem Eid, the founder of Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, has argued, "The agenda of the BDS campaign is to try to destroy Israel."

It has, moreover, inspired a welter of anti-Israel campaigning on university campuses which has stifled debate and led to an atmosphere of fear and intimidation among many Jewish students. Last November, the CST, which monitors Jew-hate in the UK, reported that 2019-20 has seen the highest number of antisemitic incidents on campus in a single academic year, despite the year being cut short because of the pandemic.

Israel = apartheid
ROME, ITALY - MAY 15: People participate in the demonstration in solidarity with the people of Palestine, to break the silence against Israel's attempt at ethnic cleansing, on the anniversary of the Nakba, on May 15, 2021 in Rome, Italy. Tensions in Jerusalem has resulted in cross-border airstrikes between Israel and militants in Gaza, killing at least 119 Palestinians and 8 Israelis. Simona Granati - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

The Oxford University Labour Club's 2016 decision to support "Israel Apartheid Week" lifted the lid on the underbelly of antisemitism which had infected some elements of the student body. "The student left produces the most aggressive and virulent propagators of antisemitism on campus," wrote the former president of the university's Jewish Society.

The new hard-left leadership of the Labour party had empowered and emboldened a racist fringe which now attached itself, limpet-like, to my party.

Alongside others, I fought the scourge of antisemitism within the party for three years before concluding that I couldn't tell voters in my constituency that Corbyn was fit to be Prime Minister. Thankfully, the British public agreed with that judgment. Research afterward showed that the party's association with Jew-hate made it simply too toxic to support. A year later, Britain's human rights watchdog concluded its investigation by determining that, Labour had become "institutionally antisemitic" on Corbyn's watch.

Repairing the moral damage the Corbynites inflicted on Labour will take time and determination. But the sheer speed with which a small far-left fringe was able to capture power in Labour offers a warning to those who are complacent about, or willing to indulge, the activities of the "The Squad" in the Democratic Party. The case of Labour demonstrates the need to set clear red lines and to call out each and every instance of antisemitism at the earliest opportunity.

The lesson of Corbyn showed the need not just to condemn antisemites but also to hold their fellow travelers to account. Jew-hate will never be snuffed out in an environment in which anti-Zionism is tolerated and condoned.

Joan Ryan was a Member of the U.K. Parliament for 17 years and served in the government of Tony Blair. She is the Executive Director of ELNET-U.K., an organization working to strengthen U.K.-Israel relations.

The views in this article are the writer's own.