Dr Alan Maddison
16 February 2019
“Information on the precise number of reported allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party has just been made public. This data has confirmed that previous media attacks on Labour have been grossly exaggerated.
Headlines that proclaimed a belief that there was ‘no safe place for Jews in Corbyn’s Labour’, or that Labour needed, in the words of Marie van de Zyl, when Vice President the Board of Deputies of British Jews, to “drain the cess-pit of antisemitism”, have been shown to be totally contradicted by the evidence.
We discover that there have been reports of antisemitic abuse from a very small minority of Labour members, but no justification at all for the claims of it being rampant!
I have challenged such statements before, these now often taken-as-truth assumptions in much of the mainstream media, that only Labour had a particular “problem with antisemitism”.
But following the release of figures by Jennie Formby, General Secretary of the Labour Party, last week, we are now in a position to make a further analysis.
What is the reality of antisemitism in the Labour Party today?
I had noted some time ago that a survey into on-line antisemitic abuse had failed to pick up even a fraction those 25,000 abusive messages that Ruth Smeeth MP claimed to have received, and which, she implied, were mostly antisemitic and Jeremy Corbyn’s fault. As before the question was not whether Ruth Smeeth had been the victim of some terrible abuse, but in reality how much, and specifically how much from Labour members?
Yet two other prospective surveys indicated that whilst BAME MPs and Corbyn-supporting MPs got the heaviest abuse, Jewish MPs seemed to be relatively spared.
Now Jennie Formby’s figures provide further evidence that the relentless attacks on Labour have been wildly exaggerated. It seems of the thousands claimed, most – strangely – were never reported.
There were in fact 673 allegations against Labour members reported over the previous 10 months, not all involving recent events. One allegation concerned an 8-year old incident. The number reported seems modest – certainly in relation to the media hysteria last year –especially when we suspect significant trawling of internet by certain groups, trawling that could grossly inflate any numbers obtained simply from spontaneous reporting by victims themselves.
In addition to the 673 there were a further 433 allegations reported to Labour that did not in fact concern Labour members. Such errors of attribution have clearly inflated perceptions of how many genuine Labour members may be antisemitic.
Of these 673 linked to Labour members, 220 (33%) were rejected because there was insufficient evidence.
So in Labour we now have 453 allegations which seem to have been handled correctly and promptly. This represents 0.08% of our 540,000 members. It rather contradicts the myth that in Labour antisemitism is “rampant”, or that it has become a “cess-pit of antisemitism” or “an unsafe place for Jews”.
Making sense of it all
How should we interpret this 0.08% figure?
One guide can come from the biggest survey ever undertaken into antisemitism by the Institute of Jewish Policy Research. The author, L Daniel Staetsky, found that 30% of some 4,005 responders agreed with one or more of 8 statements considered to be ‘antisemitic’, ranging from stereotypes such as ‘Jews think they are better than other people’ or ‘Jews get rich at the expense of others’ to Holocaust denial.
Of these responders, the vast majority (79%) also agreed with at least one positive statement about Jewish people, so, Staetsky said reasonably, could not be considered antisemitic.
He also suggested that antisemitism was more likely in those agreeing with 5-8 of the statements offered. This group was analysed according to their self-described political positioning in the chart below.”
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