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All You Need To Know About The UK's Anti-Semitism Scandal

ICE Graveyard 29/04/2016 Willa Frej

A spate of anti-Semitic incidents escalated in British politics this week -- and forced the country's center-left Labour Party to do some serious soul-searching about its members and values.

Here's what you need to know:

A Prominent British Politician Made Some Incendiary Anti-Semitic Remarks

Ken Livingstone, the former mayor of London, was suspended from the United Kingdom's main opposition party Thursday for claiming that Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler supported Zionism -- the movement to create a Jewish state -- "before he went mad."

"When Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel," Livingstone said.

He defended his comments on Friday, causing such a media uproar that he had to hide from reporters in a bathroom

“Everything I said yesterday was true and I will be presenting the academic book about that to the Labour Party inquiry," he told the London Evening Standard.

American Marxist historian Lenni Brenner claims in that book that Nazis and early Zionists once collaborated, the Standard reports.

And It Doesn't Stop There

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also suspended MP Naseem "Naz" Shah from the party on Wednesday for social media posts she had published before becoming a lawmaker which suggested that Israel should be moved within the United States.

Several legislators including Prime Minister David Cameron called on Corbyn to take a tougher stance on combating anti-Semitism. Corbyn reversed a decision to not get rid of her soon after.

“Anti-Semitism is effectively racism and we should call it out and fight it whenever we see it,” Cameron said in Parliament following the incident.

And earlier this year, allegations of anti-Semitism at Oxford University's student Labour Club surfaced that rocked the party. 

The club's co-chairman resigned after stating that many members “have some kind of problem with Jews." Some of the group's members expressed support for anti-Israel terror group Hamas, he said. The club also openly supported a campus event called "Israeli Apartheid Week."

Many In Britain Are Outraged

Labour MP John Mann angrily branded Livingstone a “Nazi apologist" on Thursday, accusing him of "rewriting history."

Jon Lansman, a Labour party activist, also aired his disappointment on Twitter:

Many Jewish groups in the U.K. did not shy away from voicing their anger. 

"What Ken Livingstone deliberately did was to draw an equation between Nazism and Zionism," said Jonathan Arkush, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. “He therefore crossed a line into certainly what most people would regard as distinctly anti-Semitic.”

Corbyn canceled a campaign visit to Wales Friday because his inability to deal with anti-Semitism in the party has "made him a liability," The Telegraph reported.

However, he did receive some support in the U.K. from the Jewish Socialists' Group, who said in a statement that anti-Semitism and the political ideology of anti-Zionism are not the same.

The Labour Party Is Now Trying To Fight Back

Labour may have suspended two party figures in one week, but Corbyn insisted on Thursday that "there's no crisis." "Where there is any racism in the party it will be dealt with, it will be rooted out," he added.

Corbyn accused those who spoke out against the incidents of being “nervous of the strength of the Labour party at local level."

Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson called Livingstone's Zionism claims “vile.” "To link Hitler and Zionism in the way he did must have been designed to create offense," he told the BBC.

Watson insisted that he and Corbyn are committed to tackling these issues. They are looking into whether "Labour's own structures" needed changing, "to make sure that we send a very clear signal to people in our party that we will have a zero tolerance approach to anti-Semitism," he said.

"Do we need to change our rules to explicitly rule out racism and specifically include anti-Semitism in that?" Watson added.

Labour is considering changes to its rules to send "a clear signal" of its "zero tolerance" towards anti-Semitism, according to a spokesman for Corbyn, without elaborating further. “Jeremy will announce further initiatives in the near future," he said.

A Moment Of Reinvention For The Party?

Many Labour members fear that these are not isolated incidents, and instead reveal a more institutionalized anti-Semitism that's developed within the party.

The Labour Party "does indeed have a problem with Jews," former Labour MP Tom Harris wrote last month.

"Unfortunately for Labour, the election of Corbyn as its leader has thrown a spotlight on a nasty kind of politics [...]. Corbyn’s association with, and friendship of, the Hamas terrorist organisation is a good starting point: here is an organisation which, far from denying its anti-Semitism, proudly states its commitment to killing Jews in its own constitution."

Before Corbyn became Labour leader in 2015, the party was the place British Jews viewed as their "natural home," according to the the Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland.

Corbyn has faced criticism in the past for meeting with members of Hamas and Hezbollah, two designated terror groups that oppose the state of Israel. He even referred to the leaders of Hamas as "friends."

Brits head to the polls to vote in local elections on May 5. It's a defining moment for the Labour Party, which is set to lose many of its opposition seats and further undermine Corbyn's popularity.

Anti-Semitism Is Not Just An Issue In Britain

Several other European governments are facing issues related to anti-Semitism at home, too. There were three violent attacks on Jews in the span of only a few months in the city of Marseille, France.

A rise in anti-Semitism is prompting an unprecedented number of European Jews to resettle in Israel, according to The Jewish Agency, the organization that monitors migration to and from Israel.

Almost 10,000 western European Jews made Aliyah, or immigrated, to Israel in 2015 -- more than ever before. About 80 percent came from France.

Even larger groups are immigrating from Eastern Europe. So far this year, 5,677 Jews worldwide have made Aliyah. The largest groups come from Russia, Belarus, the Baltics, Ukraine and Moldova, The Jewish Agency told The WorldPost. Western Europe represents 20 percent of the total figure. 

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