Bin the conspiracy theories, from whichever quarter they come


Uncomfortable as it may be for us to recognise and address, a thread of antisemitism has been present in parts of the Left for many decades.

By Richard Burden

Originally published by HuffPost, April 24, 2018

The recent debate on antisemitism which took place in the House of Commons was heavily oversubscribed with many more MPs wanting to speak than there was time available. As one of those who missed out, this is roughly what I was planning to say:

I am not Jewish and neither have I grown up with the shadow of antisemitism as an ever-present spectre. I did, however, experience a snapshot of what it is like to be on the receiving end of potentially violent antisemitism when, a few years ago, I was the target of threats from a far-right fantasist in my constituency. He had convinced himself both that I am Jewish and that my advocacy of Palestinian rights mean that I am some sort of sinister double agent for the State of Israel. It started with threatening phone messages and it continued later with online abuse and threats. The perpetrator was twice arrested and twice convicted, once resulting in a custodial sentence.

What happened to me was no more than a snapshot of the sustained barrage of more extreme and sustained abuse and threats received by Jewish Parliamentary colleagues like Luciana Berger. But it means I know a bit about how it can feel and the impact such threats can have, not only on those of us publicly in the firing line, but on our staff and our families too.

While the threats I received were from someone on the Far-Right, what I want to focus on here is the question of antisemitism on the Left. And that is about facing up to something profoundly challenging. After all, opposition to racism is at the core of how we define ourselves on the left of politics. Surely, we would never give house-room to an ideology that was the cornerstone of Nazism? It is the antithesis of everything that we should and do stand for.

Read the full article here.

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Richard Burden

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I was Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham Northfield between 1992 and 2019 and a former Shadow Transport Minister. I now chair Healthwatch in Birmingham and Solihull, and the West Midlands Board of Remembering Srebrenica. I also work as a public affairs consultant. I am an effective community advocate and stakeholder alliance builder with a passion for human rights. I am a trustee of the Balfour Project charity and of Citizens Advice Birmingham, and a former Chair of Medical Aid for Palestinians.

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