Richard Burgon's comments further demonstrate the antisemitism problem at the heart of Labour

This week it came to light that key Corbyn ally Richard Burgon MP, made the following remarks at a 2014 anti-Israel event:

“The enemy of the Palestinian people is not the Jewish people

The enemy of the Palestinian people are Zionism and Zionism is the enemy of peace and the Palestinian people. “

Richard Burgon tried to deny he made the remarks, but clearly he was embracing his inner Pinocchio.

Mr Burgon says he regrets his remarks, but has not apologized for lying or shown sufficient understanding as to why the content of his remarks are so offensive.

At a time when Labour’s antisemitism problem appears an institutional issue- shown by the fact that the Equalities and Human Rights Commission is currently investigating the Labour Party for antisemitism- this is extremely troubling.

Mr Burgon tries to pit Zionism and Judaism against each other, by saying Judaism is not the enemy of the people, but Zionism is. This is nonsensical given that Zionism is defined as the national self-determination of the Jewish people embodied in the existence of Israel.

The impression Mr Burgon gives is that the only acceptable type of Jewish person, for him and many in the Labour Party , is one who hates Israel and denies its existence.

By calling Zionism the enemy of peace, Richard Burgon is expressing a view that the vast majority of British Jewish people hold views which make them the enemy of peace.

Anti-Zionism crosses over in to antisemitism when it is based on antsemitic tropes, in this case the idea that Jews are committed to war at the expense of the peace for the benefit of some mythical all powerful world Jewry.

Now, we are then left with two thoughts:

1. Mr Burgon needs educating on antisemitism and does not realize that merely using the word Zionist or Zionism instead of Jewish and/ or Judaism is not a cover for antisemitism.

2. He realized what he was saying and thought he would get away with it.

This goes to the heart of Labour’s problem with antisemitism, a refusal to acknowledge, recognize and comprehend when demonization of Israel crosses over in to antisemitism. Until senior pro-Corbyn figures like Mr Burgon recognize this, Labour will remain prone to further accusations of antisemitism.

As I write this, Mr Burgon is still Shadow Justice Secretary, despite not offering an unequivocal apology to the British Jewish Community.

Stephen Hoffman is a political activist who has worked in Parliament and outside Parliament in a number of campaign and research roles. 

He now runs his own consultancy, whichelps NGOs and individuals run successful political campaigns. 

Since Stephen started working he has been a committed opponent in fighting antisemitism and has written a number of articles and reports on the scourge of rising antisemitism and has spoken out against the rise of antisemitism in the Labour Party since 2015.

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