Jeremy Corbyn’s new peer Martha Osamor is embroiled in an anti-Semitism storm after it emerged she mounted an extraordinary defence of some of Labour’s worst anti-Semites. On 15 June 2016, Osamor signed a letter protesting against the suspension of several Labour members who had made virulently anti-Semitic comments. The letter – which itself should be enough to warrant suspension – defended the notorious Tony Greenstein, who was kicked out of the party after Labour’s NCC found him guilty of “repeatedly using ‘zio’ as a term of derision, stating ‘Gay zionists make me want to puke’ and referring to others as ‘Zionist scum’”. Osamor personally backed Greenstein.
The Osamor letter also defended Jackie Walker, insisting her suspension was “applied and publicised in haste, without due consideration”, and welcoming her re-admission to the party (Walker was later suspended again for claiming that Jews financed the slave trade). Osamor thinks Jackie Walker should still be in the Labour Party.
Osamor’s letter remarkably backed Ken Livingstone’s claims that Hitler was a Zionist: “It appears allegations of anti-Semitism are being used to stifle the sharing of information on some of the uncomfortable events that took place during the Shoah”. Osamor specifically called for Momentum activist Marlene Ellis to have her suspension overturned. Ellis called for Ken to be reinstated and dismissed Naz Shah’s call for Jews to be transported out of the Middle East as “not so outrageous within the historical context and involvement of Zionists with Nazis”. And the letter defended David White, the Croydon CLP secretary who was suspended for saying Ken was “largely accurate” to say Hitler was a Zionist. It appears Osamor thinks Ken and his defenders have done nothing wrong.
Osamor’s letter said the suspensions for anti-Semitism “undermine serious discussion and thinking”. What “serious discussion and thinking” about Jews does Osamor want to have? She goes on to claim “Allegations are also being made to silence criticisms of Israel, hamper the work of Momentum activists, and undermine Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn”. This is a viewpoint Corbyn has himself condemned – so why is he putting Osamor in the Lords?
Her letter then compared the anti-Semitism scandal to the McCarthy era and the Salem witch trials. It states:
“We are uncomfortable with the parallel between the suspensions and what took place during the McCarthy era in the United States… Some members of the Party appear to have exploited a somewhat hysterical atmosphere which has been allowed to develop. This is reminiscent of the Salem Witch Trials in Massachusetts, rather than of calm, rational consideration… The current suspensions are perceived as a tool to intimidate activists on the Left which is inimical to the progress of the Labour Party.”
Just three weeks ago, Osamor shared another letter to the Guardian on her Facebook page which claimed Labour’s anti-semitism crisis was “weaponised” by the media to damage Corbyn and Labour ahead of the local elections. Again, this is a position Corbyn has condemned.
If a typical Labour member had said the things in Osamor’s letter, endorsing Tony Greenstein, Jackie Walker, Ken Livingstone, Marlene Ellis and David White, they would be suspended. Instead Corbyn has given Osamor a peerage. Labour have been approached for comment. Will they act in light of these new revelations?
UPDATE: Martha Osamor says in a statement:
“I am and always have been implacably opposed to antisemitism and have spent my life as an anti-racist campaigner. As Jeremy has said clearly, raising concerns about antisemitism is not a smear. I welcome Jennie Formby’s recent actions as Labour’s new General Secretary to ensure there is no place for antisemitism in the Labour Party.”
Labour are declining to defend Osamor and have made her put out a statement in her own name. Oh dear…
UPDATE II: Campaign Against Antisemitism condemn Corbyn and Osamor:
“Mr Corbyn has promised action, not just words, against antisemitism in the Labour Party. Today his actions speak louder than ever. By elevating Ms Osamor to the peerage, Mr Corbyn has sent an unmistakable signal to those in the Jewish community who still harboured some hope that he might change. Mr Corbyn is telling us not only that he sees her behaviour as unproblematic, but that he sees it as being worthy of the highest honour and a lifelong seat in the House of Lords. Yet again, Mr Corbyn has sent the Jewish community a two-fingered salute, and the Labour Party has looked on inertly.”