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THEY stood, shoulder-to-shoulder, in the pouring rain on Sunday.
Young and old, able-bodied and less so, they turned up in their droves in Manchester city centre on Sunday to reinforce the message that British Jews say “Enough is Enough” when it comes to antisemitism in the Labour Party.
Some 1,500 — from Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Glasgow, London and elsewhere — heard an array of politicians and community leaders stand up against the upsurge in Jew-hate.
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis described how there were “two Britains”.
He said: “There is one where antisemitic incidents are at an all-time high and in which Jewish schools, our synagogues, our communal facilities exist behind walls, gates and guards, in order to protect us... in which people who previously were members of the British National Party and the Ku Klux Klan are praising public comments about the Jews which have been uttered by the leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition.
“But there is another Britain in which we can walk the streets of this country with a kippa on our heads without fear and in which society is proud to have a Jewish community in its midst and which views us as an essential, integral part of the fabric of British society.
“Our question to everyone living in Britain today is: which Britain do you want to live in in the future?
“Is it going to be a Britain that will make us proud, or will bring us shame?”
At the rally, organised by North West Friends of Israel with the backing of the Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council, he urged Labour to return to the party it had always intended to be, “upholding the principles of justice, fairness and equality and fighting antisemitism”.
Rabbi Mirvis added: “Corbyn has done something which he has failed to do in the past — unite the British Jewish community.
“We stand as one — Orthodox, charedi, secular and Masorti — to declare ‘no’ to antisemitism and ‘yes’ to a Britain of tolerance and respect.
“We love this country and we will do what we can to guarantee that Britain in future will be one to be proud of.”
His sentiments were echoed by Jonathan Goldstein, chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council.
He said of Labour: “Enough of treating the Jews with contempt.
“Enough of failing to discipline racist party members.
“Enough of being accomplices to the spreading of lies and venom about Jews.
“Enough of tolerating vicious attitudes towards those who challenge racism. Enough of engaging in antisemitic tropes.
“The last thing we want to be doing is having a public spat with Her Majesty’s Opposition, but we have no choice.
“This needs to be put right.
“This is about our freedom and security in this country.
“When a minority experiences racism, it should not have to take to the streets to be taken seriously.”
Stuart Ailion, co-chairman of North West Friends of Israel, said that ordinary people have been emboldened to express antisemitic sentiments.
“It has left the Jewish community feeling threatened, vulnerable and bullied,” he explained.
“We are no strangers to irrational hatred.
“The far-left calls us fascists and ‘Zio-Nazis’ and the far-right calls us communists.”
NWFOI co-chairman Raphi Bloom described Corbyn as a “militant enabler of antisemitism”.
He said: “We say to the antisemites that we are united as a Jewish community.
“We are proud citizens of the UK and we will not be accused of dual loyalty or of being traitors, nor will we be told to quieten down over antisemitism.
“We will not tolerate Jewish and non-Jewish MPs being faced with deselection by the far-left and we demand immediate action against the proponents of antisemitism.”
Dame Louise Ellman, Labour MP for Liverpool Riverside, described herself as “absolutely horrified by the sinister statements by some major trade union leaders demonising the Jewish community”.
She accused Len McCluskey, leader of the Unite union, of “blaming us for antisemitism and maligning us for speaking out against it”, and described how, last week, Mark Serwotka, leader of the PCS union, “claimed that Labour antisemitism was created by Israel to cover up its alleged atrocities”.
Mancunian Dame Louise said: “I say to Len McCluskey and to Mark Serwotka and to any others who are considering repeating their slanders, ‘You are playing with fire — you would not dare treat any other minority of this country in this way’.
“Isn’t it a disgrace that we have to come together in this way to protest against antisemitism in 2018?
“Antisemitism is not just about Jewish people — it is about the whole nature of our society.
“We will keep campaigning for what’s right and fight it wherever it raises its ugly head.”
Veteran Labour politician Dame Margaret Hodge, who confronted Corbyn in Parliament in July, told the crowd: “I never dreamed that my identity as a Jew and my work as a public servant of the Labour Party would lead me to a rally protesting against antisemitism in my party — but it has.
“In the 2010 election, I had fought and defeated the fascist Nick Griffin, leader of the BNP, in Barking.
SPEAKER: Dame Margaret|
“When I took him on, I expected to receive a lot of antisemitic abuse.
“But the antisemitic tropes I’ve received in the last year or so are greater in number, and more horrid in content, than what I was subjected to by Nick Griffin and the BNP 10 years ago.
“One tweet called me a ‘Zionist pig’ and that they hoped Hezbollah will ‘catch up with the bitch’.
“Those are a few of the more polite messages. The likes of Dame Louise, Luciana Berger and Ruth Smeeth have received much worse abuse than me and we should salute their bravery.”
The 74-year-old, who is MP for Barking, said she joined Labour when she was 18 because she felt it was the natural home for Jews.
Dame Margaret added: “It is truly shocking that today under Corbyn’s leadership the party has become a hostile environment for Jews.
“A place where antisemitic tropes are all too commonplace and a party that is ridden with this outrageous and unnecessary row on antisemitism and that is failing to provide effective opposition on the issues that matter, from Europe to everything else.
“This should never, ever be.”
“If Jeremy Corbyn can ever rebuild trust with the Jewish community he has to start talking, listening and hearing what they say.
“He has shunned us all for too long.
“He might just say sorry.
“Not sorry for we who feel the hurt, but sorry for what he has said, done and not done for many years.”
Board of Deputies president Marie van der Zyl called for Corbyn to take responsibility for his actions, while Greater Manchester Deputy Mayor Beverley Hughes pledged to stand with the community against antisemitism.
She said: “The Jewish community has made, over many years, an immense contribution to our city and region.
“You are woven in our shared history and you will help us to shape the future for all the people of Greater Manchester.
“The Arena attack last year could have shattered the bond between our citizens and divided our many communities.
“Instead, Greater Manchester showed the world what solidarity looks like.
“Jewish people and their organisations were right there in the midst with us.
“As mayor and deputy mayor, Andy Burnham and I pledged then to stand against hate and prejudice — especially antisemitism — no matter who perpetrates it, no matter what position that person may have in the Labour Party or elsewhere.
“We have made tackling hate crime and antisemitism one of our top priorities in Greater Manchester.
“Antisemitism is pervasive, it’s pernicious and it is corrosive.”
Labour MP Lucy Powell, who represents Manchester Central, had to ask the crowd to stop heckling her as some were chanting “Corbyn out” in the middle of her speech.
She said: “You don’t need to heckle me, because I am on your side.
“I am on your side 100 per cent.
“I am here standing alongside you to show my support.
“This huge crowd will send an incredibly strong message — a message I will take back to Parliament, to the Labour Party and I take everywhere I go.
“You don’t need to heckle me.”
Bury South MP Ivan Lewis also attracted hecklers after he used his speech to attack the Conservative Party.
MPs Kate Green, Mike Kane, Mary Robinson, Chris Green and Jeff Smith, and Manchester City Council leader Sir Richard Leese, also addressed the crowd.
And Home Secretary Sajid Javid and Fiyaz Mughal, of Muslim charity Tell MAMA, sent messages of support, too.