Open Letter to Clive Lewis

Politicians must chose priorities. This is the nature of decision-making with limited resources, and no one disputes this. Each cause has its champions, be it wildlife conservation, accessible education, or productivity and prosperity. These champions are people who the public rely on; that the public depend on.  

So when you wear the badge of being anti-racist, there is a large community of people who rely on you. And yesterday, you categorically failed the Jewish component of that community. But you already knew that. In defending Marc Wadsworth, you decided to betray these values, and join in with the politicisation and minimisation of antisemitism.
 
When you spoke at the Union of Jewish Students’ Conference in 2016 you told Jewish students of your concern that antisemitism had reared its ugly head, that it had played out through the traditional tropes that Jews control the banks and the media. So one cannot help but wonder, why in 2016 you were aware of the antisemitic trope of Jews controlling the media, but yesterday you came out and defended a colleague who incontrovertibly peddled that very same trope. 
 
But one only need take a look at your Twitter Feed and the article you have recently shared to understand how you see anti-racism. Political philosophies and narrow approaches to identity and liberation politics – too often seen in the student movement as well – perpetuate a hierarchy of abuse intolerance and exclude Jews from the intersectional approach towards addressing racism that your Party champions. These ideas and those that promote them lazily assume all Jews are white and privileged, fail to understand the unique – not more important or more deserving of addressing – nature of racism and hatred towards Jews that expresses itself in perverted and conspiratorial understandings of power – the very “socialism of fools” you ostensibly identified and denounced when I heard you address Jewish students on the day I was elected to represent them.
 
Antisemitism on the right does not negate that of the left, or the possibility so-called anti-racists and leaders within the major political party on the left can be culpable of racism. The racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia and bigotry faced by other minorities in this country is disgraceful. The Jewish community has a proud history of standing side by side with other minority groups in solidarity, tolerance, and support. However this does not make antisemitism any less disgraceful.
 
When you spoke at UJS Conference in 2016 you promised to be a true ally and a ‘friend’, however it is clear that you are only a friend when it is politically advantageous, and your actions yesterday seemed far removed from your words.
 
50 MP’s and peers stood alongside Ruth Smeeth, who is a consistent anti-racist that many Jewish students look up too, and yet you chose to defend Marc Wadsworth.
 
As one of those who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Ruth Smeeth, your right and honourable friend, Chuka Umunna MP asks: “How can we criticise the Conservative Party for running a racist, Islamophobic and prejudiced London Mayoral campaign in 2016, call them to book for delivering clearly racist leaflets last month in local elections Havering, or suggest racism lies behind the Tories’ mistreatment of the Windrush generation when we don’t get our own house in order?”
 
And I have some questions of my own for you.
 
Is it really too much to ask that you distance yourself from a colleague that has been caught on video espousing antisemitic tropes when you yourself outlined the antisemitic nature of such allusions back in 2016?
 
Is it really too much to ask that the Jewish community be shown the courtesy of being taken seriously and having these concerns addressed, when you got up at UJS Conference and apologised for having the reaction ‘of quite open denial, initially’ when faced with allegations of antisemitism in Labour?
 
Is it really too much to ask that you live up to your commitment to fight racism everywhere it occurs, including when it is antisemitism in your own party?
 
It seems it is too much to ask. But I can’t for the life of me see why.
Josh Holt, UJS President

About UJS

We are the voice of over 8,500 Jewish students, spanning 60 Jewish Societies (J-Socs) on campuses across the UK and Ireland. We are traditional, progressive, cultural and spiritual; we come from the left, centre and right and can be found across religious and political spectrums.

Together we create and deliver powerful campaigns; fighting prejudice, advancing inclusion, and inspiring education and action on the issues that matter to us. 

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