Britain’s Labour Party has betrayed its heritage

corbyn Jeremy Corbyn at a pro-Palestinian rally in London, 2014.

The British Labour Party used to be at the forefront of the fight against fascism and Nazism. Today, however, it’s unrecognisable from its wartime predecessor, writes Uri Butnaru.

THIS year we mark 80 years since the start of World War II.

When we look back at that crucial time in modern history there is one country and people whose steadfastness and resolve was instrumental in saving western civilisation from the evil clutches of the murderous Nazi regime. That country was the United Kingdom.

Britain throughout the late 1930s under the vacillating leadership of prime minister Neville Chamberlain tried to negotiate with Hitler. Pursuing a policy of appeasement, the UK and France sold the sovereign nation of Czechoslovakia down the river in 1938 to avoid war.

But once Hitler invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, the UK and France declared war on Germany. However, following the capitulation of France, Britain stood alone.

Notwithstanding a few hardened defeatists such as the Tory foreign minister Lord Halifax who wanted to negotiate terms with Hitler, and supporters of Nazi Germany in the form of Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists, the British people overall supported the declaration of war against a tyrannical regime.

Despite the hardships they incurred, the people were driven by an innate sense of justice and freedom, spurred on by the rousing speeches of their legendary PM, Winston Churchill.

If the British people did not agree with the sentiment of the government of the day, if they were demonstrating in the streets against the war and wanted to lay down their arms, those speeches now immortalised in the history books could not have been spoken, at least with such conviction.

Even with the Luftwaffe pounding London night after night, bringing mayhem, death and devastation, even with young children being sent from the city to the countryside, separated from their parents, even with citizens forced to sleep underground in the Tube, and even with 40,000 people killed during the Blitz, the British people stood firm. They could have easily surrendered but instead they refused to succumb to the temptation of suing for peace.

For its part, the British Labour Party was at the forefront of the fight against fascism and Nazism. Together with the left-leaning trade unions, in 1936 its members joined thousands in the Battle of Cable Street standing shoulder to shoulder with East End Jews confronting Mosley’s blackshirts.

Today however, infested with a spirit of antisemitism and echoing with anti-Zionist rhetoric, the Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn is unrecognisable from its wartime predecessor. A virulent critic of Israel who has repeatedly shown his disdain for the concerns of the Jewish community and fraternised with known antisemites and Holocaust deniers, Corbyn has stooped so low as to call Hamas and Hezbollah his friends.

And as we have learnt over the past couple of years, Corbyn is not alone. There are many members of the Labour Party, some in key positions, who freely express antisemitic views on social media.

In this, the 80th year after WWII, the British Labour Party has morphed into an antisemitic party, teeming with Israeli-haters who look to Corbyn for inspiration.

What a contrast with their wartime leader Clement Attlee whose no-confidence motion in Neville Chamberlain led to Churchill’s elevation. While wartime Labour pushed back against antisemitism and fascism, today it has members who are unapologetic in their hatred of the State of Israel and their hostility to the Jewish people.

At the outset of war, the British showed courage and intestinal fortitude while other European nations simply gave up and surrendered or sided with the Nazis.

Not only did Britain withstand the physical blows, it upheld the moral beacon of human decency by refusing to bow down to a superior power, just across the English Channel. The Labour Party back then was a key player in the united front against the forces of evil. 

The Labour Party today should hark back to its proud past. It must eradicate all traces of antisemitism and anti-Zionism from its ranks, and it must rid itself of its poisonous leader.

For if a Corbyn-led government is one day elected, it will not be Britain’s finest hour.

Uri Butnaru is a writer from Sydney.