Diane Abbott has managed in one fell swoop to find a new way to minimise the Holocaust and warp the entire meaning of anti-Semitism.
That’s quite some achievement considering how long racists and Holocaust deniers have been at it.
The Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington denied that ‘Irish, Jewish and Traveller people all suffer from “racism”‘. Only black people, she suggested, can be victims of racism.
The most white people can suffer is a form of prejudice – like that directed against some ‘redheads’.
It takes a lot to surprise me when it comes to anti-Semitism. As the editor of the Jewish Chronicle at the time of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party, I reported all kinds of outrageous forms of Jew hatred from Ms Abbott’s fellow Labour members. It was unrelenting. So I am almost inured to it.
‘Diane Abbott has managed in one fell swoop to find a new way to minimise the Holocaust and warp the entire meaning of anti-Semitism’
‘As the editor of the Jewish Chronicle at the time of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party, I reported all kinds of outrageous forms of Jew hatred from Ms Abbott’s fellow Labour members’
But for sheer ignorant malice, it’s hard to think of a worse example than Ms Abbott’s words yesterday.
She rightly cites ‘pre-civil rights America’ as an example of racism – but then uses this, grotesquely, to deny that anti-Semitism is also racism: ‘Irish people, Jewish people and Travellers were not required to sit at the back of the bus.’
On another continent, however, Jews were also travelling in buses.
Alright, not so much buses as cattle trucks and carriages. And there were no chairs at the back of these carriages, on to which Jews were herded.
Rather, they were thrown on to the trucks and carriages, squashed beyond all humanity, and sent on their way to concentration camps to be used as slave labour and then exterminated.
Was this just prejudice, Ms Abbott? Just a bit of banter, like attacking redheads? As a ginger Jew myself, I wonder where I fit into her schematic.
Since her entry into politics in 1987, Diane Abbott has long been one of the leading lights of a section of the Left which either underplays anti-Semitism or, in some cases, actively promotes it.
As shadow home secretary under Jeremy Corbyn, she was one of the most senior advocates of a political project which was fundamentally anti-Semitic – and not only did she not seek to stop it, she was one of the most vocal in denying that anti-Semitism was in any way an issue for Labour.
‘For sheer ignorant malice, it’s hard to think of a worse example than Ms Abbott’s words yesterday’
Labour Party leader Keir Starmer speaks during an interview while canvassing voters for support following the launch of Labour’s Local Election campaign
Ms Abbott has now apologised for her letter, offering the bizarre excuse that an ‘initial draft’ was sent to The Observer newspaper which published it – as if it is somehow OK that she would have removed references to her true beliefs for a supposed final draft.
Quite rightly, Sir Keir Starmer has suspended the Labour whip from her. Right on cue, her allies – and others who should know better – have said we should accept her apology in a spirit of kindness and understanding because of the terrible racist abuse she has herself suffered.
This is entirely wrong-headed. It is precisely because she has been a victim of racism herself and understands how abhorrent it is that her words should not be swept under the carpet as some sort of silly embarrassment.
What is more, her allies have themselves been swift to bandy the accusation of racism around when it suits them politically.
On occasions when my newspaper highlighted Ms Abbott’s complicity in some of the worst aspects of the Corbyn project, her supporters would then attack me as racist for having focused on her, a black woman.
Yesterday’s episode provides yet another example of how relieved so many of us are that she and her circle got nowhere near power in 2019. Diane Abbott and her foul views have no place in decent politics.
Stephen Pollard is the former editor of the Jewish Chronicle.