Debate over Jew-hatred is a central issue in UK election

By Hugo Wils
March 11, 2024
Peter Clifford, right, Communist League candidate for Parliament in Manchester Central, campaigner Hugo Wils, left, pose need to fight Jew-hatred with Farooq Adnan in Rochdale Feb. 18.
Militant/Cliff WilliamsPeter Clifford, right, Communist League candidate for Parliament in Manchester Central, campaigner Hugo Wils, left, pose need to fight Jew-hatred with Farooq Adnan in Rochdale Feb. 18.

ROCHDALE, England — The Labour Party withdrew its backing from its candidate here, Azhar Ali, in a Feb. 29 by-election after Ali upheld poisonous Jew-hating conspiracies. Communist League campaigners have joined discussions among working people about this development, the roots of Jew-hatred and the need to fight against it.

At a meeting last year, Ali claimed that Israel “deliberately took the security off” on Oct. 7, letting Hamas slaughter some 1,200 people. The Israeli government “allowed that massacre and that gives them the green light to do whatever they bloody want,” he said. When Ali’s remarks became public he apologized, acknowledging that in fact “Hamas’ horrific attack was the responsibility of Hamas alone.”

Labour’s leadership accepted the apology, claiming Ali had fallen for an “online conspiracy theory.” But a few days later he was reported to have made a further Jew-hating slur. Ali had opposed the suspension of Labour Party member Andrew McDonald, claiming it was the work of “people in the media from certain Jewish quarters.” Labour then withdrew its backing from Ali and the party will have no candidate in the by-election.

Days later Graham Jones, Labour candidate for Hyndburn, Lancashire, was suspended for saying British people who fight in the Israel Defense Forces “should be locked up.”

“Several of my workmates wanted to discuss what lay behind Ali’s comments,” said Peter Clifford, the Communist League’s candidate for nearby Manchester Central in the general election later this year. Clifford is a rail worker at Manchester Piccadilly station. His campaign presents a road to unify working people against the ruling capitalist class and points to the necessity of combating all expressions of Jew-hatred.

“What the Labour candidate said, that Israel deliberately allowed Oct. 7 is wrong,” Sean Nunan, a conductor at the station, told Clifford. “Is it the internet that feeds these views?”

“There was no internet in the 1930s and ’40s, but this kind of conspiracy theory was key to recruitment for the Nazis in Germany,” Clifford replied. “It takes the fire off the capitalist rulers, divides us and justifies massacres against Jews. The capitalist class will take us on the same road as the crisis of their system deepens, toward reaction and war. That can only be prevented by workers fighting to take power into our own hands.”

Clifford and campaign supporters have presented the CL’s program in working-class neighborhoods here. “Like many towns in the north of England, those living in Rochdale face a deep social crisis,” he told the Militant.“Many workers are looking for ways to sustain families, get better wages and affordable housing. They’re curious why the question of Jew-hatred has taken center stage.”

Truck driver Adrian Lawrence told Clifford he was taking his contractor bosses to court after they failed to pay him for waiting time on his job. “They always try to cut us short,” he said.

“Union fights taking place today open greater chances for workers to act together,” Clifford said. “Not just over our work conditions but on political questions. What Labour’s candidate said is a deadly threat to that course. It takes our eyes off what we need to fight for.” Lawrence is one of four new Militant subscribers in the area.

Labour’s withdrawal of its backing for Ali means that what was considered a safe Labour seat is now largely contested between two former Labour MPs. Simon Danczuk is standing for the Reform Party, backed by prominent Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage.

George Galloway is standing for the Workers Party. He seeks to appeal to the 30,000 Muslims in the area, claiming that a vote for him is a vote for Palestinians in Gaza. Galloway has a long record of promoting hatred toward Jews. While he was a member of Parliament for Bradford he called for the city to become an “Israel-free zone,” barring visitors from there.

Today he demands Israel immediately implement a cease-fire, leaving Hamas intact to carry out more massacres of Jews, as it has pledged to do.

Clifford and campaign supporters spoke with workers in the predominantly Muslim area of Deeplish, Rochdale. “Many people would initially say they backed the Palestinians but were keen to discuss the issues at stake in Israel’s war to defeat Hamas,” he said.

“Isn’t Israel carrying out genocide in Gaza?” Farooq Adnan asked this reporter. Adnan had recently moved to Rochdale from Pakistan. No, I replied, pointing to Hamas’ Oct. 7 pogrom, the largest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust. “What’s happening now is a fight to defend Israel’s right to exist as a refuge for Jews.” After some discussion Adnan decided to get a copy of the Militant and the CL’s campaign flyer.

Clifford met Sophian Khan, a young office worker who was pleased to hear about recent rail workers strikes. Khan got the Militant after Clifford pointed to its coverage of the response of working people in East Palestine, Ohio, to the derailment and burn-off of toxic chemicals there a year ago. When Clifford asked him about issues raised during the by-election campaign, Khan said, “Jews have been through terrible times for centuries, we have to understand that’s why they set up Israel. We can’t change that.”

Not everyone agreed with the CL campaigners. Further down the road a young construction worker, Mo Khalid, told Clifford, “I’m backing Galloway. He seems a good guy.”