LONDON — The UK’s Labour Party is in the midst of a full-blown anti-Semitism crisis.
Recently, nine members of Parliament (MPs) quit the center-left party in protest of the current leadership, citing their handling of allegations of anti-Semitism as well as dissatisfaction over the party’s stance on Brexit.
“I cannot remain in a party that I have today come to the sickening conclusion is institutionally anti-Semitic,” Labour MP Luciana Berger said at a February 18 press conference explaining her decision to leave. Berger, who is Jewish, has received a torrent of anti-Semitic abuse online over the past few years.
While rumors have circulated for months about a possible Labour split due to the UK’s upcoming, chaotic divorce from the European Union, the resignations — particularly Berger’s — sent shock waves through the party, and many felt that the party leadership should have done more to protect Berger from the abuse she’d been receiving.
If you’re wondering how the situation has escalated to this point, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered.
The anti-Semitism controversy in the Labour Party is fairly recent
The UK Labour Party, which dates back to 1900, was long seen as the party of the working classes. Throughout most of its history, Labour has stood for social justice, equality, and anti-racism.
Labour’s controversy over anti-Semitism is fairly recent. It’s often traced back to 2015, when Jeremy Corbyn became the party leader. Corbyn, seen as on Labour’s left wing, has long defended the rights of Palestinians and often been more critical than the party mainstream of Israel’s government.
But during the Labour leadership contest in 2015, a then-senior Jewish Labour MP said that Corbyn had in the past showed “poor judgment” on the issue of anti-Semitism — after Corbyn unexpectedly became the frontrunner in the contest, a Jewish newspaper reported on his past meetings with individuals and organizations who had expressed anti-Semitic views.
Concerns over anti-Semitism only really began to turn into a crisis, however, the year after Corbyn became leader. In April 2016, a well-known right-wing blog revealed that Labour MP Naz Shah had posted anti-Semitic messages to Facebook a couple of years before being elected.
One post showed a photo of Israel superimposed onto a map of the US, suggesting the country’s relocation would resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Above the photo, Shah wrote, “Problem solved.”
Shah apologized, but former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone, a long-time Labour member who was close to party leader Jeremy Corbyn, made things worse by rushing to Shah’s defense — and added an inflammatory claim that Hitler initially supported Zionism, before “he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews.”
The party suspended Shah and Livingstone and launched an inquiry into anti-Semitism. But Corbyn was criticized for not acting quickly or decisively enough to deal with the problem. Afterward, claims of anti-Semitism kept resurfacing as individual examples were dug up across Labour’s wide membership.
By now a narrative was building that anti-Semitism was rife within the party — and that the election of Corbyn as leader was the cause.
The unlikely rise of Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn became Labour’s leader in 2015, to pretty much everyone’s surprise.
The 69-year-old became politically active in his 20s and had been a so-called “backbencher” — an MP without an official position in the government or the opposition parties — since 1983.
Throughout his political career, Corbyn has protested against racism and backed left-wing campaigns such as nuclear disarmament, and was considered the long shot in the party’s leadership contest — bookmakers initially put the chance of him winning at 200 to 1.
The three other candidates were considered centrist or center-left. Two had served in government during the New Labour era, when Tony Blair swung the party to the center ground. Corbyn’s victory confirmed that the New Labour project was dead.
Some MPs later admitted they only backed him as one of the leadership candidates so that a representative of the party’s left-wing would be on the ballot; they never thought he would win.
Corbyn’s campaign drummed up a big grassroots following as his anti-austerity, socialist message gained traction, in a way that would later be echoed by Bernie Sanders’s 2016 campaign in the US.
Shocking the establishment and against all odds, Corbyn went on to decisively win the leadership contest. When, the following year, MPs on the right of the party revolted and forced a leadership contest, Corbyn yet again won convincingly.
Ever since Tony Blair helmed the party from 1994 to 2007, Labour had been dominated by more centrist than left-leaning MPs. Under Blair, Labour embraced neoliberal economics alongside more traditionally liberal social policies, such as a minimum wage.
But after Corbyn’s unexpected win, everything changed. Corbyn steered the party to the left on many issues, including proposals to nationalize the railways and possibly the energy companies, end the era of slashing state spending, and tax the rich.
He also moved the party leftward on Israel and Palestine.
Labour’s previously moribund membership boomed to half a million, making it one of the biggest political parties in Europe. The many newcomers were attracted by the chance to support a truly left-wing Labour Party.
Claims of anti-Semitism also increased: Labour’s general secretary revealed that between April 2018 and January 2019, the party received 673 accusations of anti-Semitism among members, which had led to 96 members being suspended and 12 expelled.
Part of the reason anti-Semitism claims have grown under Corbyn is that his wing of the party — the socialist left — tends to be passionately pro-Palestine. There is nothing inherently anti-Semitic about defending Palestinians, but such a position can lead to tensions between left-wing anti-Zionists and mainstream Jewish communities.
This tension has at times led to a tendency on the left to indulge in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and tropes — like blaming a Jewish conspiracy for Western governments’ support of Israel or equating Jews who support Israel with Nazi collaborators.
Corbyn’s defenders point out that the media has inordinately focused on Labour while giving less attention to cases of racism and Islamophobia among the Conservatives and other parties. But if it wasn’t clear already, recent events have confirmed that anti-Semitism is a crisis for Labour.
Many of the MPs who resigned from Labour two weeks ago had long been threatening to go, and have deeply held political differences with Labour’s more radically progressive leadership. But Luciana Berger resigned because of anti-Semitism, and Labour’s failure to prevent her from leaving on this count is impossible to ignore.
Is Corbyn to blame for Labour’s current crisis?
At first glance, Corbyn hardly seems like someone who would be an enabler of anti-Semitism.
He has a long history of campaigning against racism — for instance, in the 1980s, he participated in anti-apartheid protests against South Africa, at the same time that former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was calling Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress opposition movement a “typical terrorist organization.”
And he has long campaigned for Palestinian rights, while being critical of the government of Israel — including comparing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to apartheid.
But Corbyn’s anti-imperialist, anti-racist stance over the years has also led some to label him a terrorist sympathizer. Corbyn in the past advocated for negotiations with militant Irish republicans. As he did with Irish republicans, Corbyn encouraged talks with the Islamist militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah.
He has also been heavily criticized for having previously referred to these groups as “friends,” which caused outrage when publicized during 2015’s Labour leadership contest. Corbyn explained that he had only used “friends” in the context of trying to promote peace talks, but later said he regretted using the word.
Last March, Corbyn was also criticized for a 2012 comment on Facebook, in which he had expressed solidarity with an artist who had used anti-Semitic tropes in a London mural that was going to be torn down.
After Luciana Berger tweeted about the post and demanded an explanation from the Labour Party leadership, Corbyn said that he “sincerely regretted” having not looked at the “deeply disturbing” image more closely, and condemned anti-Semitism.
A few days later, Jewish groups gathered outside the UK Parliament to demonstrate against anti-Semitism. The Jewish Leadership Council, an umbrella organization for several Jewish groups and institutions in the UK, said that there was “no safe space” in the Labour Party for Jewish people.
“Rightly or wrong, Jeremy Corbyn is now the figurehead for an anti-Semitic political culture, based upon an obsessive hatred of Israel, conspiracy theories and fake news,” the chair of the Jewish Leadership Council, Jonathan Goldstein, said at the time.
The crisis didn’t end there. In August 2018, the right-wing British newspaper the Daily Mail accused Corbyn of having laid a wreath at the graves of the Palestinian terrorists while in Tunisia in 2014.
Corbyn acknowledges that he participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at a Tunisian cemetery in 2014, but says he was commemorating the victims of a 1985 Israeli airstrike on the headquarters of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), who were living in exile in Tunis at the time. The airstrike killed almost 50 people, including civilians, and wounded dozens more.
However, the Daily Mail published photos showing Corbyn holding a wreath not far from the graves of four Palestinians believed to be involved with the 1972 Munich massacre, in which members of the Black September terrorist organization killed 11 Israeli athletes and a German police officer at the Munich Olympics.
Corbyn denies he was commemorating the latter individuals, but his muddled explanations in the wake of the controversy left some unsatisfied with his response.
Today, on social media, it is common to see Corbyn denounced for enabling anti-Semitism — author J.K. Rowling has even criticized him for it — while some brand him outright as an anti-Semite. When US Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) recently tweeted that she’d had “a lovely and wide-reaching conversation” with Corbyn by phone, hundreds of commenters criticized her for speaking to Labour’s “anti-Semitic” leader.
Corbyn’s defenders argue that there is no clear evidence that he — a lifelong campaigner against racism — is anti-Semitic.
“My mother was a refugee on the Kindertransport, and a massive friend of Corbyn — they worked terribly closely together, doing all sorts of political things to support communities in North London,” Annabelle Sreberny, emeritus professor at SOAS University of London and member of Jewish Voice for Labour — a small organization that tends to deny Labour has a problem with anti-Semitism — told me. “So the idea that he himself is an anti-Semite is just a pathetic smear.”
Sreberny told me she largely sees the portrayal of Corbyn’s Labour Party as “institutionally anti-Semitic” — which is how Berger put it when she resigned — as part of a calculated political campaign against Corbyn and his left-wing agenda.
And indeed, this perception may have actually contributed to the current crisis.
Michael Segalov, a journalist who has written and spoken extensively on this issue, told me he thinks that part of the reason Corbyn and the Labour leadership were initially slow to react to anti-Semitism was that the claims were wrongly interpreted as part of a sustained, wider campaign of personal and political attacks against Corbyn.
But like Segalov, there are many in the Labour Party who strongly disagree with the idea that the accusations of anti-Semitism are merely a political smear campaign. A poll carried out by the Jewish Chronicle newspaper in the summer of 2018 found more than 85 percent of British Jews believe Corbyn himself is anti-Semitic, and a similar number believe the level of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party is “high” or “very high.”
Jon Lansman, founder of the pro-Corbyn campaign group Momentum and now a member of Labour’s national executive committee, recently told the BBC’s Radio 4 that there were many more Labour members who held “hardcore, anti-Semitic opinions” than previously thought. Lansman, who is Jewish, also said that he felt “regret, sadness and some shame” about Berger’s resignation from the party.
Where does Labour go from here?
There seems to have been a major shift in the perspectives of party leaders since the resignation of the nine Labour MPs.
Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson, who is seen as a centrist, recently told the BBC that he thought if Corbyn took “a personal lead” in examining accusations of anti-Semitism, it could make a big difference. Watson said that just last week, he had received a dossier from parliamentary colleagues of 50 complaints on anti-Semitism that he felt had not been dealt with adequately, and had passed them on to Corbyn.
Corbyn, perhaps heeding Watson’s advice, is in talks to appoint former Lord Chancellor Charlie Falconer to be an independent reviewer tasked with ensuring that anti-Semitism claims within the party are handled more effectively. Falconer held high office from 2003 to 2007 under Blair’s government and is respected across the party.
The recent split could prove a turning point for Labour in terms of addressing anti-Semitism as well as wider divisions within the party. “I think [Corbyn] understands now that if he is ever to be prime minister, he needs to rebuild that trust [with the British Jewish community],” said Watson, who urged the quick expulsion of members who’d made anti-Semitic comments. But as Watson added: “Time is against us.”
Indeed, urgency is needed for Labour’s leadership to effectually tackle the party’s anti-Semitism crisis and convince other MPs not to quit. The nine MPs who’ve left have formed the Independent Group, an informal assemblage that plans to launch as an official political party before the end of the year. Several other Labour MPs are rumored to be thinking of joining them.
Unless Labour moves fast, the emerging centrist party could prove an existential threat.
Darren Loucaides is a British writer who covers politics, populism, and identity. Find him on Twitter @DarrenLoucaides.
20 People Share Secrets From Their Jobs and Now We Can’t Sleep Well
Almost every job has its own secrets and nuances that very few people know. The people of different professions shared secrets from their jobs on Reddit and on Twitter and some of their stories may seriously change the way you see the world.
We at Bright Side, of course, don’t have any secrets like these, but as it turns out, not all other professions are as transparent as they seem to be.
- Truck driver: 9 out of 10 truck drivers travel with a smartphone on their windshield watching a TV-series. Stay away from big trucks.
- Disney World employee: There are secret tunnels underneath both Epcot and the Magic Kingdom (and probably other parks too) that enable the cast members to travel across the park pretty quickly and easily.
Comment from a park-goer: My father suffered a heart attack while visiting Epcot. I have never witnessed a faster medical response with professionals appearing from seemingly nowhere with just as fast transport through underground tunnels. It was a lifesaver. He was transported to a Disney hospital where he received great care after an emergency surgery and our stay was extended by 3 weeks.
- IT support people: (help desks, computer repair shops, Geek Squad, etc.) are mostly just better at Googling than you are.
- Employee at a flour factory: Wheat flour is not actually white. We use chlorine to make it look more attractive. This also increases the gluten level in flour, and this is why people are more gluten-sensitive today.
- Rescue team member: When you are a young lifeguard, you always have a radio with you 24/7. And you always listen to what happens in the city. If you are going, for example, to a birthday party in your own car and then you hear there is a fire on a nearby street, you turn the car and drive there! (I have my own gear in the car). @Moscow_Spasatel
- Olive oil factory employee: We had only one kind of oil but we put it in 27 different containers and sold it at different prices. Some of them were labeled as imported, some were called the highest quality oil. But it was the same oil in every single bottle.
- IT-service engineer: When someone is fixing your computer, they also often look through the data on your hard drive searching for something funny or embarrassing. So, before you give your computer to an IT service, clear your browser history, and copy all the important data to an external drive.
- Candle factory: Paraffin candles are dangerous and poisonous. Because I know what we added in there (even to the candles that say “100% paraffin”), I will never ever use candles again. If you need to use them for some reason, buy candles made of bee’s wax without any scents.
Sommelier: Wine isn’t vegan. It’s not even vegetarian in some cases. The filtering (refining) process uses egg whites, and sometimes isinglass (fish parts).
- Movie theater: A large bag of popcorn that costs the customer $5.99 (at the time) cost the movie theatre 6 cents to produce, including the butter, the kernels, the bag, the power used by the popper and the time it took the concession employee to fill up the bag and give it to the customer.
- Internet services: Most “subscription services” will raise their prices over time because they expect you to just live with it. This applies to phone bills, cable packages, internet service, insurance plans… Call up, politely complain about the price. Skip the canned “well the price has gone up because inflation/rising costs/age/end of promotion” and continue to politely say it’s too much, your budget can’t handle all your outgoings and you may need to drop the service. Either you are speaking to someone who can reduce the price, or they can put you through to a person authorized to reduce the price.
- Mechanic: If you want to go on vacation and you don’t know where to leave your car, get it to a mechanic. Many people do this. It’s ridiculously cheap and you can be away for a month! It is much more expensive to use parking lots. @Neformatws
- Pharmacist: I’ve worked at several factories that manufacture medications. And the rules were the same everywhere: if you dropped pills on the floor, just put them back into the bottle. So, maybe your medications are not as clean as you think.
- Librarian: The amount of toilet paper, random items, and bills used as bookmarks that are left in returned library books is unbelievable!
- Doctor: We spend so much time to be good at what we do, that we know almost nothing about other things.
Is there something about your job that is kept secret?
The spring equinox is Wednesday, March 20: 7 things to know about the first day of spring.
The vernal equinox is upon us: On Wednesday, March 20, both the Northern and Southern hemispheres will experience an equal amount of daylight. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it marks the beginning of spring, with daylight hours continuing to lengthen until the summer solstice in June. For those south of the equator, it’s the beginning of autumn.
Technically speaking, the equinox occurs when the sun is directly in line with the equator. This will happen at 5:58 pm Eastern time on Wednesday. (A few hours later, at 9:43 pm, you can look out for the “supermoon”, the last one until 2020.)
Below is a short scientific guide to the most equal night of the year.
1) Why do we have an equinox?
The equinox, the seasons, and the changing length of daylight hours throughout the year are all due to one fact: The Earth spins on a tilted axis.
The tilt — possibly caused by a massive object hitting Earth billions of years ago — means that for half the year, the North Pole is pointed toward the sun (as in the picture below). For the other half of the year, the South Pole gets more light. It’s what gives us seasons.
Here’s a time-lapse demonstration of the phenomenon shot over the course of a whole year from space. In the video, you can see how the line separating day from night swings back and forth from the poles during the year.
And here’s yet another cool way to visualize the seasons. In 2013, a resident of Alberta, Canada, took this pinhole camera photograph of the sun’s path throughout the year and shared it with the astronomy website EarthSky. You can see the dramatic change in the arc of the sun from December to June.
This is a 6 month pinhole photo taken from solstice to solstice, in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada. We are one of the sunniest cities in Canada, and this shows it nicely.
Posted by Ian Hennes on Saturday, December 21, 2013
(You can easily make a similar image at home. All you need is a can, photo paper, some tape, and a pin. Instructions here.)
2) How many hours of daylight will I get Wednesday?
Equinox literally means “equal night.” And during the equinox, most places on Earth will see approximately 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night.
But not every place will experience the exact same amount of daylight. For instance, on Wednesday, Fairbanks, Alaska, will see 12 hours and 15 minutes of daylight. Key West, Florida, will see 12 hours and six minutes. The differences are due to how the sunlight gets refracted (bent) as it enters Earth’s atmosphere at different latitudes.
That daylight is longer than 12 hours on the equinox is also due to how we commonly measure the length of a day: from the first hint of the sun peeking over the horizon in the morning to the very last glimpse of it before it falls below the horizon in the evening. Because the sun takes some time to rise and set, it adds some extra daylight minutes.
Check out TimeAndDate.com to see how many hours of sunlight you’ll get during the equinox.
3) Over the course of the entire year, does every spot on Earth get an equal number of daylight hours?
In the summer months, the northernmost latitudes get a lot of daylight. Above the Arctic Circle, during the summer, there’s 24 hours of daylight. In the winter, the Arctic Circle is plunged into constant darkness.
So does this mean the number of daylight hours — in total, over the course of the year — equal out to places where the seasonal difference is less extreme?
The answer to this question is somewhat surprising: Roughly speaking, everywhere on Earth sees a similar number of daylight hours every year. But the equator actually gets slightly fewer daylight hours than the poles.
As astronomer Tony Flanders explained for Sky & Telescope magazine, sunlight at the poles gets refracted more than sunlight at the equator. That refracting results in the visible disc of the sun being slightly stretched out (think of when the full moon is near the horizon and looks huge — it’s being refracted too). And the refracted, stretched-out sun takes slightly longer to rise and set. Flanders estimated that the equator spends around 50.5 percent of its year in sunlight, while the poles spend between 51.5 and 53 percent of their years in sunlight.
And, of course, this is how much sunlight these areas could potentially receive if the weather were always perfectly clear; it’s not how much sunlight they actually see, nor the strength of the sunlight that hits their ground. “Where are the places on Earth that receive the largest amount of solar radiation?” is a slightly different question, the answer to which can be seen on the chart below.
4) Can I really only balance an egg on its tip during on the equinox?
Perhaps you were told as a child that on the equinox, it’s easier to balance an egg vertically on a flat surface than on other days of the year.
The practice originated in China as a tradition on the first day of spring in the Chinese lunar calendar in early February. According to the South China Morning Post, “The theory goes that at this time of year the moon and earth are in exactly the right alignment, the celestial bodies generating the perfect balance of forces needed to make it possible.”
This is a myth. The amount of sunlight we get during the day has no power over the gravitational pull of the Earth or our abilities to balance things upon it. You can balance an egg on its end any day of the year (if you’re good at balancing things).
5) Is there an ancient monument that does something cool during the equinox?
During the winter and summer solstices, crowds flock to Stonehenge in the United Kingdom. During the solstices, the sun either rises or sets in line with the layout of the 5,000-year-old-monument. And while some visit Stonehenge for the spring equinox too, the real place to be is in Mexico.
That’s because on the equinox, the pyramid at Chichen Itza on the Yucatan Peninsula puts on a wondrous show. Built by the Mayans around 1,000 years ago, the pyramid is designed to cast a shadow on the equinox outlining the body of Kukulkan, a feathered snake god. A serpent-head statue is located at the bottom of the pyramid, and as the sun sets on the day of the equinox, the sunlight and shadow show the body of the serpent joining with the head.
This is easier to see in a video. Check it out below.
6) Are there equinoxes on other planets?
Yes! All the planets in the solar system rotate on a tilted axis and therefore have seasons. Some of these tilts are minor (like Mercury, which is tilted at 2.11 degrees). But others are more like the Earth (tilted at 23.5 degrees) or are even more extreme (Uranus is tilted 98 degrees!).
Below, see a beautiful composite image of Saturn on its equinox captured by the Cassini spacecraft (RIP) in 2009. The gas giant is tilted 27 degrees relative to the sun, and equinoxes on the planet are less frequent than on Earth. Saturn only sees an equinox about once every 15 years (because it takes Saturn 29 years to complete one orbit around the sun).
During Saturn’s equinox, its rings become unusually dark. That’s because these rings are only around 30 feet thick. And when light hits them head on, there’s not much surface area to reflect.
7) I clicked this article accidentally and really just want a mind-blowing picture of the sun
The image above was taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, a spacecraft launched in 2010 to better understand the sun.
This past summer, NASA launched the Parker Solar Probe, a spacecraft that will come within 4 million miles of the surface of the sun (much closer than any spacecraft has been before). The goal is to study the sun’s atmosphere, weather, and magnetism and figure out the mystery of why the sun’s corona (its atmosphere) is much hotter than its surface. Still, even several million miles away, the probe will have to withstand temperatures of 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit.
It’s essential to understand the sun: It’s nothing to mess with. Brad Plumer wrote for Vox about what happens when the sun erupts and sends space weather our way to wreak havoc on Earth.
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