On 1 May CAABU published a letter to the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary demanding that they tell the government of Israel that the ‘annexation’ of any part of Judea and Samaria ‘will have severe consequences including sanctions’. The letter has been signed by 100 MPs, 44 members of the House of Lords and 3 former Conservative MPs, making 147 in total (when it was published 127 had signed, but 20 more signed subsequently). 100 MPs represents 15.6% of the total (excluding the Speaker and the 7 Sinn Fein MPs who do not take their seats). 46 are Labour, 31 SNP, 10 Lib Dem, 9 Conservative, 1 Green and 3 ‘Others’.
Simultaneously with this blog, David Collier profiles 47 of the MPs, highlighting in particular their failure to speak out about genuine human rights abuses in other countries such as Iran, China and Pakistan: ‘How many of these MPs have ever marched or spoken up for the Kurds – a people who unlike Palestinians, have not walked away from numerous opportunities to have their own state?’ The impression from David’s research is that most of the 47 would sign anything that criticised Israel, however divorced from the truth.
What makes an MP so anti-Israel? Is it nature or nurture? An obvious place to start is the character of a constituency. All political parties try to match candidates to constituencies. There is a body of polling evidence suggesting that antisemitism among British Muslims is significantly higher than in the population overall. For example the 2019 ADL poll found that 54% agreed with 6 or more antisemitic statements, versus 11% for the population overall. See also polling for the Campaign Against Antisemitism charity (April 2016) which found that 42% of British Muslims thought that Jews were more loyal to Israel than the UK versus 24% for the population overall. And ICM polling for Channel 4 in 2015 which found that 40% of British Muslims thought that Jews had too much power in international financial markets and 42% thought that Jews are more loyal to Israel than the UK.
Hatred of Jews goes alongside hatred of Israel. See here. The widely accepted IHRA definition of antisemitism recognises this. So a reasonable hypothesis to test is that the greater the proportion of Muslims in a constituency, the more likely is the MP to take an anti-Israel position. Using data from the 2011 Census and mindful of the greater degree of antisemitism within Labour as compared to other Parties, I looked at the results for the 46 Labour MPs who signed the CAABU letter (there are 202 Labour MPs so 23% signed).
The results are striking. 37 of the 46 Labour signatories represent constituencies with Muslim proportions above the Great Britain average of 4.5%.
In fact of the ten constituencies with the highest Muslim proportions, all are represented by Labour MPs and 8 of these signed the CAABU letter (from here on I used APS 2015 data as the Census data is hard to access on a comparative basis for constituencies). 37 of the 46 Labour MP signatories (80%) have Muslim proportions above the 5% average. Looking at the 40 seats with the highest Muslim proportions, 18 (45%) are held by Labour signatories, double the 9 which one might expect, given that 23% of Labour MPs signed. 37 of the 46 Labour signatories represent constituencies with Muslim proportions above 5%, a similar result to that above for the Census data (the APS average is 5.1%). (It should be noted that the remaining 74 Labour MPs with Muslim proportions above 5% did not sign the CAABU letter; on the other hand, only 9 of the 91 Labour MPs with Muslim proportions below 5% signed).
What makes these Labour MPs so anti-Israel? Is it nature or nurture? The results point strongly to the former. Of the 47 profiles that David Collier has assembled, 33 are for Labour MPs. Many of them are longstanding MPs but the ones elected in 2019 – Sultana, Tarry, Begum, Ribeiro-Addy and Webbe – all had ‘history’ before they became MPs. Only Neil Coyle became sensitised against Israel after he was elected (in 2015).
If Sir Keir Starmer is to be successful in rooting out antisemitism from the Labour Party he will have to find a way of ensuring that all Labour MPs in constituencies with high Muslim proportions are less representative of the anti-Israel views common among those constituents and more representative of the general population.
Update: Stephen Timms has now signed. Which means that 9 out of the 10 MPs with the highest proportion of Muslim constituents have signed the CAABU letter; and that 38 of the 47 Labour MP signatories (81%) have Muslim proportions above the 5% average.
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