Margaret Hodge, Labour MP for Barking: “Anti-Semitism is making me an outsider in my own party”
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Dame Margaret Hodge, the MP for Barking, spoke out about her experiences of anti-Semitism in Parliament yesterday.
In a debate on anti-Semitism, she admitted she’d never felt ‘as nervous and frightened’ as she feels today at being Jewish in the party.
Liverpool and Waverlee MP Luciana Berger and Stoke-on-Trent MP Ruth Smeeth also gave speeches on their experience at being Jewish party members.
Dame Margaret said: “I was born in Egypt in the last year of the Second World War, as Jews were being exterminated in Hitler’s gas chambers. I grew up thinking we would never forget, but over 70 years later, here we are debating the issue. Anti-Semitism exists across Europe and exists across the spectrum, but I never thought I would experience significant anti-Semitism as a member of the Labour Party. I have, and it has left me feeling an outsider from the party of which I’ve been a member for over 50 years.”
The MP said while she had a secular upbringing and does not practise Jewish traditions, her Jewish heritage is ‘central to her being’.
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She told the story of her grandmother, who, in 1941, was killed at a concentration camp in Lithuania, and her uncle who was murdered at Auschwitz.
“When I visited Auschwitz I was confronted with a battered, brown suitcase with my uncle’s initials on it,” she said.
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“That moment was utterly chilling for me. All of this is my heritage, and it’s one reason why I joined the Labour Party in the 1960s.
“The Labour Party was the party that fought racism and intolerance. So it has been truly shocking to receive vicious, anti-Semitic tweets, both from right-wing extremists, but also from the Left.
“I have never felt as nervous and frightened as I feel today at being a Jew. It feels that my party has given permission for anti-Semitism to go unchallenged. Anti-Semitism is making me an outsider in my own party – to that I simply say, enough is enough.”
A Labour party spokesman said: “Labour is committed to challenging and campaigning against anti-Semitism in all its forms. Our new general secretary has made stamping it out of our party her number one priority.”