Jewish groups attack Jeremy Corbyn over anti-Semitism


Jeremy CorbynImage copyright
EPA

“Enough is enough,” Jewish groups have said in a letter accusing Jeremy Corbyn of failing to tackle anti-Semitism.

The Labour leader has said he is “sincerely sorry” for the pain caused by “pockets of anti-Semitism” in the Labour Party.

Mr Corbyn said he would be meeting representatives of the Jewish community to “rebuild” confidence in his party.

However, the organisations behind the open letter are planning a protest outside Parliament on Monday.

The letter – drawn up by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council – said there has been a “repeated institutional failure” to properly address anti-Semitism.

It accuses Mr Corbyn of being unable to “seriously contemplate anti-Semitism, because he is so ideologically fixed within a far left worldview that is instinctively hostile to mainstream Jewish communities”.

The organisations refer to Mr Corbyn’s apparently supportive message to the creator of an allegedly anti-Semitic mural in 2012. and his attendance at “pro-Hezbollah rallies”.

They say the Labour leader has “sided with anti-Semites” either because of “the far left’s obsessive hatred of Zionism” or ” a conspiratorial worldview in which mainstream Jewish communities are believed to be a hostile entity, a class enemy”.

The letter says those who push anti-Semitic material view Mr Corbyn as “their figurehead” and that he is “the only person with the standing to demand that all of this stops.”

The letter will be delivered to a meeting of Labour MPs and peers, although the Labour leader is not expected to attend.

‘Sincerely sorry’

In a statement released on Sunday evening, Mr Corbyn said: “I want to be clear that I will not tolerate any form of anti-Semitism that exists in and around our movement.

“We must stamp this out from our party and movement.

“We recognise that anti-Semitism has occurred in pockets within the Labour Party, causing pain and hurt to our Jewish community in the Labour Party and the rest of the country.

“I am sincerely sorry for the pain which has been caused.

Mr Corbyn said he and the party – which has “deep roots in the Jewish community” – were now campaigning to “increase support and confidence in Labour” among Jewish people in Britain.

He said: “I will be meeting representatives from the Jewish community over the coming days, weeks and months to rebuild that confidence in Labour as a party which gives effective voice to Jewish concerns and is implacably opposed to anti-Semitism in all its forms.”

‘A truly terrible day’

Labour MP Ian Austin said he was “ashamed” that “it has come to this” and one-time Labour leadership candidate Liz Kendall said it was “a truly terrible day” when the Jewish community felt the need to write “such a letter”.

The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism group has also called for a national protest against anti-Semitism in Labour.

What caused the row?

In October 2012, street artist Mear One posted a picture of his mural in east London called “Freedom of Humanity” on Facebook, with the words: “Tomorrow they want to buff my mural. Freedom of expression. London calling. Public Art.”

Mr Corbyn replied: “Why? You are in good company. Rockerfeller destroyed Diego Viera’s mural because it includes a picture of Lenin.”

More recently, Labour MP Luciana Berger sought clarification from the leader’s office on the 2012 comments.

Mr Corbyn said: “I sincerely regret that I did not look more closely at the image I was commenting on, the contents of which are deeply disturbing and anti-Semitic.

“I am opposed to the production of anti-Semitic material of any kind, and the defence of free speech cannot be used as a justification for the promotion of anti-Semitism in any form.”

Mear One – whose real name is Kalen Ockerman – has denied being anti-Semitic, saying the mural was about “class and privilege”.

On Sunday, senior Labour figures defended Mr Corbyn. Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald told Sky News that the Labour leader “hasn’t got an anti-Semitic bone in his body” and that the row had “misinterpreted the intentions of a really good and decent man”.

Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said the mural was “grotesque and disgusting” but that Mr Corbyn had given his explanation for his online comment.

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Shadow leader of the House of Commons Valerie Vaz told BBC Radio 4: “I think it’s really regrettable that it has got this bad and I would want to apologise to the Jewish community for any offence that has been caused.”

Deputy Labour leader Mr Watson told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “I am very, very sorry that people feel hurt by this and that is why I think it is right that Jeremy has expressed regret for it.”

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionWatson: “I am very, very sorry that people feel hurt by this”

In 2016 an inquiry into anti-Semitism in the Labour party, led by Shami Chakrabarti, said the party was not overrun by racism but there was “too much clear evidence… of ignorant attitudes”.

It followed the suspension of MP Naz Shah and ex-London mayor Ken Livingstone amid anti-Semitism claims.

The inquiry made a number of recommendations including procedural rule changes to improve the party’s disciplinary process and the adoption and publication of a complaints procedure.



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