Jeremy Corbyn says 'sorry' for Labour anti-Semitism ahead of crunch meeting with Jewish groups
Jeremy Corbyn has apologised for the extent of anti-Semitism in the Labour party ahead of a crunch meeting with Jewish leaders.
The Labour leader said the evidence of anti-Jewish racism in the party was “clear enough” and accepted for the first time that it was partly fuelled by the debate around Palestine.
Mr Corbyn called on his left-wing supporters to change their thinking and behaviour and told the Jewish community: “My party and I are sorry for the hurt and distress caused.”
His comments came as he gears up to meet leaders from the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council to convince them he is on top of the anti-Semitism issue.
“We have not done enough fully to get to grips with the problem, and for that the Jewish community and our own Jewish members deserve an apology,” Mr Corbyn wrote in the Evening Standard.
He admitted the internal checks of the party had “been simply not fully fit for purpose” and said “we did not look closely enough at ourselves”.
Mr Corbyn insisted it was an issue affecting a minority of the party, but pointed to examples of anti-Jewish racism among members including Holocaust denial.
Others he listed were "crude stereotypes of Jewish bankers, conspiracy theories blaming 9/11 on Israel, and even one member who appeared to believe that Hitler had been misunderstood”.
He added: "Anti-semitism is a poison that must be challenged wherever it raises its head, across Europe and at home. Hatred and bigotry towards Jewish people has no place in our society, whether on the streets or online. And that of course goes for the Labour Party too."
"We cannot and will not fail our Jewish brothers and sisters now."
He vowed to finally implement the recommendations in the 2016 Chakrabarti report and lamented the delay so far.
Those recommendations include appointing a specialist legal counsel to advice on cases, a faster investigation process and “political re-education” at a grassroots level.
Ahead of the meeting today, the Jewish groups said they were hoping to see “action not words”.
Chair of the Jewish Labour Movement Louise Ellman told the BBC this afternoon: “Actions will count and words mean very little.
“Jeremy Corbyn has allowed anti-Semitism to fester in the party. No action is being taken, now we are in a period of crisis and I hope action is going to follow very quickly indeed.”
A fresh row over the issue exploded last month after a Facebook post by Mr Corbyn resurfaced in which he appeared to defend an anti-Semitic mural.
MPs joined Jewish campaigners at a rally in Parliament Square accusing the Labour leader of sitting on his hands and calling on him to root out anti-Semitism.
A number of MPs also launched impassioned pleas in the Commons last week for him to step up and take action on the issue as they revealed some of the shocking abuse they have faced.