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Sat, 28 March 2020

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Labour doing 'nothing' to help Palestinian cause with 'weak' anti-semitism response, party grandee warns

Labour doing 'nothing' to help Palestinian cause with 'weak' anti-semitism response, party grandee warns
3 min read

Labour's "weak" response to anti-semitism in its ranks means the party is doing "nothing" to advance the debate on Israel and Palestine, Jeremy Corbyn has been warned.


Former Middle East minister Peter Hain and Daniel Levy, an-ex adviser to Israeli prime ministers, will warn the Labour leader that the party's inability to root out anti-Jewish abuse has only served to "empower apologists for totally unacceptable Israeli government attacks on Palestinians and the steady throttling of their rights".

The Equality and Human Rights Commission last month launched a formal investigation into the party's handling of anti-semitism complaints following heavy criticism of the party's processes from Jewish groups.

The equalities watchdog said it was opening the full statutory probe to investigate if the party had "unlawfully discriminated" against people because they are Jewish.

Labour said it was "taking action to root it out of our party by strengthening our rules and procedures".

But The Guardian reports that Lord Hain and Lord Levy will urge the party to do more to tackle anti-semitism - or risk undermining Labour's credibility on Middle East issues.

In a 3,000-word statement, they will say: "Somehow the party has managed to alienate the vast majority of Jewish members and the Jewish community while doing nothing to advance the debate on Israel/Palestine, let alone justice for Palestinians."

And they will add: "Given how much actual anti-semitism is around on the left, and how weak the official Labour response to it has been, those keen to label even legitimate criticism as anti-semitic have been handed useful cover.

"A new way is needed to both respect the Jewish community including the wellbeing of the world’s largest Jewish community (Israel), while at the same time supporting critical debate about both the abhorrent treatment of Palestinians by successive Israeli governments and future possible solutions for Israel/Palestine.

“We must eradicate the curse of anti-semitism paralysing the Labour party whilst allowing space for genuine argument about all legitimate options."

The intervention comes after Mr Corbyn faced a stormy meeting with his own MPs, where the party's handling of anti-semitism was raised along with its stance on Brexit and treatment of harassment claims.

Speaking at the Parliamentary Labour Party meeting on Monday night, Stoke MP Ruth Smeeth accused Mr Corbyn of allowing "institutional anti-Jewish racism on your watch" and asked the leader: "Jeremy, what are you doing?"

One Labour MP said it had been the "worst" PLP meeting he had ever attended.

"On Brexit, anti-semitism and sexual harassment he has no idea how to respond or deal with it, just the repetition of tired old cliches," they said.

But a Labour source said: "The PLP is generally quite a robust meeting - I wouldn't say that tonight was more robust than many others.

"The PLP is very passionate about lots of issues, not just about Brexit. That's what you would expect and they want to be able to raise issues they disagree with and want Jeremy to respond to."

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