Jewish leaders condemn Jeremy Corbyn over anti-Semitism as meeting ends in acrimony

Posted On: 
24th April 2018

Jewish community leaders have condemned Jeremy Corbyn after a meeting on the problem of anti-Semitism in the Labour party ended in acrimony.

Jeremy Corbyn said Labour would tackle anti-Semitism in its ranks.
Credit: 
PA Images

Mr Corbyn and his closest aides held talks for more than two hours with representatives of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council.

But in a joint-statement issued afterwards, the groups said the talks had been "a disappointing missed opportunity regarding the problem of anti-Semitism in the Labour party".

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The two groups made six demands in a letter to the Labour leader a month ago, including the swift conclusion of long-running disciplinary cases against the likes of former London mayor Ken Livingstone and controversial former Momentum activist Jackie walker, and the appointment of an independent ombudsman to oversee the party's progress in tackling the issue.

They also called for MPs to be banned from sharing platforms with those accused of anti-Semitism, and that Labour's disciplinary processes should be more transparent.

But in their statement, they said Mr Corbyn and his party had failed to accept any of their recommendations.

But in their statement, they said: "We are disappointed that Mr Corbyn’s proposals fell short of the minimum level of action which our letter suggested. In particular, they did not agree in the meeting with our proposals that there should be a fixed timetable to deal with anti-Semitism cases; that they should expedite the long-standing cases involving Ken Livingstone and Jackie Walker; that no MP should share a platform with somebody expelled or suspended for anti-Semitism; that they adopt the full International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism with all its examples and clauses; that there should be transparent oversight of their disciplinary process."

Mr Corbyn had offered an olive branch to the Jewish community just hours before the meeting took place by writing an article in the Evening Standard in which he apologised for his party failing to tackle the problem of anti-Semitism.

But the joint-statement said: "Words in letters and newspaper articles will never be enough. We welcome the fact that Mr Corbyn’s words have changed but it is action by which the Jewish community will judge him and the Labour party.

"Our sole objective from this meeting was to build trust with Mr Corbyn, but this will not be possible until and unless he and the party turn their many strong words against anti-Semitism into equally strong actions in order to bring about a deep cultural change in his supporters’ attitude to Jews.

"Thousands of British Jews did not demonstrate outside Parliament just for a few lawyers and another newspaper article; they demanded action and so do we. We will hold the Labour party to account for any future failures and continue to represent the interests of British Jews with clarity and resolve. We also commit to do our utmost to work with all those within Labour who want to help make it a safe and equal space for all of its members."

Speaking  after the meeting, JLC president Jonathan Goldstein said: "We are extremely disappointed that one month after we issued a very sensible and well-thought through series of proposals that not one of them have been given to the Jewish community.

"Every excuse given by Mr Corbyn and his team was wrapped up in process. Here we have a leader of the Labour party who has control of the national executive council and who has undoubted strength and control ovevr his party. So we feel that excuses of process are just another excuse for inactivity. We wil judge him by his actions, not by his words."

In contrast, Mr Corbyn issued an upbeat statement following the meeting in which he vowed that Labour "will not fail our Jewish brothers and sisters".

He said: "I am absolutely committed to rooting out anti-Semitism from our party and our society. When members of Jewish communities express genuine anxieties, we must recognise them as we would those of any other community.  Their concerns are not 'smears'. Jews belong in the Labour party and we are utterly committed to making it a safe and welcoming place for them.

"I have charged our new general secretary Jennie Formby with improving our disciplinary procedures as her top priority to ensure all complaints are dealt with swiftly and fairly. We are grateful for the input from Jewish community groups, who we will continue to listen to carefully.

"We will lay out the further steps we are taking in the coming weeks. We will continue to engage and work with Jewish community organisations to deal with this issue. Our party will not fail our Jewish brothers and sisters."