Tony Blair says Labour still 'in denial' over anti-Semitism

Posted On: 
17th October 2018

Labour is still "in denial" over the scale of its anti-Semitism crisis, Tony Blair has claimed.

The ex-PM said some in the party were still 'in denial' about the problem.

The former Prime Minister spoke out at an anniversary dinner for the Holocaust Educational Trust.

Labour has faced heavy criticism from Jewish groups over the summer after it initially decided not to fully adopt the internationally-recognised definition of anti-Semitism in its own code of conduct.

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After weeks of rancour, the party's ruling National Executive Committee finally moved to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance guidelines, alongside a separate statement making clear it will not "undermine freedom of expression on Israel or the rights of Palestinians".

However, Mr Blair said: "Months ago I was saying we must root it out. Well, some action has been taken - but the truth is many people are still in denial.

"It is not enough to challenge anti-Semitism in general. You have to challenge it in particular."

Mr Blair pointed to controversy over Jeremy Corbyn's 2013 suggestion that a group of Zionists had "no sense of English irony" as well as NEC member Pete Willsman's claim that Jewish critics of the party were "Trump fanatics".

He said: "When it comes to the particular, they are prepared to indulge in sentiment that is profoundly antisemitic."

He added: "When people talk about Jewish finances, some of the criticisms of George Soros, statements about Trump supporting Jews and the statement, I'm afraid as ignorant as it was unpleasant,  suggesting that a section of British Jewry doesn't understand a British sense of irony – when, by the way, anyone familiar with Jewish humour knows that the Jewish community has turned irony into virtually an art form."

The former Labour leader said those battling anti-Jewish abuse were taking up a cause that remained "profoundly relevant" decades after the Holocaust.

And he added: "For those of us who know what the Labour Party should really be about there is nothing more abhorrent than the notion that anti-Semitism is alive in the party today."

Speaking at Labour's annual conference last month, Mr Corbyn vowed to "work together and draw a line" under anti-Semitism in the party and acknowleged that the row had "caused immense hurt and anxiety in the Jewish community and great dismay in the Labour Party".

He added: "I say this to all in the Jewish community: This party, this movement, will always be implacable campaigners against antisemitism and racism in all its forms. We are your ally."