Jeremy Corbyn condemned by MPs over failure to tackle anti-Semitism in Labour

Posted On: 
16th October 2016

Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to stamp out anti-Semitism within Labour has helped create a “safe space” for hostility towards Jews, a cross-party group of MPs has said. 

Jeremy Corbyn and Shami Chakrabarti at the launch of the latter's report on anti-Semitism in the Labour party
Credit: 
PA Images

The Home Affairs Committee said the party under his leadership had displayed “demonstrable incompetence” at tackling anti-Semitism.

In a strongly-worded report, the MPs also criticise Baroness Chakrabarti - who carried out a report into anti-Semitism in Labour on behalf of Mr Corbyn - for failing to provide answers about when she was first offered a peerage by him.

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And they call on Labour - which has been hit by a swathe of anti-Semitism controversies in the past year - to toughen up its approach to tackling the problem.

While making clear that “no party is immune” to anti-Semitism, the committee commits much of its focus to Labour's particular problem with the issue.

It says some Jewish Labour MPs have been subjected to “appalling levels of abuse” from those identifying as Mr Corbyn’s supporters.

VILE

The MPs say: “While the Labour leader has a proud record of campaigning against many types of racism, based on the evidence we have received, we are not persuaded that he fully appreciates the distinct nature of post-Second World War anti-Semitism.

“Unlike other forms of racism, anti-Semitic abuse often paints the victim as a malign and controlling force rather than as an inferior object of derision, making it perfectly possible for an ‘anti-racist campaigner’ to express anti-Semitic views...

“We believe that his lack of consistent leadership on this issue, and his reluctance to separate anti-Semitism from other forms of racism, has created what some have referred to as a ‘safe space’ for those with vile attitudes towards Jewish people.”

They add: “The failure of the Labour party to deal consistently and effectively with anti-Semitic incidents in recent years risks lending force to allegations that elements of the Labour movement are institutionally anti-Semitic.”

After a string of anti-Semitism allegations against Labour members emerged in the spring, Mr Corbyn commissioned Shami Chakrabarti to lead a review into the issue.

The former director of Liberty - who admitted she had joined Labour on the day she was appointed to carry out the work - concluded that the party was not “overrun” with anti-Semitism, though she made a series of recommendations to toughen up the rules and penalties for dealing with it.

Her subsequent decision to accept a peerage – and refusal to disclose to the committee when it was offered – left her open to the charge of a whitewash, the MPs said.

They added that it was “disappointing” neither she nor Mr Corbyn foresaw the likelihood of such a charge.

They also disagree with her report’s call for a statute of limitations on anti-Semitic incidents within Labour, and say she should have published a definition of anti-Semitism.

On Ken Livingstone’s claims that Adolf Hitler “supported Zionism” before he “went mad and murdered six million Jews”, the committee says the comments were “unwise, offensive and provocative”, and that the former mayor of London probably “knew that his comments would cause... offence”. 

UNFAIR

Elsewhere, the report also criticises Twitter for hosting "vast swathes" of anti-Semitic content and said the site should do more to identify those responsible.

In a lengthy response to the report, Mr Corbyn launched an angry attack on the committee for focusing so much on Labour, and mounted a stout defence of Baroness Chakrabarti and her peerage.

He said: "The report unfairly criticises Shami Chakrabarti for not being sufficiently independent. This fails to acknowledge public statements that the offer to appoint Chakrabarti to the House of Lords came after completion of her report, and was based on her extensive legal and campaigning experience.

"Commissioning Chakrabarti was an unprecedented step for a political party, demonstrating Labour’s commitment to fight against anti-Semitism. Labour is already acting on her recommendations, including reform of our internal procedures, changes to the party’s rule book and expansion of training to tackle anti-Semitism."

The Labour leader added: "The committee heard evidence from too narrow a pool of opinion, and its then-chair rejected both Chakrabarti’s and the Jewish Labour Movement’s requests to appear and give evidence before it. Not a single woman was called to give oral evidence in public, and the report violates natural justice by criticising individuals without giving them a right to be heard.

"The report’s political framing and disproportionate emphasis on Labour risks undermining the positive and welcome recommendations made in it."

John Mann, the Labour MP and chair of the All-Party Group Against anti-Semitism welcomed the report, adding: "We will continue to work hard on a cross-party basis to ensure that anti-Semitism is effectively tackled.”

Gideon Falter, chairman of Campaign Against anti-Semitism, said: "The select committee’s rigorous report is uncompromising on the rise in anti-Semitism and the danger it presents. It directly accuses the enablers of growing anti-Semitism, including social networks, those on the far-left who allow vile Jew hatred to masquerade as political discourse, and the student leaders who have abandoned Jewish students.

"As Jews once again leave Europe and anti-Semitism is rising with chilling celerity in Britain, it is absolutely right that the select committee has endorsed the measures we have called for."