Jeremy Corbyn is 'figurehead' for antisemitism, says Jewish group ahead of Westminster protest

'The reality is there are no safe spaces online, or in meetings, for Jewish people within the Labour party'

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Monday 26 March 2018 09:03
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Tom Watson defends Jeremy Corbyn over antisemitic mural

A Jewish organisation has called Jeremy Corbyn a “figurehead” for antisemitism, as it prepares to stage an extraordinary protest outside Parliament against the Labour leader.

The Jewish Leadership Council also warned there were “no safe spaces” in the party for Jewish people – as it revealed Mr Corbyn had yet to invite it, or another group, to discuss the crisis.

The criticism came as the Labour leader prepared to defy a call by some of his MPs to explain himself at a meeting of the parliamentary party this evening.

“Rightly or wrong, Jeremy Corbyn is now the figurehead for an antisemitic political culture, based upon an obsessive hatred of Israel, conspiracy theories and fake news,” said Jonathan Goldstein, chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council.

“And that is doing great harm, not just to the Labour party, but to Britain in a wider sense.”

Mr Goldstein added: “The reality is there are no safe spaces online, or in meetings, for Jewish people within the Labour party.”

Among the accusations levelled at them were that they acted “on the instructions of Israel” and that “Zionists are the new Nazis”.

Overnight, Mr Corbyn issued a lengthy apology for what he called “pockets of antisemitism” in Labour, vowing to stamp it out.

And he expressed “regret” for offering support to stop the removal of an antisemitic mural, in a 2012 Facebook post, insisting he had not looked at the painting properly before doing so.

In his statement, Mr Corbyn said: “I want to be clear that I will not tolerate any form of anti-Semitism that exists in and around our movement. We must stamp this out from our party and movement.

“We recognise that anti-Semitism has occurred in pockets within the Labour party, causing pain and hurt to our Jewish community in the Labour party and the rest of the country. I am sincerely sorry for the pain which has been caused.”

Mr Corbyn said Labour was determined to win back “confidence in Labour among Jewish people”, adding: “I know that to do so, we must demonstrate our total commitment to excising pockets of anti-Semitism that exist in and around our party.

“I will be meeting representatives from the Jewish community over the coming days, weeks and months, to rebuild that confidence in Labour as a party which gives effective voice to Jewish concerns and is implacably opposed to anti-Semitism in all its forms.”

But Mr Goldstein said neither the Jewish Leadership Council, nor the Board of Deputies of British Jews, had received an invitation to meet with Mr Corbyn.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: “The greatest shame is that it has taken us to take to the streets for the apology to be forthcoming.

“We have been reaching out to the leader of the Labour party, through his Shadow Cabinet and directly, since he was elected back in 2015 and we have been ignored.

“The time for words is now over and the time for action is now important.”

Several Labour MPs have urged Mr Corbyn to give a full explanation of his actions, at the weekly meeting of the PLP – to be held at the same time as the protest outside – but he is not expected to attend.

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