Corbyn has shown poor leadership on anti-Semitism, say MPs

An extensive new report is fiercely critical of the Labour leader, who doesn’t ‘fully appreciate’ what post-Second World War anti-Semitism is 

Tom Peck
Sunday 16 October 2016 00:21
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The Labour leader said the report was ‘biased’ against his party
The Labour leader said the report was ‘biased’ against his party

The Labour Party was incompetent in its handling of anti-Semitic incidents within its party, and Jeremy Corbyn has not provided “consistent leadership” in dealing with anti-Semitism, according to a detailed and damning report by the Home Affairs Select Committee.

The cross-party report, which was begun under the chairmanship of Labour MP Keith Vaz who has since stood down, questions whether the Labour leader “fully appreciates” what anti-Semitism is, in the years since the foundation of the state of Israel, and was fiercely critical of the party’s own internal anti-Semitism investigation, led by Shami Chakrabarti, who has since been given a seat in the House of Lords and is now serving as shadow Attorney General.

“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,” the report says.

Jeremy Corbyn's campaign team tackle accusations of antisemitism

Its own incompetence extends to the incidents involving former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, who has made dozens of TV and radio appearances to defend his claim that Hitler conspired middle eastern authorities to repatriate Jews to Palestine, and was therefore a Zionist.

Mr Corbyn said the report, which is a wide investigation into anti-Semitism, was biased in its focus on Labour and said the criticism of Lady Chakrabarti was “unfair”.

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

“Although the committee heard evidence that 75 per cent of anti-Semitic incidents come from far right sources, and the report states there is no reliable evidence to suggest anti-Semitism is greater in Labour than other parties, much of the report focuses on the Labour Party.

“As the report rightly acknowledges, politicising anti-Semitism – or using it as a weapon in controversies between and within political parties – does the struggle against it a disservice.”

The report was jointly authored by a cross-party panel of MPs. Its wording has been agreed in full by Chuka Umunna, who is a critic of the Labour leader, and David Winnick, a veteran MP and himself Jewish.

Shami Chakrabarti and Jeremy Corbyn at a press conference to announce the findings of the antisemitism inquiry in June

Labour MP Naz Shah is also a member of the committee, but she did not contribute to the inquiry after she was suspended from the Labour Party over Facebook posts that were anti-Semitic.

The report said Mr Corbyn had a “proud record of campaigning against racism” but added: “On the evidence we have received, we are not persuaded that he fully appreciates the distinct nature of post-Second World War anti-Semitism.”

The report also highlights the “appalling” level of abuse directed at Jewish MPs, including Ruth Smeeth, who recently claimed she had received 25,000 separate messages of anti-Semitic abuse on social media.

“Clearly, the Labour leader is not directly responsible for abuse committed in his name, but 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,” the report states.

“This situation has been further exacerbated by the Party’s demonstrable incompetence at dealing with members accused of anti-Semitism, as illustrated by the saga involving the suspension, re-admittance and re-suspension of Jackie Walker.

“The ongoing membership of Ken Livingstone, following his outbursts about Hitler and Zionism, should also have been dealt with more effectively.

“The result is that the Labour Party, with its proud history of fighting racism and promoting equal rights, is seen by some as an unwelcoming place for Jewish members and activists.”

It said that Lady Chakrabarti’s report into these incidents was “clearly lacking in many areas”.

“The fact that the report describes occurrences of anti-Semitism merely as “unhappy incidents” also suggests that it fails to appreciate the full gravity of the comments that prompted the inquiry in the first place,” the MPs noted.

“These shortfalls, combined with Ms Chakrabarti’s decision to join the Labour Party in April and accept a peerage as a nominee of the Leader of that Party, and her subsequent appointment as shadow attorney general, have thrown into question her claims (and those of Mr Corbyn) that her inquiry was truly independent.”

Lady Chakrabarti has said her subsequent peerage in the wake of the report was not “transactional”, telling the BBC’s Andrew Marr that “I am not a corrupt person and Jeremy Corbyn is not a corrupt person”.

The report also cited surveys that claim “as many as one in 20 adults in the UK could be characterised as ‘clearly anti-Semitic’.

“There is a real risk that the UK is moving in the wrong direction on anti-Semitism, in contrast to many other countries in Western Europe,” it said.

The Committee’s acting chair, Tim Loughton, said: “History shows that anti-Semitism is a virus that is too easily spread, through subtly pernicious discourse, ignorance and collusion.

“We call on all leaders of political parties to lead by example to tackle the growing prevalence of this insidious form of hate, opposing racism and religious hate in all its forms and working harder to promote inclusion and understanding among party members and the wider public, as befits the UK’s status as a multicultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious society.”

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