A leading international Jewish group has accused Jeremy Corbyn of being “unable and unwilling to confront anti-Semitism” in the Labour party.
The European Jewish Congress said the Labour leader’s claim that he is committed to fighting racism “rings hollow” in light of the ongoing feud over changes to the party’s code of conduct on tackling anti-Jewish abuse.
Dr Moshe Kantor, the group’s president, voiced fears that “the possible future Prime Minister of Britain” was failing to properly deal with the issue.
Labour has come under fire from Jewish groups and many of its own MPs after its ruling body refused to fully adopt an internationally-recognised definition of anti-Semitism.
Four Shadow Cabinet members have now come out to question the decision not to accept the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s guidelines, along with all of the examples it provides of the problem.
Labour says its new code “expands on and contextualises” the IHRA text, and insists it has only taken issue only with “one half of one of the IHRA’s 11 examples” concerning criticism of Israel.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell argued Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge – who called Mr Corbyn an “anti-Semitic racist” over the row – had simply “misunderstood” the party’s approach.
But Dr Kantor said dismissing criticism as misinterpretation “further reinforces the impression that under Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour party remains unable and unwilling to confront anti-Semitism”.
He told PoliticsHome: “In choosing to adopt its own code, in defiance of the British government, which was one of the first to adopt the internationally-recognised IHRA definition in full, the Labour party explicitly omits from censure anti-Semitism masked as anti-Israel rhetoric and acts.
“This act of arrogance by the Labour leadership shows a baffling disdain for British Jewry, compounded by a leadership that dismisses any criticism of its code as ‘misinterpretation’, further reinforces the impression that under Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour party remains unable and unwilling to confront anti-Semitism.
“In this light, the party’s continued insistence that Jeremy Corbyn has ‘worked so hard on the issue of anti-Semitism’ rings hollow and does little to reassure British Jews concerned that the normalisation of anti-Jewish rhetoric has extended as a far as the possible future Prime Minister of Britain.”
The European Jewish Congress works with Jewish groups around Europe including the Board of Deputies of British Jews in the UK.
On Thirsday, Shadow Cabinet members Jon Ashworth and Barry Gardiner became the latest top Labour figures to call on the party to rethink its rulebook plans.
It came after the three rival Jewish newspapers – the Jewish Chronicle, Jewish News and the Jewish Telegraph – published an unprecedented joint editorial attacking the rule changes.
‘ROBUST, SOUND GUIDELINES’
Labour has accepted the central IHRA definition of anti-Semitism but has rejected four of its examples of abuse – including saying Jews are more loyal to Israel than their home country.
The party has previously said: “We understand the strong concerns raised in the Jewish community and are seeking to engage with communal organisations to build trust and confidence in our party. We know there is a huge amount of work to do.”
Labour has also said its code of code of conduct “expands on and contextualises” the IHRA definition “to produce robust, legally sound guidelines that a political party can apply to disciplinary cases”.
The party has also argued that parts of the IHRA definition could be “used to deny Palestinians, including Palestinian citizens of Israel and their supporters, their rights and freedoms to describe the discrimination and injustices they face in the language they deem appropriate”.
Labour MPs will hold a ballot in September on incorporating the full IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, along with its accompanying examples, into its standing orders. It is expected to pass comfortably.