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Jeremy Corbyn's 'round table' will be a defining moment for British Jews

Significant as Tuesday’s meeting will be, the omens are hardly propitious

    Next Tuesday at 5pm will be an appallingly significant moment for British Jews.

    Significant, because representatives of the community will at that moment sit down with the leader of the Labour Party. Appalling, because they will be doing so as a consequence of Mr Corbyn’s refusal to deal with antisemitism among Labour members.

    The meeting follows last month’s rally in Parliament Square, which changed the political climate. 

    For more than two-and-a-half years, this newspaper and others have been relentlessly highlighting the problem. Few have taken much notice. 

    Now, however, there seems to be a widespread awareness that a poison has re-entered our national life and that antisemitism is again an issue of real importance to British Jews, for the first time since the Blackshirts. 

    This week’s Commons debate seems to have had a similar impact. The mere fact it was necessary was itself shaming for the Labour Party. But a series of searingly powerful speeches revealing the scale and regularity of the abuse that prominent Jews now receive opened many eyes. 

    Equally notable in its own way was the cold indifference of Diane Abbott, the Shadow Home Secretary, in response. She was rightly attacked by her Labour colleague Wes Streeting, who spoke of the “vast majority of British Jews who are horrified by what they have seen in the Labour Party and who I fear will be horrified by the response from our front benchers to this debate”.

    Significant as Tuesday’s meeting will be, the omens are hardly propitious. Mr Corbyn could not bring himself to stay for more than a small part of the debate, despite it only being called as a result of his own refusal to deal with antisemitism.

    And this week it emerged that the Labour leader is attempting a crude “divide and rule” tactic in his relations with the Jewish community. 

    Despite the Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council agreeing in good faith to meet him next Tuesday, a further “round table” meeting has now been called by Mr Corbyn for the following day, to which fringe groups such as Jewish Voice for Labour have also been invited. JVL was created by the Corbynites solely to give the false impression that the Jewish community is split and that a significant proportion believe that the issue of antisemitism within the Labour Party is a “smear”.  But JVL speaks for no one other than its tiny number of members. 

    Quite rightly, the Board and JLC — along with the Community Security Trust and all other serious Jewish bodies — have refused to play Mr Corbyn’s blatantly obvious game and turned down this second meeting. 

    Tuesday’s meeting will be a defining moment. It will show if there is any possibility that a man with Mr Corbyn’s history and beliefs can indeed be an ally against antisemitism. So far, the evidence shows that that idea is fanciful — to put it mildly.

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