Corbyn breaks silence on antisemitism crisis - but says IHRA code suppresses Israel criticism

Labour leader issues statement admitting Jew-hatred in Labour 'is a real problem', saying antisemites 'are not my supporters'


Jeremy Corbyn has broken his silence on the antisemitism crisis, admitting it is "a real problem" for Labour – but declined to indicate that the party will adopt the full IHRA definition of Jew-hatred.

Mr Corbyn insisted that the definition, accepted by public bodies across the world, could suppress criticism of Israel "that is not antisemitic".

He maintained that although certain instances of antisemitism were omitted from his party’s definition, their “essence” remained intact.

The Labour leader elected to write an article for the Guardian after attempts to deliver a speech on antisemitism at the Jewish Museum fell through, as revealed by the JC.

He said: “Our code is a good faith attempt to contextualise those examples and make them legally watertight for use as part of our disciplinary procedures, as well as to draw on additional instances of antisemitism.

“The community should have been consulted more extensively at an earlier stage – which is why our executive decided last month to reopen the development of the code in consultation with Jewish community organisations and others to address their concerns.

“Our actual differences are in fact very small – they really amount to half of one example out of 11, touching on free speech in relation to Israel."

Mr Corbyn’s office had previously planned for the Labour leader to deliver a speech on antisemitism on Friday, approaching the Jewish Museum in North London as a venue.

Ultimately an agreement was not reached, with communication breaking down over invitations to communal organisations to participate.

Mr Corbyn acknowledged that trust between his party and British Jewry was at a “low ebb”, and urged Labour members to “show a higher degree of empathy with the perspective of the Jewish community”.

He said that consultation on the wording of the definition will reopen this months, and will include communal bodies – including the Jewish Labour Movement.

But in reference to the joint editorial published by the JC and two other Jewish newspapers on the “existential threat” posed by Labour to British Jews, Mr Corbyn appealed against “overheated rhetoric”.

He said: “I want Jewish people to feel at home in the Labour party and be able to play their full part in our work to take our country forward.

“Labour staff have seen examples of Holocaust denial, crude stereotypes of Jewish bankers, conspiracy theories blaming 9/11 on Israel, and even one individual who appeared to believe that Hitler had been misunderstood.

“People holding those views have no place in the Labour party. Our party must never be a home for such people, and never will be.

“People who dish out antisemitic poison need to understand: you do not do it in my name. You are not my supporters and have no place in our movement.”

He also pledged to foster a “deeper understanding of antisemitism” among Labour members, which will include the rolling-out of an education and training programme throughout the party.

He insisted that differences between the party and the Jewish community over the IHRA definition could be “resolved through dialogue”.

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