Corbyn condemned as communal leaders react to Labour antisemitism findings


Communal leaders have welcomed elements of the Chakrabarti report on antisemitism among Labour members, but party leader Jeremy Corbyn was roundly criticised for his remarks as the report was unveiled.

The inquiry, led by Shami Chakrabarti, was set up last month to investigate antisemitism among party members.

Its recommendations, announced this morning, included that Labour members "should resist the use of Hitler, Nazi and Holocaust metaphors, distortions and comparisons in debates about Israel-Palestine in particular".

The Jewish Leadership Council and the Community Security Trust said recommendations on abusive language and inclusion made in their joint submission to the inquiry were included in the report.

They welcomed the inquiry’s “rejection of the use of the term Zio, condemnation of manipulating the Holocaust and of the stereotyping of Jews”.

But they voiced concern that the inquiry ruled out lifetime bans and automatic suspensions for party members guilty of antisemitic abuse.

“It is for the Labour Party to guarantee full, effective and detailed implementation of the report’s recommendations,” they said.

Former Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks condemned Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn over a comment appearing to compare Israel with Daesh, at the press conference launching the inquiry’s findings.

The remark was "demonisation of the highest order, an outrage and unacceptable", Rabbi Lord Sacks said.

He added: "That this occurred at the launch of the report into the Labour Party’s recent troubles with antisemitism shows how deep the sickness is in parts of the left of British politics today.

"Israel is a democratic state with an independent judiciary, a free press and a diverse population of many cultures, religions and creeds. Isis is a terrorist entity whose barbarities have been condemned by all those who value our common humanity. In the current political climate, when hate crimes are rising and political rhetoric is increasingly divisive, this is all the more shocking.”

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said Mr Corbyn's comments "however they were intended, are themselves offensive, and rather than rebuilding trust among the Jewish community, are likely to cause even greater concern."

He added that the Chakrabarti report could "herald an important step forward - in particular its acknowledgement that some within the Labour Party have peddled the prejudice of antisemitism, using language, innuendo and accusations that are deeply offensive and which should be universally condemned.

"Full and unhesitating implementation of the report's findings must now follow. I call upon the Labour Party to guarantee that there will be zero tolerance of antisemitism."

Rabbi Danny Rich, senior rabbi of Liberal Judaism, said Mr Corbyn's comments made him wonder if the Labour leader had “learnt anything at all from the inquiry”.

Jonathan Arkush, president of the Board of Deputies, said Mr Corbyn's remark was "deeply regrettable" and "completely unacceptable".

Mr Arkush welcomed some parts of the report, but criticised it for being "weak on the demonisation of Israel" and omitting "any mention of party figures who have displayed friendship towards terrorists”.

He added: “We appreciate the careful way in which Shami Chakrabarti has engaged with our community and that she took on board and addressed some of our concerns with commendable speed.”

“We hope that the implementation of this report will be rigorous and swift and the Labour Party will become again a welcoming space for Jews.

Joan Ryan MP, chair of Labour Friends of Israel, also condemned Mr Corbyn's comment.

She said: “ISIS brutally murders Muslims who do not conform to its twisted ideology, enslaves women and is committing genocide against the Yazidi people. Last month while 200,000 people celebrated Tel Aviv Pride, ISIS continued to throw gay people off of buildings. No responsible politician should even allude to such a comparison."

Ms Ryan also criticised the Labour leader for not acting when Jewish Labour MP Ruth Smeeth was verbally abused by an activist at the press conference, and called on him to apologise "for the offence he has caused today and take responsibility for the behaviour of his supporters.”

Tzipi Livni, former Israeli Minister of Justice, tweeted: "Corbyn's words imply a serious lack of moral judgement. Just as all Muslims are not to blame for ISIS, not all Brits are to blame for Corbyn".

Research group Bicom attacked aspects of the report as “vague and indecisive”

CEO James Sorene said: "We regret that the inquiry has failed to recognise the dangerous, systematic demonisation of Israel by those Labour Party members who cross the line into antisemitism and attempt to disguise it as anti-Zionism.

“There are sadly no recommendations for new measures to allow them to be removed as members and the inquiry effectively offers an amnesty, which it calls a moratorium, to those who have used antisemitic language in the past.

He added: "The report is vague and indecisive on action against members who indulge in antisemitic anti-Zionism, and dismisses a culture of systematic demonisation of Israel as a 'series of unhappy incidents’.”

John Mann MP, who chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group against antisemitism said that “every single proposal” he had made to the inquiry had been included in the report.

“It now requires full, consistent and detailed implementation,” he said.

He described the recommendation that Zionism must never be used as part of personal abuse as “a most significant piece of advice to the Labour Party”.

The Jewish Labour Movement said: "This is a sensible and firm platform which gives the Party an opportunity to get off the back foot and on to the front foot in setting a new standard for tacking racism and anti-Semitism. The report has accurately diagnosed the nature of the problem.  There will rightly be a debate and discussion about the specifics of the very detailed recommendations on rules, regulations and processes. But all the talk about high standards will need to  be borne out by implementation. This will require strong leadership. One of the very first tests will be how the party deals with the ongoing disciplinary case against Ken Livingstone. There can be no future for a politician with his track record in a post Chakrabarti report labour party. We at JLM will be meeting with the party leadership  in next few days to begin discussions around implementation."  

Laura Janner-Klausner, senior rabbi to the Reform Movement, praised Ms Chakrabarti for having done "an honourable job".

Rabbi Janner-Klausner said the inquiry "should act as a model for the same kind of investigation in other parties as well, because what’s happened in the past few months has been with the Labour Party under the microscope, but it’s clear that this kind of ignorance and prejudice is not confined to the Labour Party."

She added “The fact that anyone has to recommend that people don’t use the words Nazi, Hitler or Holocaust – it’s pretty terrible that we've got to that stage."

Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: "These findings acknowledge problems of antisemitism, conspiracy theories, abuse of the Holocaust to cause maximal offence, and attacking Jewish people’s right to self-determination taking place in the Labour Party.

"If the red lines are clear - and understood - the Labour Party will now need to demonstrate firm and appropriate action in current and future investigations regardless of how prominent these cases may be.”

The Zionist Federation UK released a statement saying: "Despite the obvious severity of the issue, we recognised that it was not a simple topic to tackle. Entire books have been written about the complexity of contemporary antisemitism; how it has merged and mutated into the rhetoric surrounding discussion and debate about Israel.

Unfortunately, the report scarcely begins to shine a much needed light into this grey area. Instead it buries it under a mass of generic procedural recommendations for tackling racism as a whole, with very little attempt to clarify what constitutes specifically anti-Jewish racism. While it is arguably understandable that this investigation would seek to make recommendations about prejudice in general,it feels as if they have come at the expense of tackling antisemitism."

Subsequently it was made clear by the Labour Party that Mr Corbyn had not compared Israel to Daesh, but to "Islamic states or organisations". Seamus Milne, Labour's director of communications, said Mr Corbyn had meant "states like Iran, Pakistan, Hizbollah etc"

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