Diane Abbott accused of 'using Charedi Jews for political gain'

The parliamentary candidate for Hackney suggested Jews in Stamford Hill were not concerned about antisemitism in Labour



A prominent figure in the Charedi community has criticised Diane Abbott for “being totally out of touch with the reality” of how Jews in her constituency feel about antisemitism.

Rabbi Avraham Pinter, an ex-Labour councillor in Stamford Hill, was responding to arguments made by Ms Abbott on Radio Four’s Today programme.

She suggested that the Jewish community in Stamford Hill did not share the same concerns about antisemitism as mainstream Jewish communal organisations.

When asked if the Labour Party had done enough to tackle Labour antisemitism, Ms Abbott said: “Not every element of the Jewish community says Jeremy Corbyn is an antisemite.”

And when challenged on the whether her party had done enough to listen to victims of antisemitism, Ms Abbott argued that she had spoken to Jews in her constituency and they felt differently to the main representatives.

“One of the biggest voting blocks in Hackney is in Stamford Hill which historically is a large and vibrant Jewish community and I’ve spoken to them about this,” she said.

Ms Abbott, who is defending one of the safest Labour seats in the country, argued that the “Jewish community in Stamford Hill doesn’t say” what the wider communal groups say.

“I talk to them all the time. I listen to the people and I listen to my constituents.”

Rabbi Pinter said: “I don’t know who she is talking about. Because there is no question that the majority of the people I talk to in the community are talking about antisemitism in the party, it is a concern in the community, we have others, but to suggest that we are not concerned about what has happened in the Labour Party or think they have done enough is false.”

He said she should know better than “to use the Charedi Jewish community for political gain.

“How dare she use imperialistic tacticts of divide and rule? I totally resent it and I would expect a Labour politician to know better than to try and divide a minority community in that way.

"To talk about us as a block is conspiritorial, there is no block in the Stamford Hill community and we all vote in many ways."

Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl accused the MP of “minimising the antisemitism crisis in her party - while attempting to divide and rule the Jewish community.”

Ms van der Zyl said it “demonstrates the Labour leadership has no intention of owning the problem of anti-Jewish racism or taking the necessary steps to eradicate it."

Rabbi Pinter added: “My personal experiences of antisemitism in the Labour party are well documented. She knows about them and yet she has the arrogance to ignore the issue.”

He said it was “ironic” that on the same programme she criticised Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg for displaying “arrogance” over offensive comments he made about the victims of the Grenfell fire while having the “arrogance to pretend the Charedi community all think one way.”

He said his MP, who has enjoyed a good relationship with Jews in the constituency - where the community makes up 11.3 per cent of the electorate - has made no attempts to listen to his concerns about Labour antisemitism, which he raised at the last general election two years ago.

Rabbi Pinter said: “We hardly see her from one election to the next. And I’m still waiting for her to return my calls.”

Levi Shapiro, founder of the Jewish Community Council, said people in the Stamford Hill community were very upset about antisemitism.

“Her point about whether we think Jeremy Corbyn is antisemitic is irrelevant. The idea that she engages with us or reaches out to talk is utter lies. We have never heard from her. She doesn’t engage with us and she doesn’t understand our concerns.”

There are others in the constituency, however, who do have faith in her attempt to deal with antisemitism.

The Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations (UOHC), which describes itself as an “umbrella body representing the interests of strictly Orthodox Jews” wrote to Ms Abbott in March to say to it believed she "wholeheartedly opposes antisemitism", contrary to “certain media reports”.

Meanwhile, on LBC radio, shadow chancellor John McDonnell told host Iain Dale that Labour's response to antisemitism should be held up as an example of how to deal with issues of racism within a party.

When asked if he thought that suspended MP Chris Williamson should be allowed to stand, Mr McDonnell refused to comment.

And asked for his response to Jewish people who cite Mr Williamson as an example of Labour failing to deal with someone accused of making antisemitic remarks, Mr McDonnell argued that only "some" people considered the comments antisemitic.

He went on to argue that Labour was “an example of how you do address these issues within a political party. Other political parties need to learn from that."

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