The Board of Deputies has submitted evidence to Shami Chakrabarti’s inquiry into antisemitism in the Labour Party.
In its submission, the representative body of British Jews, described the spike in allegations of antisemitism from within the party’s ranks as “deeply disturbing”. It called on its representatives to “set a high bar on anti-racism and discrimination”.
In a nine-page document, the Board said the party needed clearer guidelines on the difference between criticism of Israel and antisemitism.
It also expressed at concern at reactions of allegations of antisemitism, adding that some Labour members “have reflected a culture of denial, disbelief, mockery and even censorship against Jews – including Jewish members of the Labour Party – who have expressed concerns about the problem of antisemitism.”
Ms Chakrabarti’s internal inquiry was launched last month after a series of suspensions of Labour members amid allegations of antisemitism. It is expected to report by the end of this month.
The Board of Deputies told the inquiry that it had been “disappointed” at some of the responses from the party leadership to claims of antisemitism.
“Reactions have frequently been slow, faltering, disbelieving and lacking in understanding of the issues. A number of earlier inquiries have not been published, which raises questions about transparency. We hope that, going forward, the leadership will show clarity and purpose on tackling antisemitism as a clear part of its anti-racism work.”
The Board added: “The recent series of revelations of antisemitism in the ranks of the Labour Party have been deeply disturbing to the Jewish community. As a progressive party, the Labour Party and its members should set a high bar on anti-racism and discrimination.
“There needs to be particular clarity around where criticism of Israel or the Israeli government is legitimate political discourse, and where it crosses the line into antisemitism.
“Examples of the latter include support for – or failure to oppose – terrorism against Jews; celebration, denial, trivilialisation or revision of the Holocaust; anti-Jewish conspiracy theories; theological antisemitism; and crude stereotypes about Jewish appearance, money or power.”
It went on: “We regard as antisemitic any exceptional treatment of Israel, where Israel is uniquely subjected, among all the countries in the world, to hostile behaviours such as denial of its right to exist and boycotts.
“Labour’s programme of tackling antisemitism should be supported by clear rules and guidelines, a strengthened compliance unit, training and an appropriate series of sanctions for those who breach the rules.”
“The Board of Deputies has also been concerned about the reaction of some Labour members who (while not descending into antisemitism themselves) have reflected a culture of denial, disbelief, mockery and even censorship against Jews – including Jewish members of the Labour Party – who have expressed concerns about the problem of antisemitism. This issue is too important to be misused for factional or political ends. This represents an unhealthy culture which needs to be challenged at all levels.”