Labour underestimated opposition to antisemitism code, says senior pro-Jeremy Corbyn NEC member

Rhea Wolfson says the code is still open to 'review'


Labour underestimated how strongly the Jewish community would oppose their new antisemitism code, a member of the party’s ruling body has admitted.

The party triggered huge opposition, including a revolt by its own MPs, when it unveiled a code of conduct that stopped short of adopting the full International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of Jew hate.

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has written to Labour saying rejecting the IHRA definition would send "a message of contempt" to British Jews

In another unprecedented step, 68 Rabbis from every denomination wrote a letter to the party to "speak out with one Jewish voice" about how "antisemitism within sections of the Labour party has become so severe and widespread".

Speaking ahead of Tuesday’s full National Executive Council (NEC) vote on Labour’s new antisemitism definition, Rhea Wolfson, the left-wing Jewish activist with the pro-Jeremy Corbyn group Momentum, said the party "didn't realise" how much opposition there would be.

Ms Wolfson, who sits on the NEC, told BBC Radio Four's Today programme: "I think the statement, 'We didn’t realise it would have this effect – there is obviously work to be done’. How can we say anything but that?”

Ms Wolfson, who was recruited into Momentum by its founder Jon Lansman, appeared on the programme alongside senior Reform Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, who was among the 68 rabbis who signed the letter to Labour.

Ms Wolfson suggested that Labour had failed to properly consult with British Jews before its working group on antisemitism came up with its new code of conduct.

She added: "I think that there is a conversation to be had about consultation.

“It would be foolish of us to dismiss the passion, the feeling behind – you can never dismiss a letter that has been signed by 68 rabbis many who I have worked with and respect greatly.”

Rabbi Janner-Klausner suggested that Ms Wolfson should instruct the NEC meeting to revisit the code and properly consult with the Jewish community.

Ms Wolfson said: "This is a living and breathing document. There is a commitment to keep the working group on antisemitism going to review this document on how it works.

“That’s why I think this document is one I stand by but we need to be flexible over to build trust with the community.”

During the radio interview, Ms Wolfson rejected criticism that the new code required a higher burden of proof of antisemitic intent than other forms of racism.

She also defended the decision to drop of part of the IHRA definition that sets out how caims that the existence of a State of Israel is "a racist endeavour” can be antisemitic.

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