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Interview with Jonathan Goldstein, chair of the Jewish Leadership Council

The JLC chair rejects claims that antisemitism row is politically inspired

    (Photo: PA)

    Jonathan Goldstein, chair of the Jewish Leadership Council, has condemned as “offensive” suggestions that community leaders went into the meeting with Jeremy Corbyn with no intention of seeking a resolution to the antisemitism crisis that has engulfed Labour.

    Speaking to the JC on Wednesday, Mr Goldstein said: “The notion that any of us would use the spectre of antisemitism as a weapon for political purposes is in itself offensive. This is in itself an antisemitic statement.”

    Mr Goldstein clarified his own close links to the Labour Party following suggestions that the JLC and Board of Deputies had never been allies of Mr Corbyn’s party in the past.

    He had joined the Labour Society, alongside the Jewish Society, during his time at university in the 1990s.

    Mr Goldstein added: “I’ve subsequently been heavily involved with the Labour Party both through the Brown and Blair years.

    “I was heavily involved and an active supporter of my good friend, the MP David Lammy, in his primary run for mayor of London.

    “I also became a supporter of Sadiq Khan because I wanted to make sure Sadiq became Mayor of London.

    “I have a very long history of engagement with Labour — also through Labour Friends of Israel.”

    Reflecting on the meeting between the JLC, the Board of Deputies and the Labour leader, Mr Goldstein said he believed there was a clear gulf between what the community leaders had asked for and what Mr Corbyn and Jennie Formby, Labour’s general secretary, actually offered. The gap between the parties had “grown stronger,” he added.

    “Mr Corbyn was very engaged — but when it came to any of the specific asks that we as a community regard as a bare minimum for our protection, it met with [comments about] either behavioural process or ideological blockages.”

    He also denied that Mr Corbyn had promised to settle the “vast majority” of the outstanding cases of alleged antisemitism within the party by the end of July during the session.

    “This is a post-meeting promise,” said Mr Goldstein. “Obviously we will have to watch and see if that happens.

    “What we did agree was that we would have a review, a next meeting potentially at the end of July, after the NEC meeting.

    “But there was no assurance given in the meeting that the outstanding cases would be dealt with by July.”

    Mr Goldstein said the Jewish delegation did raise concerns about Labour MPs such as Chris Williamson — who has issued public statements supporting Ken Livingstone and Jackie Walker, both suspended from the party for alleged antisemitism.

    “Mr Corbyn believes there’s no reason for anything to be said in that regard,” said Mr Goldstein. “Of course that is the same in regard to Ken Livingstone as well. It’s semantic.

    “In other words, if you want clear blue water and you want to make sure that the aggrieved party is protected, you would provide that layer of protection — and he’s not prepared to do that.”

    He said Mr Corbyn had insisted privately that the Jewish Voice for Labour group “do not speak for him”.

    But Mr Goldstein added: “He is not prepared to repeat that in public.”

    Asked about the prospect of a second meeting, Mr Goldstein said: “The meeting was offered. We will consider our position over the next few weeks when we see what action is taken.

    “There are channels — there’s always communication.”

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