Outrage as Labour blocks hate inquiry


The Labour Party's refusal to publish the full findings of an investigation into allegations of antisemitism at Oxford University has been attacked by Jewish students and communal organisations.

Suppressing the report undermined the party's credibility in tackling antisemitism, they said.

Labour peer Baroness Royall published a series of recommendations on Tuesday after finding that although the Oxford University Labour Club was not institutionally antisemitic, its "culture" presented "difficulties" which must be addressed.

But Labour's National Executive Committee (NEC) blocked publication of her findings, only allowing the recommendations and conclusions to be revealed.

Numerous sources however revealed that Baroness Royall had found that many of the alleged antisemitic incidents had taken place.

Organisations that do not publish full reports lose legitimacy

Oxford University's Jewish Society, which first brought to light a number of the alleged incidents against OULC members, said it was "deeply disappointed" by the outcome and was concerned by the "lack of any specificity regarding the events investigated".

The JSoc said: "By suppressing these reports, the party threatens to undermine its credibility when it comes to tackling antisemitism within the Labour movement."

Labour said Baroness Royall's full report would be published within the party's wider inquiry into antisemitism being led by Shami Chakrabarti and due to be completed next month.

In a blog published by the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) on Tuesday evening, Baroness Royall urged patience. She said some of the most important issues she had considered would be dealt with by the Chakrabarti review on which she will sit as a vice-chair.

Baroness Royall wrote: "I am clear that in the OULC there is a cultural problem which means that Jewish students do not always feel welcome. And we have to take action to change this situation.

"There is sometimes an environment in which Jews cannot debate, or feel safe to do so, unless their every remark is prefaced by criticism of the Israeli government."

She said "double standards" were applied to Jewish students and were "unacceptable".

In her report, the peer advised against life bans for Labour members found to be guilty of antisemitism. She said people "may change their views" and could seek the NEC's approval to join the party if they could demonstrate such a change.

She recommended that Ms Chakrabarti's investigation should adopt the Macpherson definition of racism, which states that an incident should be investigated as antisemitic if it is perceived as such by the victim.

The party's national complaints unit must be "properly resourced so that it may deal effectively with complaints of antisemitism", the peer said.

On the OULC allegations, she said club officers should undergo training with the JLM to deal with antisemitism.

Baroness Royall's inquiry was set up after the co-chair of the student group quit in February, claiming colleagues "have some kind of problem with Jews".

That sparked a series of claims about incidents at OULC, including suggestions that students discussed Zionists rigging British elections, frequently used the abusive term "Zio" and said European attacks on Jews were justified because of Gaza.

Jeremy Newmark, JLM chair, said he shared Baroness Royall's "frustration" that the full report was suppressed.

Labour MP John Mann, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, said: "For those who thought there wasn't an antisemitism issue in the Labour Party, this report shows there definitely is."

The Board of Deputies, Jewish Leadership Council and Community Security Trust all expressed concern at the failure to publish the full findings.

Board president Jonathan Arkush accused the party of "suppressing" the report and said it was clear that the "problem of antisemitism" at OULC must be tackled.

The Board was "encouraged" by the recommendation to use the Macpherson definition, he said.

Simon Johnson, JLC chief executive, said: "Organisations that do not publish full reports, particularly when they may be critical, tend to lose legitimacy in the eyes of the general public."

MP Joan Ryan, Labour Friends of Israel chair, said that "for the victims of antisemitism justice has not been seen to be done".

Meanwhile the public launch of Labour's wider antisemitism inquiry was met with caution on Monday after it emerged that Ms Chakrabarti - the probe's independent chair - had joined the party.

She was repeatedly forced to defend her integrity when asked about her decision to become a Labour member.

The former director of the Liberty human rights organisation said she would be "working for, and in the best interests of the Labour party" and its supporters, claiming that the inquiry would be "nimble and flexible".

Questions were also raised over the party's decision to include in the inquiry other forms of racism, including Islamophobia. Critics claimed widening the scope of the investigation risked "diluting" its focus on antisemitism, but Ms Chakrabarti said it would "seem strange and lopsided" not to look beyond Jew-hate.

One Jewish Labour supporter described that situation as "a bit bizarre. What would have been so bad about doing them one after the other? Antisemitism, then Islamophobia?"

Ms Chakrabarti had told the press conference called to launch the inquiry that the suspension of around 20 Labour members and activists following antisemitism allegations in recent months was the prime factor behind the probe. "There's no running away from that. They were the trigger," she said.

After announcing that she had joined Labour on the day she was appointed as chair last month, Ms Chakrabarti was asked whether she could fairly investigate if she was a party member.

She said: "I want to be honest. I consider myself to be independent. I'm not less independent for showing I share the values of Labour's constitution."

Conservative MP Oliver Dowden later claimed the inquiry was "rapidly losing all credibility".

Evidence can be submitted until June 10. Ms Chakrabarti said she hoped party leader Jeremy Corbyn would provide a submission, but added that she did not intend to ask former London mayor Ken Livingstone for his input as he is currently suspended from the party after claiming Hitler was a Zionist.

Other Labour members suspended during the antisemitism crisis would be allowed to submit evidence, she said.

The role of inquiry vice-chair Professor David Feldman, director of the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism, has been criticised as he is a signatory to Independent Jewish Voices (IJV), a group which had released a statement claiming the allegations of antisemitism in Labour were in some cases "baseless and disingenuous".

Ms Chakrabarti read a statement explaining that Prof Feldman did not agree with parts of the IJV comment. She said she was "confident he approaches this with an open mind".

One Jewish Labour supporter said the promotion of Baroness Royall meant Prof Feldman had been "marginalised to the role of in-house librarian to the inquiry".

John Mann said: "Shami Chakrabarti must be given the benefit of the doubt. Members of our group will be meeting Jeremy Corbyn next week to set out our expectations of the operational independence of the inquiry."

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