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Board and JLC set out preconditions for meeting with Jeremy Corbyn over Labour antisemitism

Jewish groups demand Labour leader condemns threats to MPs who highlight issue of antisemitism, and that party appoints independent ombudsman to investigate claims of Jew-hatred

    The Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council have outlined a series of preconditions for Jeremy Corbyn to agree to before they will meet the Labour leader.

    In a letter sent to Mr Corbyn today, responding to his invitation to meet them, the Jewish groups say they want him first to denounce those of his supporters who have attacked Labour MPs for attending the rally in Parliament Square on Monday - and to make clear in own voice that they had every right to be there.

    They also demand that he takes “personal responsibility” for the issue and appoints an independent ombudsman to conduct investigations into outstanding claims of Jew-hatred among Labour Party members.

    The letter to Mr Corbyn states: “People inside and outside the Jewish community are repeatedly subjected to abuse and insults for raising the issue of antisemitism in the Labour Party. This even affects those Labour MPs who showed their solidarity with the Jewish community on Monday.

    “This is a disgrace: nobody should be vilified for opposing antisemitism. Those Labour Party members and Labour-supporting blogs pushing the abuse are largely doing so in your name.

    “They need to hear you say, publicly and in your own voice, that we had every right to protest about antisemitism, and that Labour MPs had every right to support us; that our concerns about antisemitism are sincere and not a “smear” as has been widely alleged (including on your own Facebook page); and that anyone directing abuse, intimidation or threats at those of us who oppose antisemitism is damaging your efforts to eliminate it and to start rebuilding trust.

    “We firmly believe that this must happen urgently, and certainly before we can meet.”

    The letter also calls on Mr Corbyn to make sure that Labour councillors, MPs and members are banned from sharing platforms with those suspended from the party for alleged antisemitism, or face being suspended themselves.

    The Jewish groups say that Mr Corbyn must ensure Labour branches adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism, which some hard-left activists have lobbied against. It also suggests that  the party leadership deals only with mainstream Jewish groups, rather than “fringe organisations”.

    On Monday, Mr Corbyn repeated his offer of an “urgent meeting” with Jewish leaders to discuss the issue of antisemitism in his party.

    The Board and JLC raised their concerns about the issue last weekend and organised a rally in Westminster on Monday attended by more than 1,500 people.

    Around 40 Labour MPs were sent an email by the far-left pro-Corbyn Skwawkbox blog after they attended Monday’s demonstration. The site reportedly questioned the MPs on whether they had stood up against other forms of racism.

    Some MPs, including Tottenham’s David Lammy, are said to have been threatened with deselection for showing solidarity with the Jewish community.

    It was also claimed earlier today that more than 200 cases of alleged antisemitic conduct by Labour members are still to be investigated by the party.

    The demand for the appointment of independent auditors to investigate outstanding allegations was first rumoured yesterday.

    In full: The Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council letter to Jeremy Corbyn

    Dear Mr Corbyn,

    Thank you for your letter of 26 March, setting out your detailed views on the problem of antisemitism in the Labour Party.

    We are sure you saw the strength of feeling in the mainstream Jewish community that was expressed in our open letter and in Parliament Square on Monday. These were unprecedented steps on our part and we hope you understand the seriousness of such a communal action. It arose from nearly three years of cumulative anger and despair in the Jewish community at repeated, numerous cases of antisemitism in the Labour Party and failures to deal with them in a decisive, swift and public manner. For whatever reasons, you have not, until now, seemed to grasp how strongly British Jews feel about the situation. Your letter was a welcome change in this regard, but only if it kick starts strong actions and leadership against the problem. 

    Consequently we appreciate your apology for the pain caused by antisemitism in the Labour Party and for your prior comments regarding the antisemitic mural; and your acknowledgement that this is not just “a matter of a few bad apples”, but represents a particular way of thinking. For the situation to meaningfully improve, rather than keep worsening, this understanding will require embedding across the Party.

    Any meeting between us must produce concrete, practical outcomes to be implemented by the Party; there is no point in meeting if the situation remains the same or continues to worsen. In this spirit, and to enable a meeting to take place, we propose an agenda of actions for discussion:

    Leadership

    The Party leadership, and you personally, must be seen and heard to lead this work. Only your voice can persuade your followers that this a necessary and correct course of action. If actions need to be passed by the NEC or other Party bodies, you need to take personal responsibility for ensuring this happens. 

    Antisemitism disciplinary cases

    Outstanding and future cases to be brought to a swift conclusion under a fixed timescale. An independent, mutually agreed ombudsman should be appointed to oversee performance, reporting to the Party and to the Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council.

    Relations with suspended members

    MPs, councillors and other party members should not share platforms with people who have been suspended or expelled for antisemitism and CLPs should not provide them with a platform. Anybody doing so should themselves be suspended from membership; in the case of MPs, they should lose the party whip.

    Education

    The Party should circulate the IHRA definition of antisemitism, with all its examples and clauses, to all members and branches. The Party should work with mainstream Jewish community organisations to develop and implement education about antisemitism. This should include a clear list of unacceptable language, based on the full IHRA definition and on the examples included in your letter of 26 March.

    Engagement

    Public confirmation that the Party will seek to understand and engage with the Jewish community via its main representative groups, and not through fringe organisations who wish to obstruct the Party’s efforts to tackle antisemitism.

    Process

    These changes must be sustained and enduring. There needs to be an agreed process to monitor the progress and implementation of these actions in the future.

    To conclude, your personal pledge to be a “militant opponent” of antisemitism and to always be our ally are vital statements: the situation demands it and we would expect nothing less. In this light, there is an urgent matter that we need you to address. People inside and outside the Jewish community are repeatedly subjected to abuse and insults for raising the issue of antisemitism in the Labour Party. This even affects those Labour MPs who showed their solidarity with the Jewish community on Monday.

    This is a disgrace: nobody should be vilified for opposing antisemitism. Those Labour Party members and Labour-supporting blogs pushing the abuse are largely doing so in your name.

    They need to hear you say, publicly and in your own voice, that we had every right to protest about antisemitism, and that Labour MPs had every right to support us; that our concerns about antisemitism are sincere and not a “smear” as has been widely alleged (including on your own Facebook page); and that anyone directing abuse, intimidation or threats at those of us who oppose antisemitism is damaging your efforts to eliminate it and to start rebuilding trust. We firmly believe that this must happen urgently, and certainly before we can meet.

    We hope this can be the start of a process of constructive anti-racist work in the Labour Party, one that will help to rebuild the relationship between the Party and the Jewish community. The Party and the Jewish community deserve nothing less.

    Your sincerely

    Jonathan Arkush - Board of Deputies president

    Jonathan Goldstein - Jewish Leadership Council chair

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