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Anger after JLC and Board meeting with Corbyn

JLC and Board attack Corbyn for failing to meet "minimum level of action" necessary

    Jeremy Corbyn (Photo: Getty Images)
    Jeremy Corbyn (Photo: Getty Images)

    Crunch talks between Jeremy Corbyn and Jewish community leaders over the antisemitism crisis which has engulfed the Labour Party were described as “not good” and “disappointing” by the Board of Deputies and JLC on Tuesday night after the Labour leader rejected every proposal made to him.

    Labour souces rejected this, saying the meeting was "positive and constructive, serious and good humoured."

    Mr Corbyn had met with leaders of the Jewish Leadership Council and Board of Deputies at his Westminster office in an attempt to resolve the long-running issue.

    Sources told the JC that Jewish leaders had stressed how the expulsion of Ken Livingstone from the Party along with misuse of the term Zionism were key issues that needed to be resolved in order to start rebuilding relations with the community.

    The importance of proper adoption of the IHRA definition of antisemitism was also made clear to the Labour leader.

    One source added: “It was not a meeting of minds.”

    After the meeting, Jonathan Goldstein attacked a series of "excuses" by the Labour leader. He said: "Every excuse given by Mr Corbyn and his team was wrapped up in process...We had a lot of words but no action."

    According to one source, Mr Goldstein told the Labour leader that his parents attended their first ever demonstration in Parliament Square and were jeered as they approached by supporters of Mr Corbyn. Mr Golstein said that only the Labour leader could stop such behaviour and he needed to do so in his own voice and his own words.

    The Board and JLC issued a joint statement which called the meeting “a disappointing missed opportunity.”

    They said: “He failed to agree to any of the concrete actions we asked for in our letter to him of 28th March.

     “Following that demonstration [in Parliament Square] we wrote to Mr. Corbyn to set out six areas of concrete action he and the party could take to address the antisemitism that has grown under his leadership.

    These represented the minimum level of action the community expected after more than two years of inactivity. Today we met Mr. Corbyn to convey in no uncertain terms the Jewish community’s feelings to him in person and to discuss his response to our proposals. It was a difficult yet important meeting.

     “We are disappointed that Mr Corbyn’s proposals fell short of the minimum level of action which our letter suggested.

    "In particular, they did not agree in the meeting with our proposals that there should be a fixed timetable to deal with antisemitism cases; that they should expedite the long-standing cases involving Ken Livingstone and Jackie Walker; that no MP should share a platform with somebody expelled or suspended for antisemitism; that they adopt the full International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism with all its examples and clauses; that there should be transparent oversight of their disciplinary process.”

     

    The statement continued: “Words in letters and newspaper articles will never be enough. We welcome the fact that Mr Corbyn’s words have changed but it is action by which the Jewish community will judge him and the Labour Party.

    "Our sole objective from this meeting was to build trust with Mr Corbyn, but this will not be possible until and unless he and the party turn their many strong words against antisemitism into equally strong actions  in order to bring about a deep cultural change in his supporters’ attitude to Jews. 

     “Thousands of British Jews did not demonstrate outside Parliament just for a few lawyers and another newspaper article; they demanded action and so do we.

    "We will hold the Labour Party to account for any future failures and continue to represent the interests of British Jews with clarity and resolve. We also commit to do our utmost to work with all those within Labour who want to help make it a safe and equal space for all of its members.”

    It also emerged today that a private meeting was held with Seamus Milne, Mr Corbyn’s key adviser, to discuss antisemtism on Monday night.

    A source said Monday’s meeting had been “tense” but it had offered an opportunity to the representatives a chance to "explain what was in their letter of demands."

    "Nothing came as a surprise to them at Tuesday's meeting," added the representative. "Which is why the end result is so disappointing."

    The formal meeting this afternoon, which took place in Mr Corbyn's office in Parliament, saw the Labour’ leader come face-to-face with JLC chief executive Simon Johnson, chair Jonathan Goldstein, along with Board President Mr Arkush, and chief executive Gillian Merron.

     

    Also in attendance for the near two hour long meeting was Mark Gardner, director of communications at the Community Security Trust.

    Labour sources said the meeting had been "positive". Mr Corbyn had offered again to give a "personal lead". The source said that the communty's requests had not been rejected; raher Ms Formby was "looking into" the legality of expediting disciplinary action. The Labour leader asked the Board, the JLC and CST to help with education on antisemitism alongside the Jewish Labour Movement - and that he clearly recognised the JLC and Board as the two main representative bodies.

    Ms Formby also committed to dealing with the cases against Jackie Walker and Ken Livingstone by the end of July.

    But after the meeting JLC and Board representatives said that the Labour leader "couldn't quite get there" in relation to acceptance of the full IHRA definition on antisemitism.

    A JLC and Board representative added: "This is a definition that has been accepted by the Welsh government, the Scottish government, by the police and the CPS and 120 local authorities, including those that are Labour controlled, and yet in this meeting the Labour leader and his General Secretary would not commit to adopting the IHRA definition in full."

    The meeting did see Mr Corbyn make a commitment to introducing education on antisemitism, but refused to accept the community leader's suggestion that by adopting the IHRA definition they would have a framework on what sort of education was needed.

    The representative confirmed that Mr Corbyn had suggested a further meeting with community leaders in July - in which any steps adopted by the Party could be discussed and assessed.

    Mr Corbyn himself said the meeting had been "positive and constructive."

    "I am absolutely committed to rooting out anti-Semitism from our party and our society," he said. 

    "When members of Jewish communities express genuine anxieties, we must recognise them as we would those of any other community.

    "I have charged our new general secretary Jennie Formby with improving our disciplinary procedures as her top priority to ensure all complaints are dealt with swiftly and fairly."

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