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Huge crowds join Jewish community protest against antisemitism, in Westminster

At least 1,500 people attended the event, chanting 'enough is enough'

    Luciana Berger MP addresses the rally (Photo: Sir Eric Pickles/Twitter)
    Luciana Berger MP addresses the rally (Photo: Sir Eric Pickles/Twitter)

    An estimated 1,500 people joined a protest outside Parliament on Monday evening to condemn Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s “systematic failure” to deal with antisemitism.

    The turnout – which included a broad cross-section of the community and a large number of Labour MPs – came only 24 hours after news of the demonstration was announced by the Jewish Leadership Council and the Board of Deputies.

    Protestors gathered in Parliament Square in the evening sunshine with many holding banners reading “DAYENU #EnoughisEnough”.

    Other banners read: “NO to Holocaust denial”.

    John Mann MP at the rally in Parliament Square
    John Mann MP at the rally in Parliament Square (Sarah Ebner)

    Speakers included JLC chair Jonathan Goldstein, Board president Jonathan Arkush and Labour MPs Wes Streeting, Luciana Berger and John Mann.

    Ahead of the protest, leaders from the two organisations delivered a letter to a meeting of the parliamentary Labour Party, accusing Mr Corbyn of siding with antisemites “time and time again”.

    Speaking to the JC about why the demonstration was needed, Mr Arkush said: “For nearly three years, we have heard Jeremy Corbyn saying how he opposes antisemitism. Today, the Jewish community tells him that enough is enough.

    “We have had enough of repeatedly witnessing and condemning instances of antisemitism in and around the Labour Party, and so should he. Like so much else in this area, it is all been far too little, far too late, with no serious attempt to understand or tackle the damage to Jews and the Labour Party.

    “We are greatly encouraged by the level and breadth of support to our letter and call to action.

    “Amongst many others, Muslim, Sikh and Catholic communities have expressed their support for our stand, as have a number of anti-racist groups. We hope this time, the labour leadership will finally get the message that real action is needed.”

    In his speech, Mr Arkush cited Labour’s failure to take proper action over claims of antisemitism against former London mayor Ken Livingstone, Chris Williamson MP and other Labour Party members . 

    “The Labour Party must go back to being the enemy of racists - not the refuge,” he added.

    Mr Goldstein told the crowd it was time to tell Mr Corbyn “enough is enough.”

    He also thanked the Labour MPs and councillors who turned up to support the protest. 

    Mr Goldstein said Mr Corbyn had become the “figurehead for an antisemitic political culture based upon obsessive hatred of Israel, conspiracy theories and fake news.”

    He added:”I’m afraid it’s time for action rather than words.”

    Clair Kober, the outgoing Haringey council leader, also attended the rally. “I am here to show my support to the Jewish community,” she said. 

    “I’m sick of the accusation that some people are weaponising allegations of antisemtism. 

    “And I’m aghast Ken Livingstone is still a member of the Labour Party.

    Ms Kober also outlined her experience at the hands of “toxic” Momentum activism. 

    Luciana Berger, who had taken up Mr Corbyn’s Facebook post in support of an antisemitic mural with the leader’s office last Friday, added:”Antisemitism is very real and alive in the Labour Party. 

    “It pains me to have to say that today. “

    Others speakers at the demo included Gillian Merron, chief executive of the Board, and Labour MP Louise Ellman.

    Labour's John Mann said: “I want to apologise on behalf of every Labour MP that you have had to come here today. 

    "What is going wrong with our party that this event has even needed to be considered.

    “Some of them glory in being called anti-Zionists - racists that is the word for them.

    “We have to drive these people out of the Labour Party.”

    Wes Streeting MP made a strong speech where he attacked the Momentum group within the Labour party
    Wes Streeting MP made a strong speech where he attacked the Momentum group within the Labour party (Sarah Ebner)
    In an effort to “show solidarity” with the Jewish community other Labour MPs to join the protest included Ian Austin and Chuka Umunna, Ruth Smeeth, Joan Ryan, Margaret Hodge, Liz Kendall and Stephen Kinnock. Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Communities, was also there. 

    Among members of the community to have attended the protest was Simon Marks, 34, from Acton, west London.

    Mr Marks said: “I’m here tonight because I’m fed up as a Jewish person what has been going on with the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn.

    “I just don’t feel like I can vote for Labour at the moment. I’m not committed to any one party and make my mind up around the issues.

    “But it can’t be good for democracy if there’s a Labour Party that as a Jew I don’t feel as though I can vote for because of the way its leader has dealt with the problem of anitisemitism.”

    Maureen Bower, 59, from Bushey, Herts, said she was a “staunch Labourite” who wanted the party to govern to “improve the schools, the hospitals and believe in social justice.”

    But she added: “There’s one big problem though – and it’s Jeremy Corbyn. He’s personally responsible for allowing the antisemitic tidalwave that has gripped Labour since he became leader.”

    Maidenhead Synagogue Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain said the antisemitism crisis was Mr Corbyn’s “Watergate moment.”

    He revealed he had sent an email to all his congregation urging them to attend the protest saying he was “deeply saddened that the issue of antisemitism, which has long been associated with extremist parties such as the National Front and the British National Party, has now crept into a mainstream political party

    “There are always unpleasant elements in any party, but they can only flourish if there is weakness, connivance or encouragement from the leadership, and it is clear that one of those does apply to Jeremy Corbyn.”

    Russell Lowy, from Winchmore Hill, north London added: “I long thought Labour under Jeremy Corbyn are a disgrace.

    “I’ve voted Labour all my life – but I won’t vote for them while he remains in charge.”

    Laurence Pitts, from Pinner, said: "I’m here because I’m sicked of supposed anti-Israel sentiment being used as a means to attack Jews.”

    In a joint announcement released on Sunday, the JLC and the Board had encouraged “concerned members of the Jewish community” to gather in Parliament Square in Westminster, central London, at 5.30pm.

    Louise Ellman
    Louise Ellman (Sarah Ebner)
    An open letter delivered to the Labour PLP meeting read:” “We’ve had enough of hearing Jeremy Corbyn 'opposes antisemitism', whilst the mainstream majority of British Jews, and their concerns, are ignored by him and those he leads.”

    It also accused Mr Corbyn of allowing a climate in which “mainstream Jewish communities are believed to be a hostile entity, a class enemy.”

    Mr Corbyn had stayed away from last night’s meeting of the Labour’s PLP in Westminster, his office confirmed. 

    There was no explanation why.

    Luciana Berger also spoke out at the PLP meeting and was said to have been warmly applauded by colleagues as she called for further pressure over the failure of the leadership to deal with antisemtism. 

    A letter from the Jewish Labour Movement sent to alll party MPs claimed its members had been the target of “deliberate and calculated abuse.”

    Supporters of the anti-Zionist Jewish Voice For Labour held a counter-demo at nearby Portcullis House claiming to be“appalled” by the “actions and statements of the Board” who they accused of not representing “the many Jews who share Jeremy Corbyn’s vision social justice and fairness.”

    Mr Corbyn had issued a statement on Sunday insisting he “recognised that antisemitism has occurred in pockets within the Labour Party.”

    But there was no personal apology from the Labour leader for supporting a mural depicting Jewish bankers playing Monopoly on the backs of the poor.

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