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Labour loses members as antisemitism crisis continues - but almost 80 percent of membership think it's all 'exaggerated'

Only 19 percent deemed antisemitism within the party to be a genuine problem in need of tackling

    Jeremy Corbyn (Getty Images)

    The Labour party lost over 3,000 members last week as it continued to face questions about antisemitism within its ranks – but new polling suggests almost 80 percent of Labour members believe such accusations of antisemitism are exaggerated.

    According to a poll of Labour members by YouGov for The Times, only 19 percent deemed antisemitism within the party to be a genuine problem in need of tackling. 47 percent agreed that antisemitism was a problem “but its extent is being deliberately exaggerated to damage Labour and Jeremy Corbyn or to stifle criticism of Israel”, while 30 percent concurred that such accusations were being used to undermine Mr Corbyn, the Labour leader, and stop criticism of Israel, but went further by saying that antisemitism within the party was “not a serious problem.” 

    The Times also said it understood Labour had lost over 17,000 members since the start of the year, with over 3,000 last week either actively resigning or failing to renew their direct debits. 

    Last week, after a protest outside Parliament by around 1500 members of the UK’s Jewish community and sympathetic allies, including up to 40 Labour MPs, Mr Corbyn once again pledged to deal with antisemitism within the Labour party. A day later, Christine Shawcroft, a political ally of Mr Corbyn who was made chair of the Labour’s disputes panel in January, stepped down from that role after it was revealed that she had argued for the reinstatement of an alleged Holocaust denier. 

    On Friday, hours after the Labour leader issued a Passover message to the Jewish community saying the party had to “do better” in tackling antisemitism, a Facebook post of Ms Shawcroft’s was revealed in which she defended her actions and claimed that “this whole row [over antisemitism] is being stirred up to attack Jeremy, as we all know.” 

    On Saturday Ms Shawcroft announced she would also be standing down from Labour’s National Executive Committee [NEC]. However, the question of Labour’s review process for suspended members remains. Last week, a report by the Telegraph revealed that at least six Labour councillors who had been suspended by the party after posting antisemitic messages online had been “quietly reinstated” to the party.

    The protest outside Parliament last Monday was driven in part by the revelations that Jeremy Corbyn had been a part of and interacted with a Facebook group in which members posted antisemitic content. In light of that, a story broken by the JC two years ago, in which Mr Corbyn protested on Facebook against the removal of antisemitic mural, resurfaced. Mr Corbyn’s Facebook account has now been deleted.

    Yesterday, it was revealed that one of Labour’s largest private donors was leaving the party over its ongoing problems with antisemitism. Speaking to the Observer, Sir David Garrard accused Labour’s current leadership of having “supported and endorsed the most blatant acts of antisemitism.”

    Sir David, who is Jewish, has given over £1.5 million to Labour under its three previous leaders. He told the Sunday paper that he had been a member of the party for “many decades”, but no longer felt “any affinity with, or connection to, what it seems to have become.

    “It has failed to expel many of those who have engaged in the grossest derogatory fantasies about Jewish/Zionist conspiracies – and Jewish characterisations and accusations which conjure up the very kind of antisemitic attacks that led to such unbearable consequences for innocent millions in the past,” he said.

    "So there no longer exists a party which even pretends to maintain and promote the principles and the integrity of what always was, to me, the Labour party.”

    The party also faces continued questions over the selection of candidates, after a member who has been accused of repeatedly publishing antisemitic tropes was chosen to contest a council seat in North West London. 

    Sameh Habeeb, founder and editor of the Palestine Telegraph, has been selected as a council candidate in Northwood Hills. As revealed by Community Security Trust in 2010, the Palestine Telegraph repeatedly published articles which included claims that “WW1 and WW2 were planned in advance for the sake of a group following the dictates of Zionism”, talked of the “Zionist inspired politicians, sucking up to” groups including “Jews who have close leanings to Zionist Talmudic ideology”, and claimed that “we are constantly subjected to hourly and daily reminders of WW2's Holocaust with its inflated figure of 6 million.”

    As the CST said at the time, “this kind of vicious antisemitism normally appears, and remains, on the fringe websites of the neo-Nazi far right.”

    Dave Rich, deputy communications director of the CST, yesterday said: “The irony of Sameh Habeeb being a Labour candidate is that when CST first wrote about his antisemitic website 8 years ago we titled the blog ‘There Must be a Limit’. But there has been no limit to the Left's indulgence of antisemitism. And now here we are.”

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