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Labour owes Jews an apology, says Joan Ryan

Labour Friends of Israel chair speaks of the need to ensure there are supporters of Israel in all parties after next month's general election - but admits her own party have "shamefully" lost the trust of former Jewish supporters

    Joan Ryan, chair of Labour Friends of Israel, has said her party has "needlessly and shamefully" lost the trust of life-long Jewish voters.

    But the politician, who is standing in the Enfield North constituency at next month’s election, says Jewish voters put off Labour by leader Jeremy Corbyn should still back the party’s candidates who have track records of fighting antisemitism and standing up for Israel.

    Speaking to the JC, Ms Ryan said:"I am angry and ashamed by the problems with antisemitism the Labour Party has experienced over the past couple of years, and I am painfully aware that many life-long Jewish Labour voters feel disenfranchised and politically homeless. 

    "They, and the Jewish community as a whole, are owed an apology and they’re owed action.

    "I can promise that, if I’m re-elected, I’ll be where I have been for the last two years: at the forefront of the fight against antisemitism, wherever we find it. 

    "I’m tough as they come and this issue is very important to me, always has been.

    "This is not a fight I’m going to walk away from.”

    She added: “I’m under no illusions that on June 9th we need to begin the long and hard job of rebuilding the trust and confidence of the Jewish community which has been so needlessly and shamefully squandered.  

    "I want to be in Parliament to play my part in that effort."

    Ms Ryan, who became LFI chair two years ago and backed Liz Kendall in the Labour leadership campaign to succeed Ed Miliband, admitted she feared the consequence of the party being left with few pro-Israeli MPs after the election.

    She said: “We need to ensure that there are supporters of Israel in all parties. 

    "In the past, there’s been a cross-party consensus, a recognition that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is too complex and too important for it to become a party political football. 

    "This needs to be one of those issues where politics stops at the water’s edge, but for that to happen we need to ensure that we’ve got a strong and confident friends of Israel in the Labour party and in all parties.”

    Ms Ryan’s appeal to the constituency’s 800 Jewish residents comes as the former teacher faces a tough battle to hold onto  the seat, with Conservative rival Nick De Bois looking to overturn her slender 1,086 majority from 2015.

    Mr De Bois was heavily linked with the Hornchurch & Upminster seat but he was eventually selected for his fifth battle with Ms Ryan in Enfield North.

    Ms Ryan hails from Warrington, Cheshire, but has lived in her constituency for two decades.

    The JC joined her on the campaign trail, where it was clear many voters had concerns about police numbers on the street, as well as Brexit.

    A few raised concerns about Labour's leader Mr Corbyn - but Ms Ryan's campaign and her election leaflets appear to deliberately put distance between herself and him.

    She said:"My message to Jewish voters in Enfield North is simple: judge me on my record. 

    "Judge me on how I’ve stood up for people in Enfield - whether it’s fighting to get more bobbies on the beat so we can reverse the rise in violent crime or fighting to keep the Tories from downgrading the North Middlesex Hospital. 

    "Judge me on how I’ve been one of the leaders of the effort to rid the Labour party of antisemitism, to kick out Ken Livingstone and to ensure a more balanced and fair-minded debate around Israel and the wider Middle East. 

    "Judge me on the work I’ve done as chair of Labour Friends of Israel: fighting the BDS movement and all those who would delegitimise and demonise the state of Israel. 

    "Holding the government to account and urging much stronger action against the Palestinian Authority’s glorification of violence and terrorism. 

    "And leading the campaign for much greater investment in the kind of grassroots co-existence work which brings Israelis and Palestinians together in a spirit of peace and reconciliation.” 

     

    See all our Election 2017 coverage here

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