The academic helping to lead Labour’s inquiry into antisemitism in its ranks, has responded to concerns over his links to a group that has claimed allegations of Jew-hatred in the party are “baseless and disingenuous”.
Professor David Feldman, director of the Pears Institute for the Study of Anti-Semitism, was named by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as vice-chairman of the inquiry, which will be led by Shami Chakrabarti, former head of campaign group Liberty.
The professor is a signatory to Independent Jewish Voices (IJV), a group of prominent Jewish figures who are critical of British Jewish communal institutions.
Yesterday, IJV issued a statement claiming that some of the allegations of antisemitism in Labour were politically motivated to discredit Mr Corbyn and critics of the Israeli government within the party.
It added: “Some of these allegations against individuals are, in our view, baseless and disingenuous; in other cases, ill-chosen language has been employed.”
Prof Feldman said that the statement could not reflect the views of every IJV signatory.
He said: “It is my view that all allegations of antisemitism require investigation. My starting point is that the rules and norms applied to identify racism for other minorities in British society should be applied consistently, and that means to Jews.
“My position is to work from an initial assumption that people are speaking and writing in good faith and are engaged in an honest disagreement. Allegations of disingenuousness, which come from many sides of this debate, can rarely be proven.
“The key points of the IJV declaration support human rights, the rights of Israelis and Palestinians to lead secure lives, and international law as a basis for peace and stability. The declaration also states its opposition to all forms of racism and that the battle against antisemitism is vital. It is hard to see what is controversial about these points."
Prof Feldman said he hoped the inquiry would help to ease the turmoil in the party over the issue.
“There is a great deal of heat at present in statements from all sides,” he said. “There is an urgent need for dispassionate consideration and constructive proposals. I hope that this is what the Labour Party’s independent inquiry into antisemitism and other forms of racism will help to provide.”
Mr Corbyn launched the probe after a string of Labour members were disciplined for antisemitic comments, culminating last Thursday in the suspension of Ken Livingstone, a member of the Labour’s National Executive Committee, for claiming that Hitler had been a supporter of Zionism.