Corbyn urged by Jewish leaders to 'drain the political sewer'

British Labour members agree radical changes must take place in order to end anti-Semitism in the party.

Ben Ariel ,

Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn

Members of the shadow cabinet have held an emotional debate on the anti-Semitism crisis engulfing the Labour party, with participants agreeing that the party must make radical changes to deal with the problem, The Guardian reported on Tuesday.

The meeting was held shortly after Jewish community leaders issued a set of demands they said Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn would have to address if they were to meet him.

The meeting followed the resurfacing of a simmering row on Friday over Corbyn’s apparent support of a 2012 Facebook post for an anti-Semitic mural in the East End of London.

In the wake of that incident, British Jewish leaders sent an open letter to the Labour party in which they wrote that Corbyn had “sided with anti-Semites rather than Jews” and stated that “enough is enough”.

Corbyn on Monday wrote to Jewish leaders and stressed that he is a “militant opponent” of anti-Semitism.

“I acknowledge that anti-Semitic attitudes have surfaced more often in our ranks in recent years, and that the party has been too slow in processing some of the cases that have emerged. Early action has nevertheless been taken, and we will work to speed up procedures, to deal with cases of anti-Semitic abuse or attitudes,” wrote Corbyn.

At the Labour meeting which followed it was informally agreed that the recommendations from Shami Chakrabarti’s report into anti-Semitism and other forms of racism in Labour must be implemented in full.

That will require a significant overhaul of party machinery, including appointing a general counsel, and an in-house team of lawyers to ensure procedure is followed properly. It is understood Corbyn will make that a priority for the party’s new general secretary, Jenny Formby, according to The Guardian.

“It is now accepted that there are two things going on,” said one shadow minister. “The problem [of anti-Semitism] is real, and it is also being used deliberately by Corbyn’s opponents. But because it’s true it’s being used against Jeremy doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem. That’s what people had to grasp.”

Jewish community leaders have said they are ready to meet Corbyn but they issued a list of demands they wanted to be met before agreeing on a time and place, the report said.

After a rally against anti-Semitism held outside parliament, on Monday attended by hundreds of campaigners and more than a dozen Labour MPs and peers, Jonathan Arkush, the president of the Board of Deputies, said he wanted to set out “what we think has to happen” in order to drain “the political sewer”.

At the top of the list of demands is the expulsion of Ken Livingstone, the former London mayor who was suspended from the Labour party after refusing to withdraw claims that Jews collaborated with Hitler.

On Tuesday, Arkush said, according to The Guardian, “Ken Livingstone really cannot remain. His views are shameful and disreputable. He will have to go.”

Demands for the expulsion of Jackie Walker, a former vice-chair of Momentum, were also expected. Walker was suspended after she was filmed saying there was no definition of anti-Semitism “that she could work with”.

Arkush added that “if and when we have the meeting, we will want to set targets which are measurable and which give the meeting the maximum chance of success.”

Livingstone and Walker are among dozens of Labour members who have been suspended in recent years over their anti-Semitic statements.

Corbyn himself been criticized in the past due to his calling Hamas and Hezbollah his "friends" and for refusing to condemn those two terrorist organizations despite being urged to do so by local Jewish groups.

In 2016, however, the Labour leader said that he regretted making those comments.