British Jews: Meeting with Corbyn was disappointing

Jewish groups in Britain say meeting with Labour leader over anti-Semitism "was a disappointing missed opportunity".

Elad Benari,

Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn
Reuters

Jewish groups in Britain said on Tuesday a meeting with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn over his handling of an ongoing anti-Semitism row within his party "was a disappointing missed opportunity", AFP reports.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) issued the rebuke after two hours of talks with Corbyn, who has been dogged for weeks by allegations that Labour has a growing anti-Semitism problem under his leadership.

"We welcomed Mr. Corbyn's personal involvement in the discussion and his new comments recognizing and apologizing for anti-Semitism in the Labour Party but he failed to agree to any of the concrete actions we asked for," the two groups said in a joint statement.

They had written to the Labour leader last month setting out six areas of "concrete action" to help address what they see as hostility to Jews within the party and indifference to the issue from its leadership.

The organizations also held a demonstration outside parliament last month attended by various lawmakers, including prominent Labour MPs.

Corbyn has repeatedly come under fire in recent years for his failure to properly tackle the anti-Semitism in his party.

Over the last several years, dozens of Labour members have been suspended 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.

The Labour leader responded to the recent appeal with a letter of his own in which he stressed to Jewish leaders that he is a “militant opponent” of anti-Semitism.

On Tuesday he said he was "absolutely committed" to rooting out anti-Semitism in the party and had instructed new general secretary Jennie Formby to overhaul its disciplinary procedures to ensure complaints were dealt with "swiftly and fairly".

"We will lay out the further steps we are taking in the coming weeks," he added, pledging to "continue to engage and work with Jewish community organizations."

"Our party will not fail our Jewish brothers and sisters," promised Corbyn.

But the Jewish groups said they were not satisfied with what they had heard from Corbyn.

"We are disappointed that Mr. Corbyn's proposals fell short of the minimum level of action which our letter suggested," their statement added.

It said he did not agree to proposals for a "fixed timetable" to deal with allegations of anti-Semitism in the party and to expedite long-standing cases -- including that of former London mayor Ken Livingstone, who was previously suspended from Labour over anti-Semitism accusations.

Livingstone was suspended in 2016 over his assertion that Adolf Hitler had supported Zionism. He has repeatedly refused to apologize for the comments, even after being harangued as a "racist, Hitler-apologist" by an MP from his own party.

The JLC and Board of Deputies said on Tuesday the Labour leader had also not agreed to adopt the full international Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism and to allow transparent oversight of the party's disciplinary process.

"Words in letters and newspaper articles will never be enough," the groups said, adding, "It is action by which the Jewish community will judge him and the Labour Party".

They said trust could not be rebuilt with Corbyn "unless he and the party turn their many strong words against anti-Semitism into equally strong actions."




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