Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy CorbynReuters

Two Jewish groups on Wednesday expressed concern over a Canadian lawmaker’s plan to hold a virtual talk with former British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The planned livestream talk between Corbyn and New Democratic Party (NDP) lawmaker Niki Ashton is scheduled for March 20.

Corbyn was suspended from Labour following the publication of a report compiled by the Equality and Human Rights Commission which found numerous cases where the party leadership under Corbyn underplayed, belittled or ignored complaints by Jewish members, and sometimes actively interfered to support political allies.

He was reinstated to Labour after appearing to apologize for belittling the report, but his successor as Labour leader, Keir Starmer, said he would deny Corbyn the party whip even after he was reinstated as a party member.

In a joint statement on Wednesday, the Britain-based Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Canadian-based Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) criticized Corbyn’s planned appearance with Ashton.

“We were astonished to learn that members of the New Democratic Party (NDP) in Canada have invited disgraced former leader of the UK Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn, to talk to progressives about ‘building solidarity’. The absurdity of this is hard to fathom,” said Marie van der Zyl, President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

“Corbyn presided over the creation of a toxic environment in Labour that was condemned by the U.K.’s Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). In their report, the EHRC stated flatly that under Corbyn’s brand of toxic and incompetent leadership, the party was responsible for three breaches of the Equality Act: political interference in antisemitism complaints; failure to provide adequate training to those handling antisemitism complaints; and harassment, including the use of antisemitic tropes and suggesting that complaints of antisemitism were fake or smears.”

“The report went on to say, ‘The equality body’s analysis points to a culture within the party which, at best, did not do enough to prevent antisemitism and, at worst, could be seen to accept it.’”

“Shortly after the report was released, Sir Keir Starmer, the new Labour leader, said the publication of the EHRC report had brought “a day of shame” for the party. By contrast, Jeremy Corbyn shamelessly sought to dispute the EHRC’s findings, which resulted in the extraordinary but correct step of Labour withdrawing the whip from him, meaning he no longer even sits as an MP for the party he used to lead,” said van der Zyl.

“The New Democratic Party in Canada should view what happened here as a cautionary tale. Because fringe activism infused with Jew hatred was allowed to take root, the Jewish community was targeted and forced out of the party, anti-Semites in broader society were emboldened, and Labour fell to its worst electoral result since 1935. Corbyn profoundly failed progressives and the issues they seek to advance,” she concluded.

Shimon Koffler Fogel, CEO of CIJA, said, “Jeremy Corbyn is toxic. The invitation to the disgraced leader is more evidence that Svend Robinson, Niki Ashton, Libby Davies and a few others want to take the NDP in a direction that is antithetical to basic Canadian values. This small group is actively undermining NDP leadership which is working hard to keep the NDP focused on the very important issues that Canadians care about.”

“It is staggering that given the litany of catastrophic, consequential issues before us, including the pandemic, that this is where some in the NDP want to spend the party’s capital. What is at stake here is the soul of NDP, nothing less. During the upcoming convention, the NDP must ask, does it want to be a serious mainstream political party contributing to Canadian society? Or is it going to be a radical, irrelevant noise maker?” he added.

“Corbyn’s brand of politics creates space for antisemitism and hate to take root. That devastated the Labour party in the UK. Anyone who stands against that must stand against importing it into Canada. There are sitting members of the NDP who want to go in the other direction, serve their constituency, and advance the noble ideas that characterize the NDP in Canada. The country will be watching as the NDP convenes to determine its future.”

Ashton told The Canadian Press in a statement on Wednesday, “Progressive International is a global network of progressives committed to fighting against the rise of the far right, growing inequality and the threat of the climate catastrophe.”

She said she plans to discuss a variety of current events “and how to build international solidarity with former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has fought for peace and justice and against racism of all forms throughout his life.”

The NDP said in an email quoted by The Canadian Press that the party and its leader, Jagmeet Singh, are committed to fighting anti-Semitism amid a troubling rise in hateful ideologies.

“New Democrats have been working with organizations to dismantle hate and alt-right groups and proposing solutions to fight against online hate to keep communities safe,” the party said Wednesday.

“Jagmeet and New Democrats are committed to fighting anti-Semitism and will continue to push the Liberals to take more concrete actions, like attacking online hate, to combat it.”