Former UK PM: Labour owes Jews an unqualified apology

'Opposing anti-Semitism goes to the heart of who we are and what we stand for as Labour,' says ex-PM Gordon Brown.

Sara Rubenstein ,

Britain's ex-Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Britain's ex-Prime Minister Gordon Brown

Former prime minister and Labour leader Gordon Brown said on Sunday evening that "the Labour party owes the Jewish community an unqualified apology," and "that is only a starting point in rebuilding trust."

Brown was speaking at the annual Isaiah Berlin lecture in north London at Hampstead Synagogue. "We cannot go on ignoring the consequences of the upsurge in hate and hate speech, all too often in the form of sinister, anonymous and untraceable internet trolling."

"Opposing anti-Semitism and every manifestation of racism goes to the heart of who we are and what we stand for as Labour. It's about the moral soul of a party, whose most basic goal is a commitment to equality for all - not just for some who suffer oppression - but everyone."

"To fail to act against the abuses we have witnessed runs counter to the very principles of the Labour Party we joined."

Brown's speech follows an angry backlash at Labour for recently reinstating MP Chris Williamson who was suspended in February for saying that Labour was being "too apologetic" about anti-Semitism. Labour deputy leader Tom Watson led more than 120 Labour MPs in demanding that Williamson be re-suspended. He was re-suspended last week - only two days after he was reinstated. The Labour Party is currently under investigation by the Equality and Human Right Commission.

"Labour needs a radical change of policy not just to eliminate anti-Semitism but to change the whole culture of our movement," Brown said. The former premier added that any Labour member who was proven to have engaged in anti-Semitism must be automatically expelled. "We should automatically expel – and not just suspend – in cases where there is irrefutable evidence of antisemitism or any kind of racism."

Brown also advocated for an extension of Britain's education program and the appointment of a special Labour minister to combat anti-Semitism.

"To the Jewish community, we promised ‘never again,'" Brown continued. "We promised that the crimes of hatred, discrimination and persecution would never recur. We promised we would offer support and protection."

“But at a time when attacks on Jewish schools have risen 100 percent, attacks on or near Jewish synagogues 400 percent and attacks are carried out on social media thousands of times over, we have not lived up to that promise”.

“We have to call out antisemitism for what it is: racism, and, in this case, anti-Jewish racism. And I promise that whenever prejudice and intolerance arises, I and whoever I can persuade, are not going to remain silent or stand aside or desert the Jewish community or neglect it or forget."