British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn acknowledged on Friday that the party has “a real problem” when it comes to anti-Semitism, but strongly rejected the idea that it poses any threat to the British Jewish community.
Writing in The Guardian following increasing calls for him to take a lead and address the concerns of many Jewish groups, the Labour leader accepted that the party’s incomplete adoption of an internationally recognized definition of anti-Semitism had caused genuine worries.
“People who dish out anti-Semitic poison need to understand: You do not do it in my name,” he wrote. “You are not my supporters and have no place in our movement.”
He acknowledged some of the fiercest criticisms of his leadership on the issue, saying that the party must show more empathy, should have reacted more quickly to cases of abuse, and should have done more to consult the Jewish community.
But he described as “over-heated rhetoric” the argument made by three Jewish newspapers in unprecedented joint front-page editorials that a government run by him would pose “an existential threat.”
In his article, Corbyn addressed the central controversy over the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism, admitting that the Jewish community “should have been consulted more extensively at an earlier stage”.
He added he was confident the disagreement could “be resolved through dialogue with community organizations”, but gave no sign the party was about to switch policy.
Over the last several years, dozens of Labour members have been suspended over their anti-Semitic statements.
Corbyn himself has been accused of holding anti-Semitic views by senior UK Jewish leaders. Corbyn has also been criticized for calling Hamas and Hezbollah his "friends" and for outright refusing to condemn those two terrorist organizations despite being urged to do so by local Jewish groups.
Corbyn has maintained that Labour will not tolerate racist rhetoric by its members. However, the party has kept on many Labour members whom Jewish community leaders said engaged in anti-Semitic hate speech.
In his article, Corbyn reiterated his belief that there were valid reasons to not adopt one of the examples included in the IHRA definition, arguing that it could stifle legitimate criticism of Israel that was not antisemitic. Labour had been too slow in processing disciplinary cases over antisemitism and hadn’t “done enough to foster deeper understanding of antisemitism among members”, Corbyn wrote, adding that he was aghast at the spread of anti-Jewish conspiracy theories.
Corbyn said he would “not for one moment accept that a Labour government would represent any kind of threat” to Jewish life in Britain.
“That is the kind of over-heated rhetoric that can surface during emotional political debates,” he added. “But I do acknowledge there is a real problem that Labour is working to overcome. And I accept that if any part of our national community feels threatened, anxious or vulnerable, not only must that be taken at face value but we must all ensure that those fears are put to rest.”
He accepted that the party’s version of the IHRA definition, incorporated into its code of conduct by the national executive, was not accepted by “most of the Jewish community, including many Labour supporters.”
(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)