British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn acknowledged on Sunday that anti-Semitism has surfaced in the party and apologized for “the hurt that has been caused to many Jewish people.”
His statement came in a three-minute video posted on social media on Sunday.
“Anyone who denies this has surfaced in our party is clearly actually wrong and contributing to the problem. I acknowledge there is a real problem of anti-Semitism that Labour is working to overcome,” he said.
Corbyn acknowledged that “we have been too slow in processing disciplinary cases of, mostly online, anti-Semitic abuse by party members. We’re acting to speed this process up. He pointed out that the number of offenders amounts to only 0.1 percent of the half-million party members, while saying that even one is “too many.”
“Jewish people have been at the heart of our party and our movement throughout history. No one should dismiss the concerns they have expressed about what has been happening in the party,” continued Corbyn.
The video comes two days after the Labour leader published an op-ed in The Guardian, in which he acknowledged 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.
“People who dish out anti-Semitic poison need to understand: You do not do it in my name,” he wrote in that op-ed. “You are not my supporters and have no place in our movement.”
Corbyn 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.”
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.
The Board of Deputies of British Jewry and Jewish Leadership Council on Saturday night criticized Corbyn for the publishing of his op-ed in The Guardian shortly before the start of Shabbat, which meant that the Jewish community did not have a chance to immediately respond.
A joint statement quoted by JTA called the op-ed “ill-timed and ill-conceived” and added, “Once again Mr. Corbyn, of all people, has chosen to lecture Jews on antisemitism.”