The British Labour Party released a long-anticipated report on Thursday which cleared it of anti-Semitism despite a spate of recent controversial remarks by some of its top members.
The Chakrabarti Report concluded that the “Labour Party is not overrun by anti-Semitism, Islamophobia or other forms of racism,” although there is still an “occasionally toxic atmosphere.”
The report will be tested right away, after party leader Jeremy Corbyn, speaking at the press conference in London announcing its release, likened Israel and its government to the Islamic State terrorist organization.
“Racism is racism is racism,” said Corbyn, who said he expects “immediate implementation” of the inquiry’s recommendations.
“Our Jewish friends are no more responsible for the actions of Israel or the Netanyahu government than our Muslim friends are for those various selfstyled Islamic States or organizations,” he continued.
The report makes 20 key recommendations, calling for party members to avoid using epithets such as “Zio,”and to “resist the use of Hitler, Nazi and Holocaust metaphors, distortions and comparisons in debates about Israel-Palestine in particular.” It also suggests that several committees be established to educate party members of the issue and to proper enforce sanctions.
Meanwhile, at the press event in the British capital, Jewish Labour MP Ruth Smeeth said she faces “traditional anti-Semitic slurs to attack me for being a part of a ‘media conspiracy,” from Momentum activist and former Guardian writer Marc Wadsworth, prompting her to leave the event.
Momentum is a political organization established to further the aims of those Labour Party members who elected Corbyn as the party’s leader in 2015.
More than 80 organizations were consulted in drawing up the Chakrabarti Report, ranging in political leaning from the Zionist Federation of Great Britain to the Palestine BDS National Committee.
It does not, however, take a hard stance on punishing anti-Semitism by party members – cautioning against the use of lifetime bans and automatic suspensions – and it does not call to punish any of the Labour members whose statements prompted the inquiry.
MP John Mann of Labour, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group against Anti-Semitism, told The Jerusalem Post: “The report is good and needs to be implemented in its full capacity. For the first time, it makes the use of ‘Zionist’ in a derogatory way a disciplinary offence, which is a significant piece of advice for the Labour Party.”
He added: The treatment of MP Ruth Smeeth needs to be sanctioned immediately.
The Jewish Labour Movement’s chairman, Jeremy Newmark, called the report a “sensible and firm platform” to work off of to combat anti-Semitism.
The first big test for the party will be how they deal with the [former London mayor Ken] Livingstone case, he said.
“There can be no future for a politician with his track record in a post-Chakrabarti Report Labour Party,” Newmark said.
The Jewish Labour Movement is affiliated with both the Labour Party and the World Labour Zionist Movement, a faction within the World Zionist Organization.
James Sorene, CEO of the Britain Israel Communications and Research Center (BICOM), called the report a “vague and indecisive on action against [party] members who indulge in anti-Semitic anti-Zionism.
“Criticizing the government of Israel is of course entirely legitimate as it is for any Government.
But when that criticism is expressed in violent language, directed at its people in racist terms or uses references to Hitler and Nazism, it is anti-Semitic and deeply offensive,” Sorene said.
The Community Security Trust and the Jewish Leadership Council issued a joint statement, saying they “welcome the rejection” of ‘Zio,’ the hard stance against using the Holocaust in language and stereotyping, although they do have their issues.
“We are concerned that ruling out lifetime bans and automatic suspensions could send the wrong signal to the community,” the joint spokesman said.
The Holocaust Education Trust noted the need for implementation as well.
“If the redlines are clear – and understood – the Labour Party will now need to demonstrate firm and appropriate action in current and future investigations regardless of how prominent these cases may be,” said Karen Pollock, MBE, chief executive of the Holocaust Education Trust.
The Zionist Federation for Israel released a statement saying the report should have dug deeper on anti-Semitism, and not just on racism at large.
“Unfortunately, the report scarcely begins to shine a much needed light into this gray area,” the Zionist Federation said.
The report was written by Shami Chakrabarti, who served as the head of the civil rights organization Liberty until March 31, a month before she was asked to chair the investigation.
The “seismic political developments since the beginning of the inquiry process make the health and unity of our party more important than ever,” she wrote.
Corbyn initiated the inquiry after anti-Semitic remarks led to some 20 suspensions of party members.
Those suspended included Livingston, for saying that Hitler supported Zionism “before he went mad and ended up killing 6 million Jews.”
The Chakrabarti Report describes a shift in the party’s support for the Jewish state following the September 11, 2001, attacks in the US and London bombing attacks in 2005.
Chakrabarti, born to Hindu- Bengali parents, wrote vividly in the report about an incident from her undergraduate days. A friend told her to go to the nearby “Paki shop” to buy a bottle of wine; “I felt instantly sick.”
But that friend had never been exposed to a diverse community before. “At the time and now, with over 20 years hindsight, I am confident that my college friend had no shred of racist intention and was simply ignorant of the history, unthinkingly repeating a word commonly used and heard.
“Was my friend a racist – as in having hatred toward any particular racial group in her heart? Certainly not, in my view.
Should the word have been used as a part of my welcome to the party? Of course not,” Chakrabarti wrote.
It is such experiences that Chakrabarti drew on to make her first and perhaps most noteworthy recommendation – no epithets, whether they be “Paki” or “Zio.” She said they are perhaps most potent on campuses and on social media, and called for a end to such insults there, and not just in the Labour Party.
“According to the children’s rhyme: ‘Sticks and stones will break my bones...’. But name-calling will undermine the atmosphere being sought by the Labour Party under the leadership that appointed me to write this report,” Chakrabarti wrote.
The condemnation of epithets and the reorganization of some of the checks to hold UK Labour Party officials accountable may be the lone strong points of this inquiry.Josh Dell contributed to this report.