Britain's leader of the opposition Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A British cross-party report released on Sunday accused the Labour party of consistently failing to deal with antisemitic incidents, a failure which it says is “lending force to allegations that elements of the Labour movement are institutionally antisemitic.”
The 70-page-document, entitled the “Antisemitism in the UK Report” was published by the Home Affairs Select Committee of the House of Commons.
The parliamentarians charged that Labor Leader Jeremy Corbyn’s “lack of consistent leadership on this issue has created what some have referred to as a ‘safe space’ for those with vile attitudes towards Jewish people, exacerbated by the party’s demonstrable incompetence at dealing with members accused of antisemitism.”
Noting Corbyn’s ties to individuals accused of antisemitism and his 2009 expression of support for Hamas and Hezbollah – a gesture he in July said he regretted – the lawmakers said that “despite his proud record on fighting racism, the Committee is not persuaded that Mr.
Corbyn fully appreciates the distinct nature of contemporary antisemitism, and the fact that it is perfectly possible for an ‘anti-racist campaigner’ to express antisemitic views.”
The report comes toward the end of a year in which the Labour party suffered from an “antisemitism crisis,” resulting in the suspension of prominent party members and culminating in the Shami Chakrabarti Inquiry, an investigation into allegations of antisemitism and other forms of racism in the party. Sunday’s report called the results of this inquiry into question, saying it failed to deliver a comprehensive set of recommendations to provide a definition of antisemitism, or to suggest effective ways of dealing with antisemitic incidents. The report also raised Chakrabarti’s decision to join the Labour party and accept a peerage soon after concluding the inquiry – which cleared Labour of institutional antisemitism – as well as her recent appointment to Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet.
Though much emphasis was placed on the Labour party, drawing Corbyn’s condemnation that the report was “disproportionate,” it also called on all parties to examine whether the Committee’s recommended reforms should be applied to their own processes for training and disciplining their members and activists.
MP Tim Loughton, Acting Chair of the Committee warned that “history shows that antisemitism is a virus that is too easily spread, through subtly pernicious discourse, ignorance and collusion. We call on all leaders of political parties to lead by example to tackle the growing prevalence of this insidious form of hate, opposing racism and religious hate in all its forms and working harder to promote inclusion and understanding among party members and the wider public, as befits the UK’s status as a multicultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious society.”
The committee expressed particular concern over the use of the Internet to disseminate antisemitism, particularly highlighting Twitter as a “host for vast swathes of antisemitic hate speech and abuse.” A spokesman for Twitter said hateful conduct had no place on the social media platform and the company would “continue to tackle this issue head on alongside our partners in industry and civil society.”
The report’s authors also flagged tendencies to use the word “Zionist” as a term of abuse, advising that the “use of the word in an accusatory context should be considered inflammatory and potentially antisemitic by law enforcement and political party officials.”
President of the National Union of Students, Malia Bouattia also came under fire for a lack of action on the issue of antisemitism on university campuses.
The Committee called on Bouattia and the Union of Jewish Students to “mend their broken relationship,” drawing a response from UJS Campaigns Director, Josh Nagli: “We welcome the report’s in-depth criticism of the NUS National President and her organization as it tells the world what so many Jewish students have been saying for some time,” he said.
“This report clearly and correctly outlines the current conduct of the NUS National President...
that some of her previous comments ‘smack of outright racism’, and that Jewish students’ concerns have not been ‘effectively addressed’. We welcome many of the recommendations in the report, and believe that they can provide the foundations to ensure a safe space for Jewish students.”
Nagli slammed Bouattia for making “abhorrent and unacceptable comments” and for her “inability to fully represent all parts of the student population.”
He said that on many occasions concerns raised by Jewish students had fallen on deaf ears, and that the report was proof that “there’s one rule for Jewish students, another for everyone else.” UJS stated that while it will continue working with NUS officers who make the voices of Jewish students heard, it will only meet with Bouattia to discuss past comments “and continued inability to address the valid concerns that Jewish students continue to raise.”
The Jewish Leadership Council, an umbrella body comprising over 30 Jewish communal organizations, hailed the report as a “road map” for concrete action to address antisemitism.
“The proposal of a working definition for antisemitism is a welcome start and their proposals to address the intolerable rise in hate speech online are timely and necessary,” said Sir Mick Davis, the Chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council.
Davis gave evidence as part of the inquiry alongside Mark Gardner of the Community Security Trust. “The report correctly says that it is not antisemitic to criticize or campaign against the actions of the Israeli Government but it should be noted that disproportionate criticism of the Israeli government is problematic,” Davis stated. “The report highlights but does not endorse my views that anti-Zionism of the 21st century is antisemitic; it nevertheless makes very cogent comments and recommendations about anti-Zionism and antisemitism.”JTA and Reuters contributed to this report.