Britain's opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn listens to speeches during the Labour party Conference in Brighton, Britain, September 24, 2017..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The British Labour Party voted on Tuesday during its annual conference in Brighton to adopt new rules to tackle antisemitism. The rule change on discrimination was proposed by the Jewish Labour Movement and allows for tougher sanctions against party members who are antisemitic or employ other forms of hate speech, including racism, Islamophobia, misogyny and homophobia.
Gillian Merron, chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, speaking from the Labour Party Conference, said: “We are pleased to hear that Labour National Executive Committee’s proposed rule change, modeled on that proposed by the Jewish Labour Movement, has been adopted by conference delegates.”
“This is particularly important after the ugly scenes we have witnessed during this conference and shows the need for resolute and robust action,” she added.
The decision came after a fresh scandal on the issue erupted on the sidelines of the conference. Israeli-American author and pro-Palestinian activist Miko Peled said people should be allowed to question whether the Holocaust took place, in the name of free speech. Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson vowed the party would investigate the speaker and said he was disgusted the party gave him a platform.
Reports also emerged from fringe events of speakers comparing Israel-supporters to Nazis, and of activists calling for the Jewish Labour Movement and Labour Friends of Israel to be kicked out of the party.
While Jewish groups welcomed the rule change, they said it must be followed up by swift and decisive action.
“In order to judge the success or otherwise of the new rules, we will be watching for the results,” Merron said. “Will those who have maliciously questioned the historical record of the Holocaust, those who have engaged in anti-Jewish conspiracy theories or called for Jews to be purged from Labour still be welcome in Labour, or will they be thrown out as they so obviously should be?... The fight for anti-racism and justice in Labour is not over, but today’s is a step in the right direction.”
The Campaign Against Antisemitism watchdog group welcomed the fact that the new rules would make it easier to expel antisemites from the party, but said, “If the Labour Party wants to shed its well-earned reputation for accepting Jew-hatred, it will have to walk the walk, not talk the talk.
“However, this welcome change will prove meaningless unless the party rejects those parts of the whitewash Chakrabarti Report that allow for a veil of secrecy to be drawn over all disciplinary proceedings: at present, the Labour Party can decide in secret that its members are not antisemitic, and if that is allowed to continue, then all the definitions and penalties in all the world will not improve its record on tackling Jew-hatred,” the Campaign Against Antisemitism said.
London Mayor and Labour Party member Sadiq Khan praised the rule change.
“Huge credit to [the Jewish Labour Movement] for this rule change. There is no place for discrimination in our party,” Khan wrote on Twitter.
Last year the Labour Party became embroiled in an antisemitism crisis, which led to the Shami Chakrabarti Inquiry into allegations of antisemitism and other forms of racism in the party.
Jewish groups described the resulting report, which concluded that “the Labour Party is not overrun by antisemitism,” as a “whitewash.”JTA contributed to this report.