The leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, delivers a speech in Manchester, Britain, March 22, 2018..
(photo credit: REUTERS/PHIL NOBLE)
UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has been challenged by fellow Labour Members of Parliament to explain his apparent opposition to the removal of an antisemitic mural in London.
This latest antisemitism uproar comes after Labour MP Luciana Berger tweeted on Friday a screenshot in which British graffiti artist Kalen Ockerman, also known as Mear One, announced on Facebook in 2012 that his mural Freedom for Humanity was due to be removed by local authorities.
The mural, painted on private property in London's East End, depicted a number of Jewish-looking businessmen and bankers counting money and playing monopoly over the backs of the poor.
Seemingly criticizing the mural's imminent removal, Corbyn commented: "Why? You are in good company. Rockerfeller destroyed Diego Viera's mural because it includes a picture of Lenin."
At the time of its removal, then-mayor of the London borough of Tower Hamlets Lutfur Rahman said "the images of the bankers perpetuate antisemitic propaganda about conspiratorial Jewish domination of financial and political institutions."
A number of Labour MPs demanded answers on Friday from Corbyn's office, which has regularly found itself at the center of antisemitism scandals
since Corbyn assumed the party leadership in September 2015.
Berger tweeted late Friday afternoon: "I asked the Leader's Office for an explanation about the Facebook post first thing this morning. I'm still waiting for a response."
Cameron and Corbyn argue over anti-Semitism claims
Fellow Labour MPs Ian Austin and Wes Streeting also demanded an explanation.
"Luciana won't be alone. I think lots of Labour members will want an explanation for this," wrote Austin on Twitter.
"Luciana is not alone in asking for an explanation," said Streeting.
Responding to the growing pressure, a Labour spokesperson addressed the concerns: "In 2012 Jeremy was responding to concerns about the removal of public art on grounds of freedom of speech. However, the mural was offensive, used antisemitic imagery, which has no place in our society, and it is right that it was removed."
Berger, however, slammed the spokesperson's comment, deeming it to be an insufficient response to the concerns raised.
"The response from the Spokesperson is wholly inadequate," said Berger. "It fails to understand on any level the hurt and anguish felt about Antisemitism. I will be raising this further."
Veteran Labour MP Harriet Harman, who has held a series of cabinet and shadow cabinet roles, described the spokesperson's response as "insidious and dangerous."
Lisa Nandy MP expressed her support for Berger on Twitter: "Completely support Luciana Berger in raising this and expecting a much better response. Labour has long been a proud anti-racist party and we have got to do better than this."
London-based newspaper The Jewish Chronicle previously published
screenshots of the Facebook exchange in November 2015, two months after Corbyn was elected party leader.
"We first reported this 2 years ago," the weekly newspaper's editor Stephen Pollard wrote on Twitter. "It's an indication of how little anyone in the upper reaches of Corbyn's Labour actually gives a damn about antisemitism that even their statement today is appalling."
Corbyn’s Labour Party has been repeatedly rocked by antisemitism scandals since he assumed the party’s leadership.
In November, three of Britain's most celebrated Jewish writers said the party leadership's reaction to "widespread" antisemitism within its ranks had been "derisory."
Howard Jacobson, Simon Sebag Montefiore and Simon Schama penned an open letter to The Times of London, in which they said antisemitic "themes and language have become widespread in Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party... It is not enough to denounce all racisms in general when this specific strain rages unchecked.”
A poll commissioned by British charity Campaign Against Antisemitism in August 2017 saw 83% of Jewish respondents state that Labour is “too tolerant of antisemitism among their MPs, members and supporters.” Only 4% felt that no UK political parties tolerate antisemitism.
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