Watchdog: Corbyn made Labour 'welcoming refuge for antisemites'

A submission by the Jewish Labour Movement to an official investigation into institutional antisemitism within Labour has called the state of the party "dangerous."

Vans with slogans aimed at Britain's Labour Party are driven around Parliament Square ahead of a debate on antisemitism in Parliament, in London, April 17, 2018 (photo credit: HANNAH MCKAY/ REUTERS)
Vans with slogans aimed at Britain's Labour Party are driven around Parliament Square ahead of a debate on antisemitism in Parliament, in London, April 17, 2018
(photo credit: HANNAH MCKAY/ REUTERS)
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has "made the Party a welcoming refuge for antisemites," and Labour "now suffers from - and is legally responsible for - endemic, institutional antisemitism," the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) has said.
A copy of the JLM's submission to the Equality and Human Right Commission's investigation into institutional antisemitism in the Labour Party has been leaked online ahead of the investigation's findings being made public, which is expected to take place some time next year.
The 53-page document constitutes a damning indictment of the state of the Labour Party under Corbyn's leadership, listing a litany of antisemitic incidences at all levels of the party.
"The evidence before the Commission shows the rapid escalation of antisemitic behavior within the Party from 2015-16 onward. By now, there is overwhelming evidence that antisemitic conduct is pervasive at all levels of the Party."
The breadth of antisemitism within the party is such that the report breaks it up into categories, including online and verbal abuse of Jewish members, exclusion of Jewish members from party activities, signalling by Corbyn that antisemitic views are acceptable, a failure to protect Jewish members and hostility toward those calling antisemitism out, and the appointment of antisemites to positions of power in the party.
"It should be noted that these submissions do not focus on the troubling pattern of debates concerning Israel straying into antisemitism," the report adds.
In one troubling piece of evidence, a party member reported to the JLM that he had had 22 examples of verbal abuse directed at him during constituency party meetings. These included being called a "Tory Jew," a "child killer," "Zio scum," being told that he's "good with money," being told to "Shut the f*** up, Jew," and being told that "Hitler was right."
In another, which took place at the party's 2017 conference, a 16 year-old Labour supporter was handing out leaflets urging members to back a change to National Executive Council (NEC) rules to prohibit all discrimination within the party, prompting Labour Party members to call him "a racist and said they would not support the change because JLM was "financed and controlled by the Israeli government."" At a meeting later that day" the report continues, "he was recognised [as a supporter of JLM]. Audience members shouted and humiliated him. A neighbouring audience member tried to force his phone out of his hand and other members [...] shouted at him to hand his phone over. The chair of the meeting did nothing to intervene."
The following year, a member shared a breakfast table with two delegates he didn't know. According to the report: "They quickly agreed that Jews were "subhuman," "didn't deserve to be allowed to define what constitutes antisemitism," and should "be grateful we don't make them eat bacon for breakfast every day.""
The report goes on to address whether the party's rule book and investigatory and disciplinary processes could in principle enable it to deal effectively with antisemitism, and whether the party has in fact done so.
It notes that the definition of misconduct within the party is broad, stating: "no member of the Party shall engage in conduct which in the opinion of the NEC is prejudicial, or in any act which in the opinion of the NEC is grossly detrimental to the Party."
Consequently, the party's definition of antisemitism is pivotal. In 2016 the party adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's definition, which includes examples relating to Israel: "eg, by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor." However, some within the party later asserted that the examples attached to the IHRA had not been adopted, leading to controversy.
In 2018, following the Chakrabarti Report into antisemitism within the party, the NEC's Antisemitism Working Group issued a Code of Conduct on antisemitism based on the IHRA definition, but again omitting the examples. Instead, it inserted its own, more limited examples, and introduced the concept of behavioral intent into the process.
"This definition was rightly viewed as a significant step backwards from the Party's stance on antisemitism," the report says. "Following sustained lobbying from the Jewish community, the Party agreed (in 2018) to review the terms of the Code of Conduct. A year later, this review is yet to take place."
It goes on to raise concerns over transparency, training for staff and committees on how to identify and deal with antisemitism, and the politicization of the decision-making process.
"Even where these processes might, in theory, have been capable of delivering efficient and effective outcomes, they have proven insufficiently robust to ensure these outcomes," the report notes.
Citing political interference and long-term delays in dealing with complaints, the report found that "as of October 2019, there are at least 136 cases concerning antisemitism that are outstanding before the NCC [Labour's National Constitutional Committee] because the paperwork has not been prepared for a hearing to be scheduled. These hearings are the end of the disciplinary process in the most serious cases. It is not known how many cases are waiting in the system behind this."
Some don't even make it into the system - the report found that "the Party took the decision not to a log a dossier of more than 100 complaints submitted by the JLM onto the system at all."
The findings led the Jewish Labour Movement, one of the oldest socialist groups affiliated to the party, to conclude: "The Labour Party is no longer a safe space for Jewish people or for those who stand up against antisemitism.
"As such it is a Party that: promotes known antisemites to positions of power; does not take action (and in fact subverts action) against those guilty of abhorrent antisemitism; victimizes those that speak out against antisemitism; fails to protect Jewish members from antisemitism; allows Jewish MPs to be hounded out of their political home; and derides the issue of antisemitism to the extent that its very existence within the Party is denied.
"It is plain that the Party does not consider the race and religion of Judaism to be a characteristic worthy of protection. That is a very dangerous place to be."