2nd UK Labour MP faces suspension for criticizing party’s anti-Semitism policy

Ian Austin, summoned to face disciplinary committee, says he is ‘ashamed’ of Jeremy Corbyn’s policies toward Jews

UK Labour MP Ian Austin accuses party leader Jeremy Corbyn of anti-Semitism during a Commons debate on April 17, 2018. (Screen capture: YouTube)
UK Labour MP Ian Austin accuses party leader Jeremy Corbyn of anti-Semitism during a Commons debate on April 17, 2018. (Screen capture: YouTube)

A British Labour MP faces disciplinary action and possible suspension from the party after accusations that he swore at party chairman Ian Lavery during a “heated discussion” about Labour’s failure to tackle anti-Semitism.

Ian Austin, the adopted child of a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany, wrote that he felt “shocked and ashamed” at his party’s failure to tackle anti-Semitism among its members, in an opinion piece in the Guardian newspaper Sunday.

He is the second MP to face a disciplinary hearing over Labour’s decision to drop parts of an internationally accepted definition of anti-Semitism. Two weeks ago MP Dame Margaret Hodge was warned that action would be taken against her over her “unacceptable” comments after she confronted party head Jeremy Corbyn and called him an “anti-Semite and a racist.”

Margaret Hodge MP (YouTube screenshot)

According to the BBC, Austin could face suspension from the party.

In his opinion piece Austin wrote about his father’s family, who he said were all murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust.

He strongly denied that he swore at Lavery, while standing firm in his condemnation of how his party has dealt with anti-Semitism.

Britain’s opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks in London on June 30, 2018. (AFP Photo/Tolga Akmen)

“Am I upset about anti-Semitism in the Labour party? Yes, I am. And I am upset as well by the leadership’s refusal to deal with it properly,” he wrote. “But did I scream swearwords of abuse, as has been alleged? No, I did not.”

In his criticism, Austin, who represents Dudley North, singled out Corbyn, saying that under his leadership, some members of the Labour Party “go beyond legitimate and passionately held views about the plight of the Palestinians and tip over into anti-Semitism.”

“I am shocked and ashamed that a party that has had such a proud tradition of fighting racism has caused huge offence and distress to the Jewish community,” he wrote.

Austin’s criticism comes days after Britain’s three Jewish newspapers, usually vigorous competitors, united in publishing identical front-page editorials warning of the “existential” threat to British Jewry that a government led by Corbyn would pose.

The editorials outlined a series of scandals and controversies that have beset Labour relating to anti-Semitism, culminating in a policy on anti-Semitism that omits Israel-related definitions that have become standard elsewhere.

Labour omitted at least four points featured in the original version, including accusing Jews of “being more loyal to Israel” than their own country; claiming that Israel’s existence is a “racist endeavor”; applying a “double standard” on Israel; and comparing “contemporary Israeli policy” to that of the Nazis.

Austin stressed that criticism of Israel was not ruled out in the definition by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), and that the Labour Party’s anti-Semitism issue went much deeper than that.

“Let us not forget that this crisis was triggered by the shocking discovery that Corbyn had defended a grotesque racist caricature – that had nothing to do with Israel at all,” he wrote.

Labour MPs passed an emergency motion last Monday to reopen the discussion and will vote in September on whether to accept the full IHRA definition and wording.

JTA contributed to this report.

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