The UK Labour party on Wednesday pledged to “take action” against a Jewish MP who called party leader Jeremy Corbyn an “anti-Semite and a racist.”
A spokesperson indicated disciplinary measures would be taken against veteran MP Dame Margaret Hodge over her “unacceptable” comments, which came after the British opposition party adopted a definition of anti-Semitism that was slammed by Jewish leaders as unacceptably soft.
“Under the terms of PLP [parliamentary Labour party] rules, behavior has to be respectful between colleagues and not bring the party into disrepute,” a Labour official was quoted by The Guardian as saying. “The behavior was clearly unacceptable between colleagues. Jeremy’s door is always open to discussions with members of the PLP. Action will be taken.”
Speaking inside the parliament chamber, but out of range of media, Hodge told Corbyn he is a “fucking anti-Semite and a racist,” the report said.
Hodge later confirmed to Sky News she made the comments, but denied she used the F-word.
“You have proved you don’t want people like me in the party,” Hodge, who is Jewish, went on to tell Corbyn, according to eyewitnesses.
“I’m sorry you feel like that,” Corbyn reportedly responded.
“It is not what you say but what you do, and by your actions you have shown you are an anti-Semitic racist,” Hodge then said.
The report said that Hodge, who has been a member of Parliament for the party since 1994, will be reported to Labour whips.
Labour has come under fire from UK Jewish groups over the past week for not including the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism as part of its new code of conduct approved by the party.
Labour’s version omits at least four points featured in the IHRA definition, including accusing Jews of “being more loyal to Israel” than to their own country; claiming that Israel’s existence is a “racist endeavor”; applying a “double standard” to Israel; and comparing “contemporary Israeli policy” to that of the Nazis.
The definition features mostly examples of anti-Semitic behaviors that do not concern Israel, such as calling for harm to Jews or denying the Holocaust, as well as challenging the Jewish people’s right to self-determination.
The party’s National Executive Committee approved the new code on Tuesday, but also instructed that further consultations be held with a view to possible future changes.
Earlier on Wednesday, Labour MP John Woodcock, a prominent critic of party leader Corbyn, announced he would resign from the British opposition party over what he described as its “tolerance” of anti-Semitism.
On Monday, Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom Ephraim Mirvis sent a letter to the committee warning it would send an “unprecedented message of contempt” for British Jews if it approved the controversial guidelines.
Labour’s Jewish affiliate has also sharply criticized the softened definition of anti-Semitism and warned its adoption could put Labour in breach of the Equality Act, a key UK anti-discrimination law.
Legal advice from the Jewish Labour Movement argued that the party’s decision to adopt a softer definition of anti-Semitism than that used by the government means it treats Jews less favorably than other groups, The Guardian reported Monday.
Labour under Corbyn, a hard-left politician who has called Hezbollah and Hamas his “friends” and who is fighting accusations of harboring anti-Semitic sentiments, has come under intense scrutiny in the media over anti-Semitic rhetoric by its members. In 2016, an inter-parliamentary committee accused Labour of creating a “safe space for those with vile attitudes towards Jewish people.”
Corbyn has maintained that Labour will not tolerate racist rhetoric by its members. Dozens were kicked out over anti-Semitic statements. However, the party has kept on many Labour members whom Jewish community leaders said engaged in anti-Semitic hate speech.
JTA contributed to this report.