Corbyn posts new anti-Semitism apology as UK Jewish leaders pan his efforts

Board of Deputies of British Jews together with the Jewish Leadership Council slams Labour Party leader for ‘ill-timed and ill-conceived’ lecture

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of Britain's Labour Party, listens to speakers during the Party of European Socialists Council in Lisbon, December 2 2017. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of Britain's Labour Party, listens to speakers during the Party of European Socialists Council in Lisbon, December 2 2017. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)

Under-fire UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn released a video Sunday, again promising to get rid of anti-Semitism from his party, following widespread  rejection from the Jewish Community in Britain of his promise to do so in a letter over the weekend.

The video posted to social media apologized for “the hurt that has been caused to many Jewish people” and vowed to uproot anti-Jewish sentiment from his party.

In his video monologue, Corbyn repeated many of themes from his opinion piece and admitted that there was more Labour could do to address incidents of anti-Semitism in the party.

“I am sorry for the hurt that has been caused to many Jewish people,” he said. “We have been too slow in processing disciplinary cases of, mostly, online anti-Semitic abuse by party members. We are acting to speed this process up.”

Corbyn noted that the number of cases of anti-Semitism in the party amounts to only a tiny percentage of the Labour’s membership, “but one is too many.”

“Anyone who denies this has surfaced in our party is clearly actually wrong and contributing to the problem,” Corbyn said, apparently countering claims by some Labour members and supporters that the allegations of anti-Semitism are inflated or invented.

“I acknowledge there is a real problem of anti-Semitism that Labour is working to overcome,” he said.

“People who use anti-Semitic poison need to understand: you do not do it in my name or the name of my party. You are not our supporters. And anyone who denies that this has surfaced within our party is clearly actually wrong and contributing to the problem.”

Leaders of Britain’s Jewish community on Saturday rejected his letter and highlighted Corbyn’s rejection of widely-accepted guidelines on anti-Semitism as embodying their concerns with his leadership.

“Once again Mr Corbyn, of all people, has chosen to lecture Jews on anti-Semitism,” wrote the Board of Deputies of British Jews together with the Jewish Leadership Council in a joint statement.

In their statement, the Deputies and the Council referred to what they termed Corbyn’s “ill-timed and ill-conceived” article on anti-Semitism, which was published in the Guardian newspaper website on Friday evening, shortly before the Sabbath began, preventing observant Jews from responding for over 25 hours.

At the heart of their concerns, the organizations said, are guidelines of anti-Semitism recently adopted by the Labour leadership that fall short of the code offered by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

Members of the Jewish community hold a protest against Britain’s opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn and anti-Semitism in the Labour party, outside the British Houses of Parliament in central London on March 26, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Tolga AKMEN)

The IHRA definition of anti-Semitism is the benchmark for countless organizations, as well as 31 countries including the US, Canada, Germany, France, and the UK itself.

“Mr Corbyn’s ideological hostility to the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism epitomizes the enduring problem,” the statement said. “His article falsely claimed that Labour’s new Code only sought to alter one part of the definition. As can be plainly seen, the Code alters and relegates four parts.”

The statement listed the contested clauses which the IHRA considers anti-Semitism — but Labour does not, as being accusing Jews of disloyalty, comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, holding Israel to unique standards, and calling a Jewish state racist.

The organizations further attacked Corbyn for “his misleading claims regarding consultation with Jewish groups, and how his past behavior utterly belies what he suddenly now says about Zionism not being racism.”

Deputy leader of the Labour party, Tom Watson, on Saturday said the faction risked descending into “eternal shame” if it did not immediately take measures to address anti-Semitism. Among the steps he urged were that the party adopt the IHRA definition.

In his opinion piece, Corbyn had said he would consult with Jewish community leaders to try and resolve the dispute over the definition of anti-Semitism, saying that the only real difference in opinion revolved around the issue of “free speech in relation to Israel.”

The groups noted, as did others, that Corbyn’s article repeated some of the text he used in a previous piece from May, published in the Evening Standard newspaper on the same day that he met with representatives of the Jewish leadership in a failed attempt to reassure them over their anti-Semitism concerns.

Since then, wrote the Board and the Council, “the vilification of our community and its representatives has worsened significantly, both in meetings and throughout Corbynite social media.”

“None of the clichés and promises have been met, the hatred and vilification has intensified and the purging is now gathering pace. Actions are the only thing that have ever mattered.”

Corbyn’s opinion piece in the Guardian was also panned by the Gideon Falter, head of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, who told the Daily Mail “He has released a vague and meaningless article, just as the Jewish community goes home to begin the Sabbath.”

The article also came under fire from the Jewish Labour Movement, which called for action, not words.

“Today, other than another article bemoaning a situation of the Party’s own making, nothing has changed. There is no trust left. We find ourselves asking once again for action, not words,” JLM said in a statement.

Corbyn claimed on Friday that “driving anti-Semitism out of the party for good, and rebuilding that trust, are our priorities,” before vowing to take Jewish fears seriously.

Pressure on Corbyn has intensified after a series of anti-Semitic scandals involving both members of the party and himself.

Last month, the party’s ruling body and leadership endorsed the code of conduct that excluded several of the IHRA examples of anti-Semitism.

During the meeting which approved the guidelines, one official asserted the claims of anti-Semitism in the party were being made up by “Jewish Trump fanatics.”

Among the scandals personally involving Corbyn that have emerged in the last week alone were the revelations that he gave an interview to Iraqi TV in 2015, in which he called the Balfour Declaration “bizarre” and questioned the founding of Israel; that he hosted a parliamentary event in which a Holocaust survivor compared Israel to the Nazis; and that in 2011, Corbyn was among a group of predominantly Labour politicians who proposed changing the name of Holocaust Memorial Day to “Genocide Memorial Day – Never Again For Anyone,” to reflect that “Nazism targeted not only Jewish [people].”

In the past, Corbyn has called the Hezbollah and Hamas terror groups his “friends.” In 2016, an interparliamentary committee accused Labour of creating a “safe space for those with vile attitudes towards Jewish people.”

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