Former British prime minister Gordon Brown announced Monday he has joined the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) as an affiliate member, in a bid to combat rising anti-Semitism within the opposition party.
In a video released by the Hope not Hate organization, which works to challenge racism, the former Labour leader says the party has “let the Jewish community and itself down” over the past two years, in a reference to the anti-Semitism accusations that have dogged the party and its leadership.
The clip was filmed at London’s Liverpool Street Station, where there is a statue to commemorate the nearly 10,000 predominantly Jewish children who were rescued in the Kindertransport during World War II. The children were taken out of Europe and fostered in Britain and as a result were often the only members of their families to survive the Holocaust.
In the video, Brown speaks passionately of “the promises we made following the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust to the Jewish community: that you will never walk alone and we will never walk by on the other side.”
He also notes that the party “should never have allowed legitimate criticism — that I share — of the current Israeli government to act as a cover for the demonization of the entire Jewish people.”
Instances of anti-Semitism in Labour have risen since Jeremy Corbyn took the helm of the party in 2015. The Board of Deputies of British Jews umbrella group has accused Corbyn of encouraging anti-Semitic rhetoric and at times engaging in it, though he disputes the claims.
In a survey taken last year, 84 percent of British Jews expressed concern with anti-Semitism in political life. Nine Labour lawmakers quit the party earlier this year over what they said was its failure to tackle the problem of hatred toward Jews among party supporters and leaders.
Brown stressed the importance of the party’s history in the fight against intolerance.
“Tackling anti-Semitism and racism and fighting for equality is not a diversion, not a distraction from our purpose as a party,” he said. “It is our purpose as a party. No ifs, no buts, no qualifications, no caveats.”
Brown urged his colleagues to join him as affiliate members of JLM, a political group whose goal is “to support the Labour movement in the best traditions of proud Jewish Labour activism,” according to its website.
Affiliate members cannot vote in the group’s elections, but they can can attend events and participate in campaigns.
JLM, which has been affiliated with Labour since 1920, is set to vote on whether to remain affiliated with the party at its annual general meeting next Sunday, the Jewish Chronicle reported.
JTA contributed to this report.