A Jewish member of UK Labour addressing a party conference Tuesday on his concerns over rising anti-Semitism in the party was heckled during his speech, with a protester reportedly dismissing his claims as unfounded.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has faced allegations that his pro-Palestinian politics and endorsement of anti-Semites has encouraged hate speech against Jews. He has been accused of doing too little to curb anti-Semitism among party members and lawmakers, some of whom have been suspended for making racist and anti-Semitic statements in public or on social media.
As Mike Katz, vice chairman of the Jewish Labour Movement, called on delegates to adopt tougher laws to deal with anti-Semitic incidents, a man began to heckle from the audience.
“It makes me weep,” Katz said. “The party…that has done more than any other to promote tolerance and inequality, the party to which the Jewish Labour Movement has been affiliated since 1920, is not seen as a welcoming home for Jews.”
According to the Daily Mail, the man shouted at Katz that he was not speaking for all Jews, and that his claims of an increase in expressions of hate were “rubbish.”
The heckler was drowned out by delegates, who cheered and clapped Katz as he said the party must work to show that “like every minority community, Jews are welcome in the Labour Party.”
Speaking to the Mirror daily newspaper, Katz said the he was unfazed by the interruption.
“I’m told there was some heckling. To be perfectly honest I couldn’t hear them properly,” he said.
“I suspect what they were saying was challenging my legitimacy from JLM’s perspective as speaking on behalf of Jews, but we’re an affiliated society and we’ve been affiliated for nearly a hundred years.”
Katz stressed that despite the protest, “the vast majority [of] people were standing up, I think, to send a strong message — not just to JLM, or to Jews in the party — but to the wider Jewish community that we’re serious about tackling this.”
On Sunday a veteran Jewish peer resigned from Labour in protest of Corbyn’s re-election in a vote the day before, claiming the party had become “lukewarm” on fighting anti-Semitism.
Lord Parry Mitchell announced his resignation following Saturday’s results in the bitterly contested leadership race. He had told the London-based Jewish Chronicle in August that he would no longer represent the party if Corbyn remained its leader.
Lord Mitchell, who became a peer in 2000, called Labour a “lost cause” and accused Corbyn of being “lukewarm” about tackling anti-Semitism. He also said that Corbyn was surrounded by people with “violent anti-Israel views.”
JTA contributed to this report.