A British Jewish Labour MP said Friday that the leader of her party must do more to tackle anti-Semitism within its ranks, a day after she was assigned special police protection due to a sinister death threat.
UK counter-terrorism police have launched an investigation into the supporter of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn who threatened to hang lawmaker Ruth Smeeth.
According to The Sun newspaper, which said Thursday it has seen the Facebook message the unnamed man left for the parliamentarian, the threat concludes with the sentence: “Ruth Smeeth is British and from my perspective since treason is still a capital offence in Britain, the gallows would be a fine and fitting place for this Dyke piece of Yid s*** to swing from.”
Smeeth said Friday that she received more than 20,000 abusive messages from Corbyn supporters in just 12 hours, after she criticized him for not doing enough to fight anti-Semitism.
“It’s vile, it’s disgusting and it’s done in the name of the leader of the Labour party, which makes it even worse,” the MP told the BBC.
“I know that Jeremy Corbyn would condemn this, but it’s not about condemning, it’s about what people are doing in his name. What I need is for the leader of my party, the leader of Her Majesty’s opposition, to make it clear what can be done. He should be naming and shaming some of the worst perpetrators who are doing it in his name, and making it clear publicly that they do not speak for him, that this is unacceptable,” Smeeth said, the Guardian reported.
“There is a vile amount of racism and intolerance and abuse online, which then feeds on to our streets and leads to a culture of intolerance that he could actually personally do something about. That’s what I’m asking him to do,” she added.
Meanwhile, Israel’s envoy to the fight against anti-Semitism said Friday that repeated anti-Jewish incidents involving Labour members show the party must work harder to fix the problem.
Gideon Behar, the director of the Foreign Ministry’s Department for Combating Antisemitism, spoke amid reports of a fresh string of hate speech by Labour members.
Behar’s criticism and the incident involving Smeeth come approximately two months after Labour published the findings of an internal probe on its anti-Semitism problem in a report that leaders of British Jewry called a whitewash. Smeeth walked out of the London event to present the findings of the investigation after a Corbyn supporter accused her of colluding with the media.
“I think the internal probe is not yet complete and it requires long-term work,” said Behar, who will be leaving his post this month after five years on the job, when asked about the findings compiled by veteran human rights campaigner Shami Chakrabarti. The internal investigation found the cases of anti-Semitism were regretful but anecdotal and not pervasive.
“More work is necessary to understand how anti-Semitic speech by various party officials has become widespread, and how to stop it,” Behar added.
Israeli diplomats rarely comment on individual political parties in the United Kingdom. Jonathan Arkush, the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, which is a nonpartisan organization, earlier this year also made the unusual move of saying that Jews “can’t trust” Labour under Corbyn.
Behar’s comments came amid a string of fresh scandals involving anti-Semitism within Labour under Corbyn, a far-left politician whose election to head the party last year brought an influx of thousands of new members. Many others left the party or stopped supporting it over concerns with regard to the radical positions of Corbyn, who in 2009 called Hamas and Hezbollah his friends, though he has since said he regretted saying this.
Board of Deputies Vice President Marie van der Zyl called on Labour’s leadership to “condemn online anti-Semitic hate” against Smeeth, calling the comments about her “disgusting anti-Semitic slurs and violent threats” that “show the depths which some so-called Labour supporters are plumbing.” The party, she said, “needs to act to drain the cesspit of anti-Semitism that has become so apparent in recent months.”
Separately, another Labour member, Terence Flanagan, was suspended after a series of offensive remarks on Jews, Nazis and the Mossad, The Times of Israel’s British partner Jewish News reported this week.
Corbyn has vowed to suspend anyone caught making vitriolic statements about Israel and Jews, though this policy has not been fully applied. In May, Labour did suspend Ken Livingstone, a former mayor of London, who said and later insisted that Adolf Hitler was a Zionist.
Behar also condemned a growing tendency in Western Europe to “drag the Holocaust into discussions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” The Jewish genocide, he said, “is part of European history, and is the foundation upon which European democracies are built.”
But in countries with many Muslim immigrants, he said, teachers in many schools are finding it increasingly difficult to teach about the Holocaust because of resistance by pupils. “This is a problem that I think is one of the major challenges facing European education systems,” he said.
Behar added that the Foreign Ministry focuses on supporting four strategies in the fight against anti-Semitism: Legislation and enforcement, education, interfaith dialog and tools to reduce hate speech online.
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