Jewish UK Labour MP faces no confidence vote over anti-Semitism row

Luciana Berger called ‘disruptive Zionist’ by local members ahead of non-binding vote; MP vows to continue exposing Jew hatred

Labour MP Luciana Berger delivers a speech to the Annual Conference on October 7, 2015 in Brighton, UK. (screen capture: YouTube)
Labour MP Luciana Berger delivers a speech to the Annual Conference on October 7, 2015 in Brighton, UK. (screen capture: YouTube)

A British Jewish Labour lawmaker is facing a no confidence vote by local party members who say she is “continuously criticizing” leader Jeremy Corbyn amid an ongoing row over anti-Semitism in the party.

Luciana Berger said she had made “no secret that, as a Jewish woman representing a city with a Jewish community, I have been deeply disturbed by the lack of response from Jeremy Corbyn as party leader and many in the wider leadership of the party to the anti-Semitism that stains our party,” the BBC reported.

“Nothing will deter me from exposing anti-Semitism wherever it festers, including in the Labour Party where it is being willfully ignored,” she said.

Berger also emphasized her “long-held view that Brexit will be a disaster.”

Shadow Chancellor and Corbyn ally John McDonnell told the BBC the motion came about because Berger is “associated” with a possible breakaway faction within the party, adding that “if people are doing that because Luciana has stood up against [anti-Semitism] that is completely wrong.”

Labour MP John McDonnell, Shadow Chancellor, speaks in Westminster in London, June 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

McDonnell slammed a Facebook post from local Labour members calling Berger a “disruptive Zionist,” saying it was “completely wrong.”

The vote carries no weight within the party, but could lead to local party members forcing Berger to stand against other candidates for selection ahead of the next election.

Jess Phillips, MP for Birmingham Yardley, tweeted that the local party’s move “means a night of further relentless abuse, anti-Semitism and violent threats to [Berger] and her family.”

On Monday, Labour lawmakers unanimously passed a motion demanding that party leaders provide detailed data in writing on the handling of complaints about anti-Semitism, with some MPs accusing top officials in the party of covering up the number of complaints.

The internal party motion passed at Labour’s weekly parliamentary meeting in the lower house, escalating internal rifts over the issue. The motion called “on the party leadership to adequately tackle cases of anti-Semitism, as a failure to do so seriously risks anti-Semitism in the party appearing normalized and the party seeming to be institutionally anti-Semitic.”

It “asks some entirely reasonable questions of the leadership,” Berger wrote in a Monday op-ed in The Times of London.

Jeremy Corbyn addresses the crowd in Trafalgar Square in London, July 13, 2018. (Niklas Hallen/AFP/Getty Images via JTA)

On Sunday, Berger was named as a member of a group of centrist lawmakers in the party reportedly planning to leave amid rising discontent over its leftward turn under Corbyn and its mishandling of concerns over anti-Semitism.

According to The Observer, the Guardian’s Sunday edition, multiple sources informed the paper that at least six MPs are planning to make the move, forming a “breakaway movement on the political center” over issues including Brexit, immigration, foreign policy and Corbyn’s handling of anti-Semitism in the party.

Corbyn has been criticized on the left for what many see as his lukewarm opposition to and even tacit support for Brexit, which is widely and vociferously opposed by most Labour voters.

Berger told the paper she was angered by the perceived inaction over anti-Semitism complaints, but did not confirm the split.

Labour has struggled over the past year to convince many in the country’s Jewish community that it was tackling what critics say is rampant anti-Semitism in its left-wing flank.

Last week, the party readmitted a former member of parliament who was suspended last year for posting on Facebook that he no longer had “respect and empathy” for the Jewish community.

Labour MP Jim Sheridan addresses UK Parliament on March 18, 2015. (Screen capture/YouTube)

Jim Sheridan said he was happy with the decision and was sorry for his remarks, but lashed out at his detractors.

“Whilst I am delighted with this decision, I remain of the view that my accusers were misguided and overreacted to what was intended to highlight my personal frustration and criticism of those intent on undermining our leadership in Scotland and the UK,” Sheridan was quoted as saying by the BBC last Sunday.

“I would also like to reiterate my sincere apologies to the Jewish community whose historic struggle I have supported all my political life,” he added.

The former MP, who was the MP for Paisley & Renfrewshire North between 2005 and 2015 and served in parliament from 2001, was suspended last year from Labour after a post on Facebook that read: “For almost all my adult life I have had the utmost respect and empathy for the Jewish community and their historic suffering. No longer due to what they and their blairite (sic) plotters are doing to my party and the long suffering people of Britain who need a radical labour government.”

Since his election in 2015 to head Britain’s main opposition party, Corbyn has faced allegations that his critical attitude toward Israel and alleged tolerance of anti-Semitism have injected Jew hatred into the heart of the party.

In the 1980s, Corbyn had sponsored and spoken for a group called the Labour Movement Campaign for Palestine whose official platform declared its “opposition to the Zionist state as racist, exclusivist, expansionist and a direct agency of imperialism.” A conference it held in 1984 demanded that the Labour Party’s key institutions “support the Palestinian people in their struggle for a democratic and secular state in the whole of Palestine”; materials published by the movement for the event proclaimed that it sought “to eradicate Zionism.”

Demonstrators hold placards as they protest outside the headquarters of Britain’s opposition Labour party in central London on September 4, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS)

In 2009, Corbyn called Hamas and Hezbollah his “friends” and said that Hamas was working to achieve peace and justice; he subsequently apologized for the comment. In 2012, he defended an anti-Semitic mural — for which he also subsequently apologized. In 2013, he said British “Zionists” don’t understand British irony.

In 2014, he laid flowers at a cemetery where Palestinian terrorists who murdered Israeli athletes in Munich in 1972 are buried. Appearing at a Labour Friends of Israel reception during his party’s annual conference in 2015, soon after he had been elected Labour leader, he was heckled after giving an address during which he did not mention the word “Israel.”

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 London on March 26, 2018. (AFP/Tolga Akmen)

In 2018 when Labour belatedly adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of anti-Semitism, Corbyn sought in vain to add a caveat that it should not be considered anti-Semitic to describe Israel and/or the circumstances of Israel’s establishment as racist.

Earlier this month, a video was discovered in which Corbyn in 2011 was filmed applauding a speaker at a conference who called for the dismantlement of Israel, which he also said “kidnapped” Judaism. The footage was taken at a pro-Palestinian conference that Corbyn attended alongside several anti-Israel activists who have been accused of anti-Semitism.

Britain’s former chief rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks has called Corbyn a “dangerous” anti-Semite.

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