The former head of Britain’s official equal rights watchdog accused the Labour Party of being run by “anti-Semites and racists,” and said he did not believe party head Jeremy Corbyn’s claims that he is not biased against Jews.
“It doesn’t help that one of our great parties, the one I belong to, is led by anti-Semites and racists who basically want to eliminate anyone who disagrees with them,” Trevor Phillips said Friday during a think tank discussion, according to a report in the UK’s Mail on Sunday tabloid.
Phillips is the former head of the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission, which promotes equal rights and oversees anti-discrimination policies in Britain.
Asked if his comments included Corbyn, he answered in the affirmative.
“I think Jeremy Corbyn’s views have been pretty well ventilated and exposed,” he said.
Phillips’s comments came as Labour tried to move past an anti-Semitism row that has torn the party asunder in recent months, amid claims that the party was protecting anti-Semites within its ranks and that Corbyn himself harbored anti-Jewish sentiments.
On Tuesday, the party’s National Executive Committee adopted the provisions of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance‘s definition of anti-Semitism, but added a vague and controversial caveat protecting criticism of Israel, angering many within the party.
Some in the Jewish community welcomed the party’s belated adoption of the definition as a first step, but said more must be done by Labour to win back the trust of the country’s Jews.
A recent poll found almost 40 percent of British Jews would “seriously consider emigrating” if Corbyn became prime minister.
Corbyn himself had sought to further dilute the significance of adopting the IHRA definition, by having the meeting also approve a statement declaring that it should not “be regarded as anti-Semitic to describe Israel, its policies or the circumstances around its foundation as racist.” His proposal found no support and was not voted on.
Corbyn says anti-Semitism has no place in the Labour Party, but Phillips said his past actions had shown he does have an anti-Jewish bias, citing specifically a 2014 incident in which he laid a wreath at a Tunisia ceremony to honor Palestinian terrorists involved in the deadly attack on the Israeli team in the 1972 Munich Olympics.
“Prior to that, it was always possible for Jeremy Corbyn to say it’s nothing to do with me. With that, he put himself in that group,” Phillips said, according to the report.
The party dismissed Phillips’s comments, telling the British paper that “Jeremy Corbyn and the party leadership are life-long anti-racists who are determined to tackle anti-Semitism both within the Labour party and in wider society.”
In an interview last month, former chief rabbi Jonathan Sacks branded Corbyn a dangerous anti-Semite. Labour rejected that allegation as absurd and offensive.