UK Labour Friends of Israel chair loses no-confidence vote over Corbyn criticism
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UK Labour Friends of Israel chair loses no-confidence vote over Corbyn criticism

Joan Ryan MP, who has spoken out on party’s anti-Semitism problem, vows not to resign after defeat in symbolic action, will ‘continue to stand up and fight’ for Labour’s values

Labour Party activists in the constituency of Enfield North attend a no-confidence vote against MP Joan Ryan over her criticism of leader Jeremy Corbyn regarding Israel and anti-Semitism, on September 6, 2018. (Screen capture: YouTube)
Labour Party activists in the constituency of Enfield North attend a no-confidence vote against MP Joan Ryan over her criticism of leader Jeremy Corbyn regarding Israel and anti-Semitism, on September 6, 2018. (Screen capture: YouTube)

A British lawmaker who chairs the Labour Friends of Israel parliamentary group was defeated in a no-confidence vote Thursday by party members in her constituency after criticizing opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn over Labour’s anti-Semitism troubles.

Joan Ryan, a Labour MP from Enfield North, lost the vote by 94 to 92 votes, an outcome she blamed on “Stalinists, communists and assorted hard left.”

The motion does not carry any weight, but could trigger further efforts by pro-Corbyn Labour members to unseat her.

Despite the defeat, Ryan remained defiant after the vote and said it was “hardly [a] decisive victory.”

Joan Ryan, chair of Labour Friends of Israel. (UK Parliament)

“Just to be clear I will not be resigning. I am Labour through and through and I will continue to stand up and fight for Labour values,” she wrote on her official Twitter account.

Labour Friends of Israel rallied to her defense, calling Ryan “one of the most decent, courageous and principled people in British politics” and saying “nothing about tonight’s vote changes that fact.”

The vote was organized by local Labour activists after Ryan criticized Corbyn over recently surfaced remarks he made in 2013 that “Zionists” do not understand “English irony.” Corbyn later defended his comments following accusations they were anti-Semitic.

“Our MP has smeared [Corbyn’s] character without him having the right to a fair and balanced defense,” the motion filed by activists in Ryan’s constituency said, according to The Times.

It also charged that Ryan “has fueled and indeed inflamed trial by media” of Corbyn, who has faced heavy scrutiny of late over a number of past comments criticizing Israel, such as comparing its military rule in the West Bank to the Nazi occupation of Europe during World War II.

Corbyn himself backed the activists’ right to vote against Ryan, saying, “Every party has a right to question what its MP does. Every party has a right to challenge them on what they do and how they represent the area and that’s exactly what happens in those areas as I understand it.”

On a related matter, Corbyn was asked whether Jewish MPs should be protected from efforts to oust them (Ryan is not Jewish), and answered. “Nobody should be attacked for whatever their faith is and I’m absolutely clear — there is no place for racism anywhere in our society,” he said. “There is no place for anti-Semitism anywhere in our society or in any of our political parties.”

Labour faced a backlash after partially adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism in July but stripping it of clauses pertaining to criticism of Israel. The party on Tuesday adopted the definition in full, but added a “free speech” clause that sparked further anger by Jewish groups. Corbyn himself sought and failed to add a further caveat that would have stated that calling Israel and its foundation “racist” should not be considered to be anti-Semitic.

In an additional twist to the no-confidence vote in Ryan on Thursday, the meeting appeared to have been illicitly filmed by Iran’s state-run Press TV, which is outlawed in the UK. The head of Labour’s Enfield North constituency said there would be an investigation into Press TV’s presence at the meeting, according to The Guardian.

Corbyn has appeared in the past on the network — whose license to broadcast in the UK was revoked in 2012 — including in an interview seven years ago in which he claimed the BBC “has a bias towards saying that… Israel has a right to exist.”

Along with Ryan, Labour MP Gavin Shuker of Luton South lost a no-confidence vote on Thursday over his criticism of Corbyn. He also said he would not resign.

“I’ve not changed, but the Labour Party has,” he tweeted.

The crisis over anti-Semitism in the Labour Party has caused a major schism within its ranks and led to Jews to express fears over their future in the country.

Corbyn says anti-Semitism has no place in the Labour Party, but he has been roundly criticized over reports of rampant anti-Jewish prejudice, for his own allegedly anti-Semitic statements and activities, and for not backing the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism.

Last week, veteran lawmaker Frank Field quit Labour’s grouping in Parliament, saying the party had become a “force for anti-Semitism,” while Britain’s former chief rabbi Jonathan Sacks branded Corbyn a dangerous anti-Semite.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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