British Labour MP resigns, citing party’s ‘tolerance’ of anti-Semitism

John Woodcock, suspended from party earlier this year on harassment claim, says Corbyn ‘would pose a clear risk to UK national security’ if elected PM

Former Labour lawmaker John Woodcock speaking in a TV interview on May 2, 2017. screen capture: YouTube)
Former Labour lawmaker John Woodcock speaking in a TV interview on May 2, 2017. screen capture: YouTube)

Labour MP John Woodcock, a prominent critic of party leader Jeremy Corbyn, on Wednesday announced he would resign from the British opposition party over what he described as its “tolerance” of anti-Semitism.

In his resignation letter, Woodcock said the party has been “taken over by the hard left” and has “tolerated” anti-Semitism.

“Anti-Semitism is being tolerated and Labour has been taken over at nearly every level by the hard left, far beyond the dominance they achieved at the height of 1980s militancy,” he wrote.

He also said Corbyn “would pose a clear risk to UK national security as prime minister.”

Woodcock was suspended by the Labour party earlier this year over accusations he sent inappropriate messages to female staff members in 2014.

In his letter, he also accused the party of “refusing to appoint an independent investigator to rule on my disciplinary,” saying the process had been “manipulated for factional purposes.”

Britain’s Labour Party was embroiled in a fresh row this week over anti-Semitism within its ranks after its new code of conduct designed to address the issue was condemned by Jewish groups and MPs.

Britain’s opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks during a memorial service at St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square in London, on April 23, 2018, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the murder of Stephen Lawrence. (AFP PHOTO / POOL / Victoria Jones)

Labour under Corbyn, a hard-left politician who has called Hezbollah and Hamas his “friends” and who is fighting accusations of harboring anti-Semitic sentiments, has come under intense scrutiny in the media over anti-Semitic rhetoric by its members. In 2016, an interparliamentary committee accused Labour of creating a “safe space for those with vile attitudes towards Jewish people.”

Matters came to a head in March when British Jewish leaders wrote a joint letter declaring “enough is enough,” and protests were held outside parliament. The letter alleged a “repeated institutional failure” within Labour to tackle the problem and accused Corbyn of siding with anti-Semites “again and again.”

In response, Labour drew up a new code of conduct on anti-Semitism, which was approved by its governing body on Monday — in the face of intense criticism from the Jewish community.

The code states explicitly that “anti-Semitism is racism” and it is “unacceptable.” However, it stops short of signing up in full to the definition drawn up by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. Many British institutions use the full IHRA definition.

Rival protests regarding Britain’s opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn and anti-Semitism in the Labour party, outside the British Houses of Parliament in central London on March 26, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Tolga AKMEN)

In a joint statement, the leaders of the main British Jewish organizations said the “watered-down definition” would be regarded with “incredulity and outrage by the overwhelming majority of the UK’s Jews.” The “distorted and diluted” definition of anti-Semitism seems aimed at protecting “those who are part of the problem,” they said.

According to the Huffington Post, Labour MP Margaret Hodge confronted Corbyn in parliament, calling him an “anti-Semite and a racist.”

“You have proved you don’t want people like me in the party,” she was quoted by the news website as telling Corbyn.

The new code endorses the IHRA’s working definition of anti-Semitism and has sections of it copied word for word.

But it omits four examples from the IHRA list:

  • Accusing Jewish people of being more loyal to Israel than their home country
  • Claiming that Israel’s existence as a state is a racist endeavor
  • Requiring higher standards of behavior from Israel than other nations
  • Comparing contemporary Israeli policies to those of the Nazis.

The Labour Against Anti-Semitism group condemned the adoption of the new guidelines.

Spokesman Euan Philipps said: “The Labour movement has lost its moral compass, appears to have an institutional anti-Semitism issue and can no longer claim to represent the values of solidarity, justice and equality.”

The Jewish Labour Movement said: “The Labour Party has acted in a deliberate and offensive reckless manner in believing it understands the needs of a minority community better than the community itself.”

JTA contributed to this report.

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