UK Jewish leaders: Corbyn meeting was a ‘disappointing missed opportunity’
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He didn't agree 'concrete actions' to tackle anti-Semitism

UK Jewish leaders: Corbyn meeting was a ‘disappointing missed opportunity’

Labour leader says talks were ‘positive and constructive,’ but Board of Deputies of British Jews says his proposals ‘fell short of the minimum level of action’

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)
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)

British Jewish leaders expressed disappointment after meeting with Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn on Tuesday night to discuss his failure to stamp out anti-Semitism within his party.

Corbyn, however, described the meeting as “positive and constructive,” and vowed to take further steps to combat the phenomenon.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews, Anglo Jewry’s main representative organization, and the Jewish Leadership Council wrote in a statement after the meeting that while they welcomed Corbyn’s personal involvement in the discussion, he failed to back up his statements with action.

“Our meeting with Jeremy Corbyn today was a disappointing missed opportunity regarding the problem of anti-Semitism in the Labour party,” the UK Jewish leaders said in a statement.

Members of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, left to right, Gillian Merron, Jonathan Arkush, Jonathan Goldstein, and Simon Johnson, speak to the media outside Britain’s parliament following a meeting with Britain’s opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, in London, Tuesday April 24, 2018. ( Jonathan Brady/PA via AP)

Corbyn, leader of Britain’s main opposition party, “failed to agree to any of the concrete actions we asked for in our letter to him of 28th of March,” they said, adding that the Labour leader’s “proposals fell short of the minimum level of action” that was expected of him.

UK Board of Deputies President Jonathan Arkush meets with Labour Party chair Jeremy Corbyn, February 9, 2016. (courtesy)

“Our sole objective from this meeting was to build trust with Mr. Corbyn but this will not be possible until and unless he and the party turn their many strong words against anti-Semitism into equally strong actions, in order to bring about a deep cultural change in his supporters’ attitude to Jews,” they said.

Last month, the Jewish leadership sent a letter to Corbyn outlining six steps he and his party could take to address anti-Semitism. They wrote that these steps represented the “minimum level of action the community expected after more than two years of inactivity.”

The six areas of action they demanded were: “That there should be a fixed timetable to deal with anti-Semitism cases; that they should expedite the long-standing cases involving Ken Livingstone and Jackie Walker; that no MP should share a platform with somebody expelled or suspended for anti-Semitism; that they adopt the full International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism with all its examples and clauses; that there should be transparent oversight of their disciplinary process.”

They said Corbyn did not agree to any of their proposals during the Tuesday meeting.

Members of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, with left to right, Gillian Merron, Jonathan Arkush, Jonathan Goldstein, and Simon Johnson speak to the media outside Britain’s parliament following a meeting with Britain’s opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn Tuesday April 24, 2018. (Jonathan Brady/PA via AP)

By contrast, Corbyn on hailed the talks with the British Jewish leaders, saying he was “absolutely committed to rooting out anti-Semitism from our party and our society.”

“When members of Jewish communities express genuine anxieties, we must recognize them as we would those of any other community,” the opposition leader wrote on Facebook. “Their concerns are not ‘smears.’ Jews belong in the Labour Party and we are utterly committed to making it a safe and welcoming place for them.”

I am grateful to the Board of Deputies, the Jewish Leadership Council and the Community Security Trust for a positive…

Posted by Jeremy Corbyn on Tuesday, 24 April 2018

He also stressed that the party would take further steps to ensure it did not “fail our Jewish brothers and sisters.”

Allegations of Labour anti-Semitism have grown since Corbyn, a pro-Palestinian socialist, was elected leader of Britain’s main opposition party in 2015.

Corbyn has been accused of not doing enough to deal with what is seen as a serious problem of anti-Semitism in his party. He has himself faced questions about his own links to known anti-Semites, past comments on Israel, and associations with vehemently anti-Israel figures.

Corbyn was recently found to have been a member of a private Facebook group for two years until 2015 that featured many anti-Semitic statements. He said he had not read any of those statements.

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 central London, on March 26, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Tolga AKMEN)

Corbyn called Hezbollah and Hamas his friends in 2009 and said it was an honor to host representatives from those terrorist groups in parliament. In 2016 he said he regrets saying that. He has vowed to kick out any Labour member caught making racist or anti-Semitic statements. Dozens were expelled but many others accused of these actions were allowed to stay or were readmitted.

British Jews and an interparliamentary committee of inquiry have dismissed as unsatisfactory an internal Labour audit that largely cleared the party of anti-Semitism allegations.

On March 26, around 1,500 protesters massed outside the British parliament in an unprecedented demonstration organized by the usually publicity-averse Anglo-Jewish leadership. When calling for the protest, an open letter from the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council accused Corbyn of siding with anti-Semites “again and again.”

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)

The letter said the Labour leader was “repeatedly found alongside people with blatantly anti-Semitic views,” but “claims never to hear or read them.”

In a statement issued on the day of the protest, Corbyn pledged to be “a militant opponent of anti-Semitism,” telling the Jewish community: “In this fight, I am your ally and always will be.”

Days later, he attended a Passover meal hosted by a Jewish far-left group that has dismissed claims of anti-Semitism in Labour as “faux-outrage” and called for Israel to be “disposed of.” Corbyn said he had “learned a lot” at the event.

Many Labour critics trace the party’s anti-Semitism problem to thousands of members joining from Corbyn’s hard-left Momentum group.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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