UK Jews cry foul over Corbyn video on anti-Semitism

Community leaders condemn dismissive approach to deep-rooted Labour issue; clip remains on Facebook despite promises to remove it

Video made by supporters of UK's Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn September 19, 2016 (Screen capture: Facebook)
Video made by supporters of UK's Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn September 19, 2016 (Screen capture: Facebook)

Leaders of Britain’s Jewish community have accused Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn of flippantly dismissing allegations of anti-Semitism within the party in a new video.

Corbyn’s campaign team reportedly apologized for the clip and partially hid, but did not remove, the video from social media.

As part of his campaign for reelection as leader of the Labour Party, Corbyn posted a video on his Facebook page on Monday which shows people answering the five questions they are asked most frequently. The final question was “Do you promote anti-Semitism?”

In answer, some Labour supporters are filmed dismissing the charge as mere politicking with no basis.

Corbyn has consistently denied allegations of anti-Semitism by him or Labour, though the party recently underwent an internal purge of members found to have made anti-Israel or anti-Jewish statements in the past.

Representatives of the Jewish community were quick to speak out about the way in which the video, in which Corbyn does not appear, dealt with the charge.

The video is a “slap in the face for Jews,” Board of Deputies President Jonathan Arkush said in a statement Wednesday.

In the slickly made video, a Muslim woman replies to the anti-Semitism question by saying that she would not stand for anti-Semitism if she saw it anywhere “whether it is within the Labour Party or anywhere else.”

She also says that “we should be doing everything to educate and eradicate those kinds of things.”

But a second person deflects the question, pointing out that “It was a Conservative government in the 1930s that stopped… Jewish refugees coming into Britain.”

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn joins on April 26, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / BEN STANSALL)
Britain’s opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn joins on April 26, 2016. (AFP/Ben Stansall)

Yet another implies that the accusations of anti-Semitism within the Labour Party are completely baseless.

“When you actually boil it all down, what they mean is ‘we’re losing the political argument and we’ve got nothing to fight back with other than these accusations,'” the activist says.

A final person simply takes the paper with the question and throws it on the floor, saying, “so that’s gone as well.”

Arkush called on Corbyn to clarify “whether he really is a committed anti-racist or whether, astonishingly, he endorses a sentiment that gives a free pass to racism against Jews.”

Board of Deputies Chief Executive Gillian Merron said Corbyn campaign director Jon Lansman had apologized for the video and committed to remove it.

However, while the clip was removed from Corbyn’s Facebook timeline and marked as private on YouTube, it still appears on Corbyn’s Facebook page under videos at time of writing and has had almost 200k views.

Other Jewish organizations also criticized the video.

“This film is worth watching because it accurately shows the attitude of most Corbyn supporters to communal concerns about anti-Semitism,” said Mark Gardner, who heads the Community Security Trust which organizes security for the UK’s Jewish community, according to the Jewish News.

The UK’s Zionist Federation produced a video in response to the Corbyn video in which they show why there is genuine concern about anti-Semitism within the Labour Party. It contains clips of the many Labour MPs who were suspended from the party due to anti-Semitism, a clip of Corbyn describing Hezbollah and Hamas as his friends, and a radio DJ challenging suspended Labour MP George Galloway with a history of his anti-Semitism.

A spokesperson for the “Jeremy for Labour” campaign denied that the video showed a dismissive attitude toward anti-Semitism. “Those taking part in the video were expressing their views on the allegations made that as supporters of Jeremy Corbyn they are somehow soft on anti-Semitism, something which Jeremy Corbyn has a record of campaigning and acting against, and has repeatedly and consistently said he takes extremely seriously and will not tolerate,” the spokesperson said, according to the Jewish news.

After losing a no-confidence motion, Corbyn was forced to run again for the party’s leadership against Owen Smith. The party has been roiled in turmoil in recent months over both the anti-Semitism scandal and the failure to stop the Brexit.

Voting ended on Wednesday and the result will be announced at the party’s annual conference on Saturday.

The two recently held their final debate at a Jewish community event, during which Corbyn played down accusations of anti-Semitism and expressed Israel’s right to exist.

Many Jewish voters, however, view him with skepticism due to his past comments on Israel and associations with vehemently anti-Israel figures. The Labour leader has come under fire for referring to Iranian-backed Islamist groups Hamas and Hezbollah as “friends,” which Corbyn dismissed as a diplomatic term intended to engage with the groups. During a speech in 2009, as patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Corbyn invited members of the two terror groups to speak at the British Parliament.

Jeremy Newmark, chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, said he was pleased that the video would be removed. “We hope that those responsible for producing and promoting it will be sent to attend the training session on ‘confronting anti-Semitism and engaging with Jewish voters’ being delivered by JLM and the Labour Party at the Party Conference next week,” he said, according to the Jewish News.

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