UK Labour approves new review process for antisemitism complaints

Allegations of antisemitism to now be handled by independent committee; party chief declares end of ‘dark chapter’ after Corbyn era

UK Labour Party leader Keir Starmer sits on stage during the opening day of the party's annual conference in Brighton, on the south coast of England, September 25, 2021. (Justin Tallis/AFP)
UK Labour Party leader Keir Starmer sits on stage during the opening day of the party's annual conference in Brighton, on the south coast of England, September 25, 2021. (Justin Tallis/AFP)

JTA — Labour members attending the British opposition party’s annual conference passed a rule on how they will handle antisemitism complaints, leading the party’s leader to declare they had “closed the door this evening to antisemitism in the Labour Party.”

“We’ve turned our back on the dark chapter. Having closed that door, that door will never be opened again in our Labour Party to antisemitism,” Labour leader Keir Starmer said.

The change passed Sunday in Brighton, England, stipulates that complaints about antisemitism will be reviewed by an independent committee. During his years at the helm of the party, former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was accused of allowing antisemitism to fester among some of the party’s left-wing supporters.

Jewish Labour supporters who spoke Sunday supported the change.

The party is “turning the page on the blight of antisemitism,” said Jewish former Labour lawmaker Ruth Smeeth, who was bombarded with antisemitic death threats in 2019.

“You failed,” she said to those behind the antisemitic abuse. “We’re still here.”

Illustrative: Members of the Jewish community hold a protest against then-Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and antisemitism in the UK opposition party, outside the British Houses of Parliament in central London on March 26, 2018. (AFP Photo/Tolga Akmen)

During the conference, Starmer — who has sought to rehabilitate Labour’s reputation since his election to replace Corbyn in 2020 — reiterated an apology to Jews for the proliferation of antisemitism in Labour’s ranks in recent years.

The change to the complaint review process, which Starmer vowed to implement in his 2020 victory speech, was recommended by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the British government’s watchdog on racism. The Commission recommended the move in a 2020 report in which it accused Corbyn of being responsible for “unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination” against Jews.

British opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, gestures after casting his vote in the general election, in Islington, London, England, December 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Corbyn, a far-left politician who has advocated a blanket boycott of Israel, laid a wreath at a cemetery where Palestinian terrorists are buried, and once called the terror groups Hamas and Hezbollah his “friends.” In 2014, one year before his election to head Labour, he also said that Hamas, labeled a terrorist organization by Israel and the United States, was devoted to justice and peace.

Corbyn’s critics said his anti-Israel rhetoric emboldened antisemites and a Labour ethics panel found that Corbyn failed to punish offenders.

The conference also featured a vote that criticized Israel, demonstrating that there is still antagonism towards the Jewish state in the party.

At a panel on foreign relations, a majority of members attending passed a resolution that “condemns the ongoing Nakba in Palestine, Israel’s militarized violence attacking the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the forced displacements from Sheikh Jarrah and the deadly assault on Gaza.”

“Nakba” is Arabic for disaster and is used to describe the events surrounding Israel’s creation and the Palestinians who fled or were expelled from their homes during the War of Independence. Israel’s planned eviction of several Palestinian families from Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood led to protests that were partially cited by Hamas when it fired rockets toward the city in May, kicking off 11 days of fighting in Gaza.

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