UK Labour Party denounced over anti-Semitism conference scheduled for Shabbat
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UK Labour Party denounced over anti-Semitism conference scheduled for Shabbat

Jewish Labour Movement says party excluding religious Jews from debate

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn attends the launch of his party's European election campaign in Chatham, southeast England on May 9, 2019 (Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP)
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn attends the launch of his party's European election campaign in Chatham, southeast England on May 9, 2019 (Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP)

The British Labour Party’s latest attempt to shake long-standing allegations of anti-Jewish bias drew harsh criticism this week after it emerged that a planned meeting to discuss the issue was scheduled to be held on a Saturday, the Jewish day of rest.

On Tuesday, the Jewish Labour Movement issued a harsh statement condemning the party for effectively sidelining Jews from the debate, which will focus on streamlining the process of expelling members found guilty of anti-Semitism.

In a statement posted on Twitter, the JLM called the choice of date for the meeting an “institutional failing” and decried the party leadership’s “complete failure in both judgement and commitment to tackle anti-Semitism.”

“We have learnt tonight from press reports that the Party wishes to make sweeping changes to the disciplinary rules on anti-Semitism, without consulting us, its only Jewish affiliate, or any communal organization. To add insult to injury, they will debate these changes at conference on the Jewish Sabbath, when religiously observant Jewish Labor delegates will be silenced, unable to participate in the debate.”

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)

The Jewish community “has zero confidence” that the measures being debated will solve the anti-Semitism crisis, the statement continued, accusing party leaders of “engaging in anti-Semitism or turning a blind eye to it.”

“It will simply streamline the process of letting anti-Semites off the hook.”

Labour has grappled with anti-Semitism since its far-left leader Jeremy Corbyn was elected party chief in 2015, with fresh scrutiny coming after a number of former party officials accused him and his allies of interfering in efforts to address the issue, in a BBC program aired earlier this summer. Corbyn has come under prolonged attack — including from within the party — for allegedly allowing anti-Semitism to spread in the party and for initially refusing to adopt fully the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism in Labour’s new code of conduct.

Responding to the criticism, a Labor spokesman told The Guardian that “following Jeremy Corbyn’s proposals to fast-track expulsions in serious cases, the NEC [ National Executive Committee] has agreed detailed rule changes, which will be put to a vote at conference.”

“The vast majority of Labour members are motivated by equality, justice and fairness. The party has taken decisive and robust disciplinary action following complaints about a small minority of party members. Jeremy Corbyn’s reforms, supported by the NEC, would further speed up these processes.”

“Yet again Jewish voices are being ignored,” tweeted Miriam Mirwitch, the National Chair of the party’s youth wing. “Our movement must be better than this.”

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