British opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was heckled at a Hanukkah candle-lighting event in London this week, with one woman calling him a “liar” over the state of anti-Semitism in the party, the Jewish Chronicle reported.
At the Jewish Labour Movement event Wednesday, Corbyn said, “I’m here because I want the party to be strong in all areas, I want the Jewish Labour Movement to be absolutely part of and involved with the party at all levels.”
He added that “There is zero tolerance of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, and that is how it must remain.”
During his remarks, a woman shouted “Corbyn, you’re a liar,” before being removed from the room. Another man called out “What about Ken?”
Ken Livingstone, a former mayor of London, has repeatedly insisted that Adolf Hitler initially supported Zionists, leading to his suspension from the party in April. Corbyn has resisted calls by major British Jewish groups to expel Livingstone, who has denied that his statements are anti-Semitic.
“The issues of racism in our society are serious. The issues of anti-Semitism are very, very serious indeed,” Corbyn told the gathering.
“That’s why I asked Shami Chakrabarti… to undertake an investigation and a report. It’s why we have achieved by very broad consensus a rule change in the party which has gone through, and why we have an investigative process for any claims of anti-Semitism against anyone in the party.”
Following allegations that Labour is whitewashing an anti-Semitism problem, the British party adopted rules in September meant to facilitate the expulsion of members caught using hateful rhetoric against Jews.
The rules, which have been backed by Corbyn and the party’s national executive committee, explicitly tighten the party’s stance toward members who are anti-Semitic or use other forms of hate speech, including racism, Islamophobia, sexism and homophobia.
Labour has been under scrutiny in British media and the political establishment since the 2015 election. Corbyn, a hard-left politician, called Hezbollah and Hamas his “friends” at a 2009 event in which he hosted representatives from the terrorist groups in the British Parliament. He has since said he regrets those remarks.
Under Corbyn, Labour’s membership surged thanks to enrollment by activists and voters from the far left, including a number of people who made anti-Semitic statements, often in connection with Israel.
Labour has expelled or suspended dozens of members for making comments deemed anti-Semitic, but others have not been sanctioned or have been readmitted.
Last year, Chakrabarti, a human rights activist and Labour member, compiled a report on anti-Semitism in Labour that the Board of Deputies of British Jews and other mainstream communal groups said was a “whitewash.” The report asserted that while there is an “occasionally toxic atmosphere” against Jews in Labour, anti-Semitism is not prevalent in the party’s ranks.
But a British parliamentary committee of inquiry last year upheld claims that the Labour Party’s leadership is failing to confront serious anti-Semitism in its ranks.
According to an analysis conducted by the Campaign Against Antisemitism of online chatter by Labour supporters, they are eight times likelier to express what the group deems anti-Semitic rhetoric than supporters of other large parties, whose chatter on social networks also was analyzed.
JTA contributed to this report.