The British Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) on Sunday passed a no-confidence motion in party leader Jeremy Corbyn, hours after a newspaper report detailed the party’s failure to confront anti-Semitism within its ranks.
The Jewish group’s motion was passed almost unanimously after an “impassioned debate,” the group said in a statement.
The annual general meeting of the JLM, which has 2,000 members and has been affiliated with the party for nearly 100 years, also voted that the party has a “culture of anti-Semitism” which has led to a “crisis.”
Labour lawmakers Ruth Smeeth, Louise Ellman and Margaret Hodge, who have clashed with Corbyn on the issue of anti-Semitism, all gave “strong speeches” at the meeting, the group said.
The Sunday Times had earlier reported on instances in which the party has defended members who made vitriolic anti-Semitic remarks, as well as its scant expulsion of members over such cases despite more than 850 formal complaints.
The paper said it had obtained a hard drive containing a confidential database and leaked emails and documents showing that the party — long embroiled in a public scandal over its apparent failure to uproot anti-Jewish bigotry in its ranks — has been dragging its feet in responding to complaints.
Corbyn’s office has intervened in at least 101 complaints, the report said, despite his having assured Jewish MP Hodge that his team would “never” get involved in them.
In all, of 863 complaints made by March 8, 2019, 454 remain unresolved, including 249 in which the party hasn’t initiated an investigation.
Of the cases in which a decision was reached, 191 members faced no further action, 145 received a formal warning — which the Sunday Times called “a slap on the wrist” — and just 29 were expelled. Others left of their own accord.
— Allie Hodgkins-Brown (@AllieHBNews) April 6, 2019
The report detailed specific cases without naming the offenders. In one case, a trade union official in Manchester was allowed back into the party despite having shared material blaming “Jewish Israelis” for the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.
Members who made comments such as “Heil Hitler,” “Fuck the Jews” and “Jews are the problem” have not been expelled despite complaints filed against them a year ago, the report said.
A councilor in Lancashire was readmitted despite having ranted about “Jewish media” and “Rothschilds,” after explaining she had uttered the terms “as a blanket term of description without any racist connotations.”
Last month, the report said, Thomas Gardiner — an ally of Corbyn who heads Labour’s governance and legal unit — blocked efforts to expedite proceedings against a party member who lashed out at Jewish MPs Margaret Hodge and Ruth Smeeth as “a couple of shit-stirring c** buckets bought and paid for by Israel” and “cretinous pieces of shit” who needed to “fuck off back under their stones.”
In another case, a lawmaker was let off with a warning after saying the Board of Deputies of British Jews umbrella group were “c****” and that the comment was “not anti-Semitic, it’s anti-c***. See Israel.”
A Labour official ruled that a council candidate met the threshold for suspension after accusing Jewish lawmakers of being “Zionist infiltrators,” but then decided that the accused would face no suspension and no action because he “is a candidate.”
In a response to the report, Hodge said that “the scale of the abuse, the depth of the hatred and the total lack of action by the Labour Party is astonishing. Jeremy gave me assurances that he does not intervene in complaints. This investigation proves that either he is lying to me or his office are lying to him.”
“This makes for deeply shocking and depressing reading,” commented Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson. “Labour members and the Jewish community will not understand how, many years on from the first concerns about anti-Semitism being raised, we have not got to grips with it.”
But Labour insisted that the figures featured in the report were “not accurate.”
“Lines have been selectively leaked from emails to misrepresent their overall contents,” the party said. “Former staffers asked the Leader’s Office for their help with clearing the backlog of cases. This lasted for a few weeks while there was no general secretary, and was ended by Jennie Formby [now in that role].
“The Labour Party takes complaints of anti-Semitism extremely seriously and we are committed to rooting it out. All complaints are fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures. We can’t comment on individual cases,” it said.
Alleged hate speech against Jews has been recorded within Labour since 2015, when Corbyn, a far-left politician, was elected to lead the party. The Board of Deputies of British Jews has accused Corbyn of encouraging anti-Semitic rhetoric and at times engaging in it, though he disputes the claim.
Former London mayor Ken Livingstone has recently called allegations of anti-Semitism in Labour “lies and smears” to bring down Corbyn and claimed that it is “not anti-Semitic to hate the Jews of Israel.”
In March, British police arrested three people near London suspected of inciting anti-Semitic hatred in the Labour Party’s ranks. The arrests were rare interventions by law enforcement against suspected propagators of anti-Semitism within the party.
Last year, Corbyn came under heavy fire after expressing regret for defending a 2012 anti-Semitic mural in London’s East End.
The mural, named Freedom of Humanity, was painted on a property near Brick Lane by the Los Angeles-based graffiti artist Kalen Ockerman. It depicted a group of men – seemingly caricatures of Jewish bankers and businessmen – counting their money on a Monopoly board which is balanced on the back of naked workers.
In response, British Jews took part in an unprecedented demonstration in Parliament Square against the anti-Semitism crisis engulfing Labour, chanting that “enough is enough.”
Following growing public scrutiny of the problem, Labour is facing the prospect of an official inquiry by the United Kingdom’s Equality and Human Right’s Commission, the main government anti-racism watchdog.
Michael Bachner contributed to this report.