(March 27, 2018 / EJP/Exclusive to JNS) LONDON—Chanting “Enough is Enough,” some 2,000 people rallied Monday outside the Parliament in London to protest anti-Semitism in the British Labour Party.
They criticized Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, whom British Jewish leaders have charged with enabling anti-Semitism in the party.
Jewish community leaders from the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council, the two main organizations, called for the Labour Party to carry out an independent audit of all outstanding cases of anti-Jewish conduct.
The protest came one day after British Jewish leaders sent an open letter condemning Corbyn for associating with anti-Semites and not doing enough to combat anti-Jewish discrimination in his party’s ranks.
Long a virulent critic of Israel, Corbyn was elected party leader in 2015. Since then, his critics say, Labour has tolerated anti-Semitism among its members. Labour officials have been expelled from the party for anti-Semitic statements, and a 2016 inquiry into Labour anti-Semitism said there was an “occasionally toxic atmosphere” in the party.
Corbyn has also faced criticism for associating with anti-Semites and Holocaust-deniers, and for some statements he has made. In 2009, he described the terror groups Hamas and Hezbollah as “friends,” and was also a member of Facebook groups that included anti-Semitic statements.
The issue flared anew this week when a 2012 Facebook post by Corbyn resurfaced in which he supported the creator of an anti-Semitic mural.
“Today, leaders of British Jewry tell Jeremy Corbyn that enough is enough,” said the letter sent Monday to John Cryer, chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party. “He is repeatedly found alongside people with blatantly anti-Semitic views, but claims never to hear or read them. … He issues empty statements about opposing anti-Semitism, but does nothing to understand or address it. We conclude that he cannot seriously contemplate anti-Semitism because he is so ideologically fixed within a far left worldview that is instinctively hostile to mainstream Jewish communities.”
Corbyn condemned anti-Semitism in a statement on Sunday, and sent a letter apologizing to the Jewish community ahead of the protest. He called for an “urgent meeting” with British Jewish leadership.
“I recognise that anti-Semitism has surfaced within the Labour Party and has too often been dismissed as simply a matter of a few bad apples,” the Monday letter said. “This has caused pain and hurt to Jewish members of our party and to the wider Jewish community in Britain. I am sincerely sorry for the pain which has been caused, and pledge to redouble my efforts to bring this anxiety to an end.”
While condemning Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, Corbyn also acknowledged that some criticism of Israel veers into anti-Semitism.
Most major British news outlets reported the Tuesday rally on their front pages.
The Telegraph wrote that the Labour Party leader has been accused of becoming a “poster-boy” for anti-Semitism as more than 15 of his MPs joined a Jewish protest against his leadership. The Labour MPs said they wanted to “drain the cesspit” of anti-Semitism within their party as they joined an extraordinary 600-strong protest organised by Jewish leaders in Parliament Square.
The newspaper also published an article by Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid, an op-ed by political correspondent Michael Deacon and an editorial that argued that while Corbyn admitted that Labour had a problem with “pockets of anti-Semitism,” he had declined to apologize for his admiration for a mural depicting Jewish financiers playing Monopoly on the backs of the oppressed, and thus made him unfit to be prime minister.
According to Professor Alan Johnson, a senior research fellow at the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, the Labour Party ‘’has a problem with a modern anti-Zionism of a particularly excessive, obsessive and demonizing kind, which has co-mingled with an older set of classical antisemitic tropes, images and assumptions to create anti-Semitic anti-Zionism.’’