British Jewish Community in Uproar After Controversial Author of ‘Whitewash’ Antisemitism Inquiry ‘Rewarded’ With Prestigious Parliamentary Position
Leaders of Britain’s Jewish community voiced outrage on Friday after the country’s Labour Party bestowed peerage on the controversial lead investigator of a recent antisemitism inquiry which was condemned as a “whitewash.”
On Thursday, it was announced that human rights lawyer Shami Chakrabarti accepted a position in the House of Lords from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, just five weeks after her report into Jew-hatred within the party was published. Doubt was already cast on Chakrabarti’s neutrality after she admitted to joining Labour on the day of her appointment.
Jewish groups and leaders across the spectrum sharply denounced the appointment, with some questioning whether the move amounted to a reward from Corbyn to Chakrabarti for downplaying antisemitism within Labour.
The Community Security Trust, a British antisemitism watchdog, described Chakrabarti’s appointment as a “shameless kick in the teeth for all who put hope in her now wholly compromised inquiry.”
Marie van der Zyl, vice president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, denounced the move as unethical.
“It is beyond disappointing that Shami Chakrabarti has been offered, and accepted, a peerage from Labour following her so-called independent inquiry,” she said. “The report, which was weak in several areas, seems to have been rewarded with an honor.”
“This whitewash for peerages is a scandal that surely raises questions about the integrity of Ms. Chakrabarti, her inquiry and the Labour leadership,” Van der Zyl said.
Zionist Federation UK Chairman Paul Charney said Chakrabarti’s new appointment puts all the “failings [of the Labour inquiry] in context.”
“We must now accept that the primary aim of the report was to rid Labour of the allegations of antisemitism — but not the antisemitism itself. We hoped that this inquiry would provide a chance to rebuild the relationship between the party and our community. Instead, it has somehow made things even worse,” he said.
Britain’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said that in her acceptance of the peerage, the credibility of Chakrabarti’s report “lies in tatters and the Labour Party’s stated intention, to unequivocally tackle antisemitism, remains woefully unrealized.”
Labour MP Wes Streeting slammed his party’s leader for the move, writing in an op-ed on Friday that “it is impossible to disagree” with the chief rabbi that “everything about the nature of Corbyn’s appointment of Chakrabarti stinks.”
“As a lawyer, Shami Chakrabarti will recognize three words: appearance of bias,” he wrote. “She was asked by Corbyn to take on the antisemitism inquiry, lend it her credibility and give the appearance of independence…Months later, she finds herself appointed by Corbyn as one of our country’s lawmakers.”
Responding to the development, Labour deputy leader Tom Watson told British media that he was unaware of Corbyn’s decision to nominate Chakrabarti, adding the the timing of the move was “not great.”
On Thursday, Chakrabarti said in a statement that she was “honored to accept Jeremy Corbyn’s challenge and opportunity to help hold the Government to account.” A spokesman for Corbyn highlighted Chakrabarti’s “legal and campaigning skills,” saying she “shares Jeremy’s ambitions for reform of the House of Lords.”
The conclusion of the antisemitism report, released at the end of June, was that while there is an “occasionally toxic atmosphere” within the party, it is “not overrun by antisemitism, Islamophobia, or other forms of racism.” The investigation made 20 recommendations, but did not approve lifetime bans for party members who engage in antisemitic or racist behavior.