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April 2, 2018 5:11 pm

Corbyn’s Momentum Movement Finally Admits Antisemitism Is Problem for UK Labour Party

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British Jews in London demonstrate against antisemitism in the Labour Party. Photo: Reuters/Henry Nicholls.

The Momentum movement of the British Labour Party has finally admitted that antisemitism is a serious problem in the party.

“Accusations of antisemitism should not and cannot be dismissed simply as right-wing smears nor as the result of conspiracies,” Momentum’s National Coordinating Group (NCG) said in a statement on Monday. “Current examples of anti-Semitism within the Labour Party are not only a problem of a few, extreme ‘bad apples’ but also of unconscious bias which manifests itself in varied, nuanced, and subtle ways and is more widespread in the Labour Party than many of us had understood even a few months ago.”

Momentum had previously dismissed complaints of antisemitism as a smear campaign to topple Corbyn. Monday’s statement still accused Corbyn’s opponents of “opportunistically using this issue as a way to undermine his leadership,” but added that this did not reduce the need to challenge antisemitism.

The group’s unprecedented statement came after a Labour candidate, Roy Smart, was exposed for posting antisemitic links on a social media site regarding a so-called “Holocaust Deprogramming Course.”

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It was also revealed that in September 2017, Smart posted on Facebook, “People being allowed to question if the Holocaust happened is not the same as being a Holocaust denier, any more than protesting about the Israeli government’s treatment of the Palestinians is antisemitic. Closing down debate though is about power and control, and a fascist state that wants to subordinate our democratic right to free speech.”

Since Jeremy Corbyn was elected party leader in September 2015, Labour has been awash in antisemitism scandals. Major figures like former London mayor Ken Livingstone and top official Jackie Walker have been suspended for making antisemitic statements, and a host of lesser lights have also been suspended or resigned after antisemitic statements were revealed. In an interview last week, Corbyn revealed that there had been 300 complaints of antisemitism in the party since 2015, 60 of which are still under investigation.

The situation reached a crisis last week, when  Jewish groups held an unprecedented rally in London denouncing antisemitism in the Labour Party. Corbyn issued an unprecedented apology and condemnation of antisemitism in its wake.

The apology wasn’t enough for one major donor. Sir David Gerrard, who has given over $1.5 million to the Labour Party, resigned his membership, saying, “I consider that [Labour] has supported and endorsed the most blatant acts of antisemitism.”

Meanwhile, two more rows over antisemitism mushroomed on Monday.

Labour parliamentarian Chris Williamson expressed support on Twitter for an activist who referred to “Jewish companies” with “Jewish blood” that should be boycotted. Williamson called the charges a “smear” and said, “give him a chance.”

Williamson previously ran into trouble in 2017 when he dismissed the problem of Labour antisemitism, accusing Jews of exploiting the issue to harm Corbyn.

Labour has also selected Sameh Habeeb, a pro-Palestinian activist accused of antisemitism, as a candidate for the local council in Northwood, North London. Habeeb was the founder and editor of the website The Palestine Telegraph, previously exposed by the Jewish community’s security arm as an outlet that “has promoted the blood libel about Israel stealing organs in Haiti; claimed that Israel was behind 9/11; and denied the Holocaust. Most recently, it published a video by former Klan leader David Duke.”

The Campaign Against Antisemitism and other organizations are planning another demonstration against antisemitism in the Labour party on April 8.

“Under Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party has become a safe haven for racists. He is at home amongst them, having spent his political career seeking out and giving succor to Holocaust deniers, genocidal antisemitic terrorist groups, and a litany of Jew-haters,” the group said in a statement.

The CAA called on Labour to “lead by example and show that Jeremy Corbyn is bound by the same rules as leader as he was as a backbencher, by investigating the disciplinary complaint we have filed against him for bringing the Party into disrepute. Labour must hold Jeremy Corbyn to account.”

The UK’s House of Commons is scheduled to hold a general debate on antisemitism on April 17.

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