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March 5, 2019 4:26 pm

UK Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn Condemned Over Emails Revealing Staff Member’s Interference in Antisemitism Case

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn delivers the keynote speech at a Labour conference in Liverpool, Britain, Sept. 26, 2016. Photo: Reuters / Phil Noble.

Top British Jewish groups slammed UK Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn on Tuesday after it was revealed that a member of his staff had secretly interfered in an ongoing case of antisemitism within the party.

According to The Times, the case involved a Labour member who defended an antisemitic mural that depicted a group of men with stereotypical Jewish features counting money around a table laid on the backs of a group of black people.

The mural became notorious after it was discovered that Corbyn himself had protested its removal. When asked about his defense of the mural, Corbyn said, “It also has other symbols as well, doesn’t it?” Asked directly whether he considered the mural antisemitic, he demurred, “I think it should never have been put up.”

Another Labour member wrote on Facebook, saying, “Actually, I think it’s a great mural. No way should it be painted over, it should be preserved,” at which point a disciplinary process began.

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Emails obtained by the Times showed that staffer Laura Murray, who the Times described as “a close ally of Corbyn,” attempted to interfere in the process, advising against suspending the member in question.

The member, Murray wrote to an official who had recommended a suspension, “hasn’t displayed any specific attitudes herself.”

“The social media comment saying that the mural is good and shouldn’t be removed definitely belies ignorance and a lack of understanding / education of anti-semitic tropes, representations and imagery,” Murray admitted.

“Has this woman made any other comments which are perceived to be anti-semitic?” she asked. “Eg specifically mentioning Jews, Jewishness, anti-semitic tropes, conspiracy theories etc. If she hasn’t then we recommend this be dealt with without suspending her as she hasn’t displayed any specific anti-semitic attitudes herself, more just general ignorance and lack of education.”

“We would recommend writing to her about the comment with a list of questions about what she understands about anti semitism, anti-semitic tropes and conspiracies, why [she] didn’t realise the mural is anti-semitic, if she is disregarding the views of Jewish people who find the mural to be anti-semitic etc etc,” Murray wrote. “Obviously if her answers show an unwillingness to be educated about these tropes then decide how best to proceed re: a suspension from there ownwards.”

Labour MP Ruth Smeeth, who is Jewish, said of the revelations about Murray, “This completely undermines any residual faith we can have in the complaints process. This clearly isn’t independent by any definition as professionals in Labour HQ are asking for political permission and signoff for how to handle antisemitism cases. It’s a disgrace and demonstrates that not only is the system not fit for purpose but that political interference on the side of antisemites is normal behaviour. Big changes are needed if we are ever to have faith in the leadership of the Labour Party.”

Labour MP Wes Streeting also reacted angrily to the news, saying, “It is now crystal clear that members of staff in Jeremy Corbyn’s office were directing Labour Party staff on how to handle antisemitism cases in writing, copying in virtually every senior member of staff in Jeremy Corbyn’s office. This directly contradicts what we were told and what Jewish community leaders were told by the leader of the Labour Party. Either he lied to us, or he didn’t know and his staff sat silently around him and allowed him to unknowingly mislead us. Either way, it stinks.”

“I honestly don’t know how this can be reconciled,” he added. “This isn’t just about process, it’s about political culture and leadership. What we do know is that when Jeremy Corbyn says zero tolerance, either he doesn’t mean it, or the people working for him don’t listen to him.”

Gideon Falter, chairman of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, said in a statement, “As the daughter of a close friend who was hired as his Parliamentary aide, Laura Murray could not be closer to Jeremy Corbyn. It beggars belief that she was interfering in Labour’s disciplinary process without his knowledge. This goes straight back to Jeremy Corbyn.”

“Ms Murray has Mr Corbyn’s ear and is trusted to carry out his wishes,” Falter continued, “which is why it is no surprise that she has been parachuted into the Party’s disciplinary unit. She used to copy him in on e-mails to us about antisemitism and sarcastically write to wish us ‘good luck’ with our demonstrations against antisemitism in the Party. The stench surrounding Jeremy Corbyn just got even more putrid. It is hard to believe that Labour MPs really imagine that their Party can be saved.”

The president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Marie van der Zyl, called the news “intensely disturbing” and noted “Labour has long told us that complaints are expedited independently.”

“This case would indicate that there is something less than ‘zero tolerance’ for antisemitism in the leader’s office and shows contempt for the concerns of the Jewish community,” she pointed out.

Since Corbyn became Labour leader in 2015, the party has been beset by antisemitism scandals, several of them touching Corbyn himself. Polls have shown that the overwhelming majority of British Jews consider him an antisemite.

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