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May 28, 2019 11:14 am

British Jewish Groups Hail Human Rights Commission’s Decision to Open Labour Party Antisemitism Probe

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

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

British Jewish groups have praised their country’s Equality and Human Rights Commission for opening an investigation into antisemitism in the Labour Party.

Since far-left anti-Israel MP Jeremy Corbyn was elected as the party’s leader in 2015, Labour has been wracked with antisemitism scandals, some of them touching Corbyn himself. The overwhelming majority of British Jews consider him to be personally antisemitic.

In opening an investigation, the Commission will now be able to compel Labour to be transparent about its handling of antisemitic incidents. It can also enforce a plan to deal with antisemitism on the party.

Gideon Falter, chief executive of the UK-based Campaign Against Antisemitism, said of the news, “There are only two reasons that the Commission has taken this extraordinary step. The first is that the Labour Party has repeatedly failed to address its own antisemitism problem. The second is that when the Commission approached the Labour leadership, they still failed to offer to action sufficient to reassure the Commission that the antisemitic discrimination and victimisation would stop.”

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Falter noted that Corbyn and other Labour officials had “refused to listen to British Jews nor even to the MPs, MEPs, councillors and activists who have quit Labour because the Party which for decades was a great anti-racist Party has now become a home for hatred in British politics.”

“In just four chilling years, Jeremy Corbyn has turned the Party which pioneered anti-racism into the Party that now finds itself in the company of the BNP, being investigated by the very equality and human rights regulator it once fought so hard to establish,” added Falter.

“Over the course of his leadership we have seen enough to convince us that Jeremy Corbyn himself is an antisemite and unfit for any public office and though few have acted, most Labour MPs seem to agree with us,” he asserted.

“We are pleased that the Commission’s terms of reference closely follow our recommendations and will see a root and branch investigation of the Labour Party’s antisemitic discrimination, victimisation and harassment, as well as how the Party’s processes and decisions contributed,” Falter went on to say. “We commend the Commission for acting on our referral and we have full confidence in its resolve to investigate thoroughly and deliver justice.”

Board of Deputies of British Jews President Marie van der Zyl also praised the Commission’s decision, saying, “We welcome the decision of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission to launch an investigation into anti-Jewish racism in the Labour Party.”

“We note that the last party to face a racism probe from the EHRC was the British National Party, which is a truly shameful indictment,” she continued. “In the past four years we have seen a large number of cases of antisemitism throughout the party from bottom to top. Despite the Jewish community demonstrating in their thousands outside Parliament, this has still not been addressed seriously by the party leadership.”

“We will await with interest the EHRC report into racism at the heart of the UK’s official Opposition,” she concluded.

The group Labour Against Antisemitism also welcomed the investigation, saying, “The Labour Party have been given every opportunity to deal with this crisis yet have repeatedly proved unable to do so, ignoring the distress and hurt their failures caused the British Jewish community. It is a tragedy that Labour now becomes the only political party apart from the British National Party to be subject to scrutiny by the EHRC.”

“This is the culmination of more than two years campaigning by our team to bring this issue to national attention and is a validation of our hard work,” the group added. “The EHRC will have our full support and cooperation and we look forward to the outcome of their investigation.”

The UK’s Guardian newspaper quoted a Labour spokeswoman saying the party was “fully committed to the support, defence and celebration of the Jewish community and is implacably opposed to antisemitism in any form.”

She added that the problem of antisemitism could “only be properly dealt with by all political parties working together to protect the interests of the Jewish community and to combat racism in politics, the media and in society more broadly.”

“That includes the need for the Conservatives and other parties taking action to deal with racism in their own ranks,” she said.

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