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April 30, 2020 2:24 pm

Top UK Jewish Groups Blast Labour After MPs Take Part in Online Call With Members Expelled for Antisemitism

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

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

Top UK Jewish groups sharply criticized the Labour party on Thursday for failing to live up to its promises to root out antisemitism from its ranks after it failed to discipline several officials who took part in an online conference with activists previously expelled from Labour for antisemitism.

After Jeremy Corbyn became the party’s leader in 2015, Labour was wracked by a number of antisemitism scandals, with several touching the far-left Corbyn himself. After Labour was overwhelmingly defeated in last December’s general elections, new party leader Keir Starmer pledged to eradicate antisemitism from the party.

However, The Jewish Chronicle revealed that MPs Diane Abbott and Bell Ribeiro-Addy addressed an online forum of far-leftists on Wednesday involving a number of members who had been disciplined for antisemitic statements or activities.

These included Tony Greenstein and Jackie Walker, who were both expelled from the party for antisemitism.

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Abbott and Ribeiro-Addy also made statements on Wednesday’s call that minimized the issue of antisemitism in the party.

Afterward, the Labour party issued a statement saying, “The previous comments made by some of the individuals on this call are completely unacceptable. These are not people who support the values of the Labour party. This is being made clear to the Labour MPs who attended the call in the strongest possible terms and they are being reminded of their responsibilities and obligations.”

UK Jewish organizations were quick to speak out, with the resident of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Marie van der Zyl, saying, “It is completely unacceptable that Labour MPs, and even ordinary members, should be sharing platforms with those that have been expelled from the party for antisemitism.”

Referring to the BOD’s “Ten Pledges” that Labour must take in order to fight antisemitism, Van der Zyl said, “Indeed, this breaches the Board of Deputies’ Ten Pledges that Keir and the other Labour leadership contenders signed up to. We would urge Labour to take swift and decisive action to show that this is a new era, rather than a false dawn.”

Gideon Falter, the chief executive of the UK-based Campaign Against Antisemitism, called the online conference “a brazen challenge to Sir Keir Starmer.”

“During his leadership campaign, Sir Keir pledged that any MP who provides a platform for Labour members expelled in connection with antisemitism will themselves be suspended from Labour,” Falter pointed out. “Instead of keeping his promise and immediately suspending both Diane Abbott and Bell Ribeiro-Addy from the party, Labour has merely ‘reminded them of their responsibilities.’”

“Instead of ‘tearing antisemitism out by its roots,’ Sir Keir has welched,” he asserted.

“Through his inaction he is telling Britain’s Jews loud and clear that his apologies are meaningless, his promises will be broken, and MPs who consort with even the most notorious expelled activists still have a place on the Labour benches,” Falter concluded.

The internal party group Labour Against Antisemitism also weighed in, with spokesperson Euan Philipps saying the situation “demanded a strong and unequivocal response from the Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer.”

“Unfortunately, his decision to remind the two MPs of their responsibilities is an inadequate measure that fails to meet the standards he agreed to just a few weeks ago,” he commented.

Noting Starmer’s promise to honor the BOD’s Ten Pledges, Philipps said, “Today he has failed to do so.”

“Sir Keir has demonstrated a disappointing level of moral and political cowardice,” he continued.

In a victory statement following his election as Labour leader on April 5, Starmer said, “Antisemitism has been a stain on our party. I have seen the grief that it’s brought to so many Jewish communities. On behalf of the Labour party, I am sorry.”

“I will tear out this poison by its roots and judge success by the return of our Jewish members and those who felt that they could no longer support us,” he added.

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