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November 17, 2020 11:38 am

UK Jews Slam Reinstatement of Ex-Labour Chief Corbyn After ‘Pathetic Non-Apology’ for Antisemitism Report Comments

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Britain’s opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn leaves his house in London, Aug. 6, 2018. Photo: Reuters / Toby Melville.

Top UK Jewish groups expressed outrage on Tuesday after Labour reinstated its former leader Jeremy Corbyn shortly after he issued a “pathetic non-apology” for comments he made last month after the publication of an Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report on antisemitism in the party’s ranks while he was at its helm.

The EHRC found that Labour suffered from systemic antisemitism under Corbyn’s watch. Current party leader Keir Starmer accepted the report and apologized to the Jewish community, calling it a “day of shame.”

Corbyn — who led Labour from September 2015 until this past April — responded by denying the EHRC’s findings and blaming them on a political conspiracy against him. He was promptly suspended from the party. He was reinstated Tuesday by the party’s National Executive Committee after 19 days.

Board of Deputies of British Jews President Marie van der Zyl, Jewish Leadership Chair Jonathan Goldstein and Community Security Trust Chief Executive Mark Gardner issued a joint statement later on Tuesday, saying, “Today’s decision is a retrograde step for the Party in its relations with the Jewish community.”

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“Jeremy Corbyn’s dismissive approach to the damning EHRC’s findings rightly saw him suspended,” they asserted. “For Jeremy Corbyn’s allies on the NEC to expedite his case whilst hundreds of other cases languished under his tenure, and his confected non-apology earlier today adds insult to injury. This politicization of the process goes against what the EHRC recommended just last month. Labour’s mountain to climb to win back the trust of our community just got higher.”

Gideon Falter, CEO of the UK-based Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA), said, “The shambolic suspension and readmission of Jeremy Corbyn appears to have been nothing more than a media stunt to blunt the blow of the EHRC’s report last month.”

“By readmitting Mr Corbyn, the Labour party has once again excused antisemitism and proved itself unwilling to address it,” he charged. “The Jewish community has been conned. Mr. Corbyn must be resuspended immediately pending investigation of our complaint against him under the new independent process mandated by the EHRC. Britain is watching.”

The Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) called Corbyn’s reinstatement “extraordinary,” pointing out, “It appears that the party expedited this case for hearing by a factionally aligned political committee.”

JLM called comments on the EHRC report “grossly offensive” because they “downplayed the reality of antisemitism in the Labour party.”

“Today’s decision will only embolden those who agreed with him,” it added. “Once again we find ourselves having to remind the Labour party that Jeremy Corbyn is not the victim of Labour antisemitism — Jewish members are.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Corbyn had already aroused controversy when he issued a statement on Facebook, saying he had sent it to the party when he was suspended. In the statement, he said that the EHRC report “should have been a moment for the Labour Party to come together” and claimed belittling antisemitism “was not my intention in anything I said this week.”

In his Facebook post, Corbyn also thanked those who have been pushing for his reinstatement, many of whom have also blamed his suspension on a conspiracy.

“I’m grateful to the many thousands of Labour party members, trade unionists, and supporters in Britain and around the world, who have offered their solidarity,” Corbyn said.

In response to the post, the Board of Deputies’ van der Zyl said, “The Jewish community does not accept this pathetic non-apology from Jeremy Corbyn. Keir Starmer rightly called the day of the release of the EHRC report a ‘day of shame.’ Jeremy Corbyn’s response, by contrast, was shameless.”

She noted, “Keir Starmer said, ‘Those who deny there is a problem are part of the problem. Those who pretend it is exaggerated or factional are part of the problem.’ Yet Jeremy Corbyn questioned the findings of the report which showed that, under his watch, the party had acted unlawfully in respect of its treatment of Jews.”

“If the party wants to show it is serious about tackling anti-Jewish racism, it will consign this statement, just like the culture which led to the EHRC’s damning findings, to the dustbin of history,” she added. “To do otherwise would be a failure of leadership which would risk the party slipping backwards.”

Falter had echoed those sentiments, saying, “Mr. Corbyn’s statement today seeks to recast his comments gaslighting the Jewish community when the EHRC’s report into Labour antisemitism was released.”

“This is a desperate attempt to have his suspension lifted,” he added.

“If the Labour Party wants to build on the positive step of suspending Mr. Corbyn,” he said, “it must investigate the entirety of our complaint against him under the independent disciplinary process that the EHRC has mandated, and do so within six months.”

“Reinstating Mr. Corbyn now would only show that Labour is not serious about tackling antisemitism, or is incapable of doing so,” Falter concluded.

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