Corbyn: I will never be anything other than a militant opponent of anti-Semitism
Mr Corbyn made a personal apology for questioning the removal of an east London mural seen by many as anti-Semitic.
Jeremy Corbyn has written to Jewish leaders insisting he is a “militant opponent” of anti-Semitism.
The opposition leader apologised for “hurt and pain” caused by instances of anti-Semitism in Labour as he faced a wave of criticism from within the Jewish community.
The letter to the Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council came after the organisations launched a stinging attack on Mr Corbyn, accusing him of siding with anti-Semites “again and again”.
I have written to the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council. I will never be anything other than a militant opponent of antisemitism. In this fight, I am an ally and always will be. pic.twitter.com/QhQnFEpplU— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) March 26, 2018
Mr Corbyn said: “I recognise that anti-Semitism has surfaced within the Labour Party, and has too often been dismissed as simply a matter of a few bad apples.
“This has caused pain and hurt to Jewish members of our party and to the wider Jewish community in Britain. I am sincerely sorry for the pain which has been caused, and pledge to redouble my efforts to bring this anxiety to an end.
“I must make it clear that I will never be anything other than a militant opponent of anti-Semitism.”
Mr Corbyn also personally apologised for questioning the removal of a controversial mural in London.
The Labour leader said there needed to be a deeper understanding of what constitutes anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.
He said: “Sometimes this evil takes familiar forms – the east London mural which has caused such understandable controversy is an example. The idea of Jewish bankers and capitalists exploiting the workers of the world is an old anti-Semitic conspiracy theory.
“This was long ago, and rightly, described as ‘the socialism of fools’. I am sorry for not having studied the content of the mural more closely before wrongly questioning its removal in 2012.”
The Labour leader said the party had been to slow to acting in the past.
“I acknowledge that anti-Semitic attitudes have surfaced more often in our ranks in recent years, and that the party has been too slow in processing some of the cases that have emerged. Early action has nevertheless been taken, and we will work to speed up procedures, to deal with cases of anti-Semitic abuse or attitudes.”
Mr Corbyn said criticism of Israel in relation to the “continuing dispossession of the Palestinian people” cannot be avoided.
Adding: “Nevertheless, comparing Israel or the actions of Israeli governments to the Nazis, attributing criticisms of Israel to Jewish characteristics or to Jewish people in general and using abusive phraseology about supporters of Israel such as “Zio” all constitute aspects of contemporary anti-Semitism.”
In their original letter, Jewish leaders took aim at Mr Corbyn personally, saying he was “repeatedly found alongside people with blatantly anti-Semitic views” but “claims never to hear or read them”.
The organisations were protesting outside Parliament on Monday before delivering an open letter to a meeting of Labour MPs and peers at which concerns about anti-Semitism are expected to be raised – although Mr Corbyn is not expected to attend.
In their letter they said: “Today, leaders of British Jewry tell Jeremy Corbyn that enough is enough.”
They said there was a “repeated institutional failure” to properly address Jewish concerns and to tackle anti-Semitism.
“We conclude that he cannot seriously contemplate anti-Semitism, because he is so ideologically fixed within a far-left worldview that is instinctively hostile to mainstream Jewish communities.”
There was loud applause at a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party for Luciana Berger, the MP who initially highlighted concerns over Mr Corbyn’s response to the mural.
The Labour leader did not attend the meeting, which saw a string of MPs call for the problem of anti-Semitism to be addressed by the party.
“I am glad that it was not just Jewish MPs making their views known,” said Ms Berger. “It was MPs from all over the country, from all faiths and none saying this is a stain on the conscience of the party.”
Ms Berger said some MPs had expressed disappointment he did not go outside to talk with the protesters on Parliament Square, while some also said he should have come to the PLP, which he was not scheduled to attend.
“Someone advocated that the one thing he could do is to disassociate himself from people who are carrying banners saying this is all some kind of smear,” she said. “Many people said that inaction is not enough.”