Jeremy Corbyn in new row over relations with Jewish community
The Labour leader attended an event with a radical group which has attacked mainstream Jewish organisations over anti-Semitism allegations.
Jeremy Corbyn has become embroiled in a fresh row over relations with the Jewish community, on the day Labour’s new general secretary takes office with a brief to improve the handling of anti-Semitism allegations.
The Guido Fawkes website reported that Mr Corbyn attended a meeting of a radical left-wing group called Jewdas, which has criticised mainstream Jewish organisations for their protests over alleged Labour anti-Semitism.
In a statement last week, the group accused the Jewish Board of Deputies, Jewish Leadership Council and Jewish Labour Movement of “playing a dangerous game with people’s lives”.
Allegations linking Mr Corbyn to anti-Semitism were “the work of cynical manipulations by people whose express loyalty is to the Conservative Party and the right wing of the Labour Party”, it said.
Corbyn could have chosen to meet the Board of Deputies or the Jewish Leadership Council. Instead tonight he met Jewdas, a far-left group shunned by mainstream Jews, which called for the Israel to be “disposed of” and has launched vitriolic attacks against Corbyn’s Jewish critics.— Guido Fawkes (@GuidoFawkes) April 2, 2018
A spokesman for Mr Corbyn said he attended an event to mark the ritual feast of Seder on Monday with Jewish people from his constituency in a personal capacity and not in his official role as Labour leader.
“Jeremy was invited to a Passover Seder with Jewish members of his local community,” said the spokesman.
“He wrote to the Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council last week to ask for an urgent formal meeting to discuss tackling anti-Semitism in the Labour Party and in society.”
But the Campaign Against Antisemitism described Mr Corbyn’s attendance as “a very clear two fingered salute at mainstream British Jewry”.
Campaign chairman Gideon Falter said: “Given the anti-Semitism crisis engulfing the Labour Party, there is absolutely no way that Mr Corbyn can claim that this too was an oversight.
“It is hard to imagine how this duplicitous man can claim to be remedying anti-Semitism within the Labour Party. The party must consider the message that is sent to British Jews and other minorities by him remaining as leader.”
Labour backbencher John Woodcock said Mr Corbyn’s attendance at the meeting was “irresponsible and dangerous”.
“This is deliberately baiting the mainstream Jewish community days after they pleaded with him to tackle antisemitism,” he wrote on Twitter.
“And he must know that meeting them now will give his members the message that the group’s extreme views are ok.”
This is deliberately baiting the mainstream Jewish community days after they pleaded with him to tackle antisemitism. And he must know that meeting them now will give his members the message that the group’s extreme views are ok. Irresponsible and dangerous https://t.co/NORQQiFq8J— John Woodcock (@JWoodcockMP) April 2, 2018
Another Labour MP, Angela Smith, said Mr Corbyn’s attendance at the Jewdas Seder “reads as a blatant dismissal of the case made for tackling anti-Semitism in Labour”.
Jewdas shrugged off the attack, posting a Twitter message: “Great that there’s so much interest in our work tonight! Please feel free to make a donation!”
The group said: “We are proud to be Jews and proud of everyone who attended, whether they were Jewish or not.
“We want everyone to know – we’re leaving Mitzrayim (Egypt). Change is coming. Revolution will come.”
And comedian David Baddiel, who has been at the forefront of the debate over anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, rejected suggestions that Jewdas was “despised” by other members of the Jewish community.
“No it isn’t,” he said. “They are just Jews who disagree with other Jews. Which means: Jews… To make out that it’s somehow anti-Semitic for him to spend Seder with them just because they’re far left is balls.”
Writer David Schneider tweeted: ““Boo! Corbyn needs to get out and meets some Jews!” (Corbyn spends Passover with some Jews at Jewdas) “Boo! Not those Jews!””
Mr Corbyn has come under sustained pressure over allegations of anti-Semitism within his party. He is facing demands to speed up the investigations into a backlog of around 70 complaints, including one against his close ally Ken Livingstone.
He has told new general secretary Jennie Formby to make dealing with the issue a top priority, asking her to appoint an in-house lawyer to ensure that procedures are “absolutely strong and watertight” throughout the party.
The Labour leader acknowledged on Monday that concerns about prejudice against Jewish people were “genuine” and vowed that he would not tolerate anti-Semitism in the party.
His comments came as the influential Momentum movement issued a statement accepting that anti-Semitism was more widespread in Labour ranks than previously thought.
The Corbyn-backing movement’s National Co-ordinating Group said: “Accusations of anti-Semitism should not and cannot be dismissed simply as right-wing smears nor as the result of conspiracies.
“Current examples of anti-Semitism within the Labour Party are not only a problem of a few, extreme ‘bad apples’ but also of unconscious bias which manifests itself in varied, nuanced and subtle ways and is more widespread in the Labour Party than many of us had understood even a few months ago.”
Speaking to Channel 4 News on Monday, Mr Corbyn said: “There is genuine concern and we are dealing with that concern… We are not tolerating anti-Semitism in any form in the Labour Party.”
Mr Corbyn said he was not aware of allegedly anti-Semitic social media posts made by a Labour candidate for local elections in Kent, but said that he was suspended as soon as they came to light.
Unite union official Ms Formby was appointed Labour’s general secretary by the party’s ruling National Executive Committee last month following the resignation of Iain McNicol after seven years.