UK: Labour head Corbyn signals mending fences with Jews

By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal

LONDON (AA) – As anti-Semitism accusations against Britain’s Labour Party have mounted over the past two months, stirring rebellious voices from within the party, Jeremy Corbyn is signaling efforts to reestablish ties with Britain’s Jewish community.

"I am sorry for the hurt that has been caused to many Jewish people,” Labour leader Corbyn said in a video message last Sunday, acknowledging that the party was “too slow in processing disciplinary cases” on abuse by party members.

Corbyn underlined that it was his priority to drive anti-Semitism out of the party for good and rebuild trust between Labour and Jewish voters.

In an Saturday op-ed for The Guardian, Corbyn said: “Labour staff have seen examples of Holocaust denial, crude stereotypes of Jewish bankers, conspiracy theories blaming 9/11 on Israel, and even one individual who appeared to believe that Hitler had been misunderstood.”

“People holding those views have no place in the Labour Party,” he wrote.

– Accusations

The anti-Semitism accusations directed at the party are not new but they grew after Labour’s success in last year’s snap election, as the party’s votes rose 10 percent, winning 262 seats in the House of Commons and attracting attention as an alternative to the current Conservative government.

In a 2016 renewed leadership contest, following resignations from his shadow cabinet, Corbyn secured his position as leader with 61.8 percent of the votes from party members.

A joint editorial published last month by The Jewish Chronicle, Jewish News, and Jewish Telegraph, appearing on the front pages of all three papers under the headline “United We Stand,” described the Labour Party as the “natural home” for Britain’s Jewish community but claimed the party had “seen its values and integrity eroded by Corbynite contempt for Jews and Israel”.

“The stain and shame of antisemitism has coursed through Her Majesty’s Opposition since Jeremy Corbyn became leader in 2015,” the editorial charged.

Accusing the party of becoming “institutionally racist,” the editorial underlined “the strong concerns raised in the Jewish community.”

The latest row over anti-Semitism accusations by the U.K.’s Israeli lobby arose over Labour’s refusal to accept the full text of the working definition of anti-Semitism produced by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).

The party expressed concern over creating a code of conduct that could be “used to deny Palestinians, including Palestinian citizens of Israel and their supporters, their rights and freedoms to describe the discrimination and injustices they face in the language they deem appropriate.”

Corbyn signaled that three of the four IHRA examples of anti-Semitism would be added to the party’s code of conduct, namely “comparing contemporary Israeli policies to those of Nazis,” “suggesting Jewish people are more loyal to Israel than their home country,” and “holding Israel to different standards to other democratic countries.”

But it appears that he will continue to reject the fourth example: “Denying Jewish people have a right to self-determination – for example by claiming that the existence of a state of Israel is a ‘racist endeavor’."

– 'Don't spread anti-Semitic poison in Labour's name'

Corbyn’s pro-Palestinian policies and denying support to U.S. and British military operations abroad have made him a target of right-wing media and opposition from within his own party.

In 2016, a parliamentary committee asked Corbyn to testify about his describing the Palestinian groups Hamas and Hezbollah as his “friends.” The inquiry resulted in the resignation of Ken Livingstone – a onetime Labour MP and former London mayor – amid anti-Semitism accusations.

"People who use antisemitic poison need to understand: you do not do it in my name or the name of my party,” Corbyn wrote in the opinion piece.

“You are not our supporters. And anyone who denies that this has surfaced within our party is clearly actually wrong and contributing to the problem.

"Driving antisemitism out of the party for good and working with the Jewish community to rebuild trust are vital priorities,” he said.

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