Corbyn pledges action on anti-Semitism after protests

Jeremy Corbyn has written to Jewish leaders insisting he is a 'militant opponent' of anti-Semitism.

A protestor yesterday. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
A protestor yesterday. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

The Labour leader apologised for “hurt and pain” caused by instances of anti-Semitism in the party as he faced a wave of criticism from within the Jewish community.

The letter to the Board of Deputies of British Jews and Jewish Leadership Council came after the organisations launched a stinging attack on Mr Corbyn, accusing him in an open letter to Labour MPs of siding with anti-Semites “again and again”.

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The groups protested outside Parliament yesterday, along with members of the Jewish community, before delivering the letter to a meeting of Labour MPs and peers at which concerns about anti-Semitism were expected to be raised – although it was not anticipated that Mr Corbyn would attend.

He said: “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.”

He said there needed to be a deeper understanding of what constitutes anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, and apologised for “not having studied the content” of an anti-Semitic mural he defended against removal in 2012.

Mr Corbyn also said: “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 … we will work to speed up procedures, to deal with cases of anti-Semitic abuse or attitudes.”

He said criticism of Israel in relation to the “continuing ­dispossession of the Palestinian people” cannot be avoided, but added: “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 all constitute aspects of contemporary anti-Semitism.”

In their 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 Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council also wrote: “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.”