The UK’s main opposition Labour party began a new battle on Wednesday over anti-Semitism, as its new leader Keir Starmer took
a hardline stance on ex-leader Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters.
Corbyn was suspended from the party last month for publicly minimizing the issue of anti-Semitism in Labour under his leadership, contrary to the resolute conclusions of a recent report on the issue.
But in a surprise move less than three weeks later, a five-member panel of Labour officials made a decision on Tuesday to reinstate Corbyn’s membership after he issued a more conciliatory statement on the matter. The move enraged Jewish leaders and members, who had abandoned the party en masse under Corbyn’s rule.
But Labour’s new leader is determined to steer Labour into a new direction and said Wednesday that he won’t readmit Corbyn to the party’s parliamentary caucus, accusing him of sabotaging efforts to stamp out anti-Semitism.
Starmer said his predecessor had “undermined and set back our work in restoring trust and confidence in the Labour Party’s ability to tackle anti-Semitism.”
Corbyn will continue to sit in Parliament, but as an independent lawmaker. Starmer’s move aroused a fresh round of fiction among the party’s members.
Starmer’s stance followed a threat on Tuesday by Dame Margaret Hodge, the Jewish Labour Movement’s parliamentary chair, that she would quit the party unless Starmer committed to denying Corbyn parliamentary membership.
Hodge’s demand was reiterated by the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Labour Movement, as well as several other Labour parliamentarians and senior members of the party, who sent numerous messages of outrage to Starmer about the panel’s decision to reinstate Corbyn, The Jewish Chronicle reported.
Hodge said she couldn’t comprehend the decision, saying it was “a broken outcome from a broken system…a factional, opaque and dysfunctional complaints process could never reach a fair conclusion.”
“This is exactly why the EHRC [Equality and Human Rights Commission] instructed Labour to set up an independent process!” she stated.
Labour has been grappling with allegations that anti-Semitism was allowed to fester under Corbyn, a long-time supporter of Palestinians and a critic of Israel who led the party for almost five years from 2015.
Corbyn was suspended from the party last month in the wake of a scathing report by Britain’s equalities watchdog. The Equality and Human Rights Commission said Labour officials had failed to stamp out anti-Semitism and committed “unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination.”
After the report was released, Corbyn accused opponents of exaggerating the problem for “political reasons” — a statement that got him suspended from the party.
On Tuesday, Corbyn issued a statement saying that concerns about anti-Semitism in Labour were not exaggerated, and the party must “never tolerate anti-Semitism or belittle concerns about it.” Later that day, Labour’s governing National Executive Committee voted to reinstate Corbyn, who has represented Labour in Parliament since 1983.
But Starmer said he was keeping Corbyn out of Labour’s parliamentary caucus. He said he was acting because “the (Labour Party) disciplinary process does not have the confidence of the Jewish community.”
Starmer was elected in April to lead the party. He has vowed to stamp out prejudice and restore relations between the party and the Jewish community.
(YWN Israel Desk, Jerusalem & AP)