6

Today the Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, wrote in the Times that "a new poison - sanctioned from the very top - has taken root" in Labour. In particular, he accused the party leadership of not doing enough to deal with anti-Semitism; describing the party’s claim that it had investigated all cases of anti-Semitism in its ranks as a “mendacious fiction”.

Jeremy Corbyn responded, saying that the party had taken rapid and effective action against “vile and wrong” behaviour, which would not be tolerated under a Labour Government.

What steps has the party taken to attempt to deal with anti-Semitism? What has been the Labour leadership’s involvement in this? How true is the Chief Rabbi’s claim that the party, and in particular, the leadership, has failed in this regard?

  • it might help to spell out (some of) the instances of anti-semitism that interest you. then labour's response to specific events can be studied. this is a charged issue on which there are varying conceptions of anti-semitism. (namely some see anti-zionism as anti-semitic etc) – Tim kinsella Nov 27 '19 at 19:22
8

Since 2015 when Jeremy Corbyn took over the leadership of the Labour party, it has been beset be accusations of antisemitism. The instances are detailed in multiple articles and questions on the site.

In summary, after a very slow start following the Chakrabarti report, where many recommendations were not acted on for two years, the Labour party has made and continues to take actions to combat antisemitism within the party and has made policy commitments to tackle antisemitism and other forms of racism in society. These efforts are generally characterised as either not enough or lacking in independence from central control.


Actions taken in more detail.

In 2016 the party launched an inquery into antisemitism within its ranks led by Shami Chakrabarti, a barrister and the former head of the human rights advocacy group Liberty.

In June, the inquiry reported that it had found "no evidence" of systemic antisemitism in Labour, though there was an "occasionally toxic atmosphere", and made 20 recommendations, including outlawing offensive terms and improving disciplinary procedures.

Chakrabarti was Labour's sole nomination to the House of Lords following David Cameron's resignation in 2016 and in April 2018, Chakrabarti accepted that some recommendations had not been implemented and said that the new Labour Party General Secretary, Jennie Formby, would make this a priority.

In October, (2016) the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee held an inquiry into antisemitism in the United Kingdom.4

The committee found "no reliable, empirical evidence to support the notion that there is a higher prevalence of antisemitic attitudes within the Labour Party than any other party." However, it was critical of Corbyn's response to antisemitic incidents against Labour MPs and described the Chakrabarti inquiry as "ultimately compromised". The report also found that "the failure of the Labour Party to deal consistently and effectively with anti-Semitic incidents in recent years risks lending force to allegations that elements of the Labour movement are institutionally anti-Semitic".

In September 2018 the labour party adopted the IHRA definition of antisemitism

Labour’s ruling body has agreed to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism in full after a tense meeting in which an accompanying clarification put forward by Jeremy Corbyn was not accepted.

The accompanying clarification referenced the ability to criticise the actions of the Israeli government or support the rights of Palestinians without this being considered antisemitic.

For comparison, the IHRA definition of anti-semitism was incorporated in the Conservative code of conduct sometime between July and September 2018 and the Liberal Democrats have been using the definition since 2016, but only formally adopted it in September 2018.

In July 2019 the Labour party introduced a process to fast track expulsion in the most serious cases of antisemitism. This wasn't considered to be independent by many people including party members.

"The only way that people like me, and actually people who are accused of anti-Semitism, will have any faith in the process is if it's not seen to be driven by party political or different factions of the Labour Party."

The Guardian article goes on to talk about the number of cases being investigated. The Labour party track cases of antisemitism separately from other types of racism.

In November during the General Election campaign Labour launched it's race and faith manifesto.

The Labour Party is to unveil a programme of policies it says will protect the security of the community, “defend and celebrate Jewish way of life, and combat antisemitism in Britain”.

This included commitments to legislative change to make attacks on places of worship an aggravated offence.

5

It is considered so serious that the Equality and Human Rights Commission has opened an investigation into it (the EHRC will report in 2020). Initially:

Having received a number of complaints regarding antisemitism in the Labour Party, we believe the Labour Party may have unlawfully discriminated against people because of their ethnicity and religious beliefs.

Our concerns are sufficient for us to consider using our statutory enforcement powers. As set out in our enforcement policy, we are now engaging with the Labour Party to give them an opportunity to respond

Then:

We contacted The Labour Party after receiving a number of complaints about allegations of antisemitism in the party.

We have carefully considered the response we have received from the Party and have opened a formal investigation.

We are using our powers under the Equality Act to open an investigation, which will look at:

  • whether unlawful acts have been committed by the Party or its employees or agents
  • the steps taken by the Party to implement the recommendations made in the reports on antisemitism by Baroness Royall, the Home Affairs Select Committee and in the Chakrabarti Report
  • whether the Rule Book and the Party’s investigatory and disciplinary processes have enabled or could enable it to deal efficiently and effectively with complaints of race or religion or belief discrimination and racial harassment or victimisation, including whether appropriate sanctions have been or could be applied
  • whether the Party has responded to complaints of unlawful acts in a lawful, efficient and effective manner

Labour is the first political party to be the subject of a formal EHRC investigation into institutional racism since the inquiry into the neo-Nazi British National Party (probably rather fewer surprises in that report).

The Labour Against Anti-Semitism group claims to have submitted 15,000 pages of evidence that more than a thousand Labour members are anti-semitic and that the party has failed to take proper action.

In an article for the Times titled, "The way in which the leadership of the Labour Party has dealt with anti-Jewish racism is incompatible with the British values of which we are so proud", The Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, has also weighed in. No Chief Rabbi has commented on a general election before like this.

In 2016, Parliament's Home Affairs Select Committee ran an inquiry into anti-semitism in the UK and devoted a substantial part of their report to the Labour party. The Committee found "no reliable, empirical evidence to support the notion that there is a higher prevalence of antisemitic attitudes within the Labour Party than any other political party" - indeed it's by no means the worst - but said the leadership's lack of action "risks lending force to allegations that elements of the Labour movement are institutionally antisemitic".

The Committee criticised the Chakrabati Inquiry report into anti-semitism in the Labour party published earlier in the same year, describing it as "compromised", and said Corbyn didn't understand "the distinct nature of post-second-world-war antisemitism".

Clearly, the Labour Leader is not directly responsible for abuse committed in his name, but we believe that his lack of consistent leadership on this issue, and his reluctance to separate antisemitism from other forms of racism, has created what some have referred to as a ‘safe space’ for those with vile attitudes towards Jewish people. This situation has been further exacerbated by the Party’s demonstrable incompetence at dealing with members accused of antisemitism, as illustrated by the saga involving the suspension, re-admittance and re-suspension of Jackie Walker. The ongoing membership of Ken Livingstone, following his outbursts about Hitler and Zionism, should also have been dealt with more effectively. The result is that the Labour Party, with its proud history of fighting racism and promoting equal rights, is seen by some as an unwelcoming place for Jewish members and activists.

The decision by the Leader of the Labour Party to commission an independent inquiry into antisemitism was a welcome one, notwithstanding subsequent criticisms. The Chakrabarti report makes recommendations about creating a more robust disciplinary process within the Labour Party, but it is clearly lacking in many areas; particularly in its failure to differentiate explicitly between racism and antisemitism. The fact that the report describes occurrences of antisemitism merely as “unhappy incidents” also suggests that it fails to appreciate the full gravity of the comments that prompted the inquiry in the first place. These shortfalls, combined with Ms Chakrabarti’s decision to join the Labour Party in April and accept a peerage as a nominee of the Leader of that Party, and her subsequent appointment as Shadow Attorney General, have thrown into question her claims (and those of Mr Corbyn) that her inquiry was truly independent. Ms Chakrabarti has not been sufficiently open with the Committee about when she was offered her peerage, despite several attempts to clarify this issue with her. It is disappointing that she did not foresee that the timing of her elevation to the House of Lords, alongside a report absolving the Labour Leader of any responsibility for allegations of increased antisemitism within his Party, would completely undermine her efforts to address this issue. It is equally concerning that Mr Corbyn did not consider the damaging impression likely to be created by this sequence of events.

For an organisation to be institutionally racist, we don't mean that every member is racist or even most members are racist, or that there is intent in the organisation to be racist - it is about outcomes. If the totality of the body's efforts (their complaints, procedures, investigations, disciplinaries etc) or lack of efforts lead to racist outcomes, it's institutionally racist.

"the collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture or ethnic origin", which "can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes, and behaviour, which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness, and racist stereotyping, which disadvantages minority ethnic people." - Sir William Macpherson

There is a not unfounded perception that Labour has, over time, been very slow to investigate, failed to take action against anti-semitic members, ignored the problem, denied the existence of the problem, doubled down on causing the bad outcomes, blamed the complainants and even driven some of the complainants out of the party.

In April 2019 the Sunday Times published a story headed, "Labour’s hate files expose Jeremy Corbyn’s anti‑semite army" (paywall):

The Labour Party has failed to take disciplinary action against hundreds of members accused of anti-semitism under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, according to internal documents leaked to The Sunday Times.

A hard drive of emails and a confidential database last updated on March 8 reveal how the party’s system for dealing with such complaints is bedevilled by delays, inaction and interference from the leader’s office. They reveal members investigated for posting such online comments as “Heil Hitler”, “F*** the Jews” and “Jews are the problem” have not been expelled, even though the party received the complaints a year ago.

The newspaper claimed the leaks showed that more than half of the cases remained unresolved to March 2019 and in 28% of them there had been no investigation.

In July 2019, BBC's Panorama reported in a programme titled “Is Labour Antisemitic?” (iPlayer link) reported among other things that Corbyn’s general secretary Jennie Formby, chief of staff Karie Murphy, director of strategy Seumas Milne and adviser Andrew Murray meddled in what were supposed to be independent investigations, overruling and downgrading penalties. It appeared to be a party concerned with damage control instead of investigating complaints.

Worse, Corbyn himself has often seemed to believe there hasn't been a problem or not cared if there was. He has also shared platforms with anti-semitic people, such as proponents of killing Jews (e.g. Hamas and Hezbollah) and even supported them. I think that in those respects, as in the IRA involvement, Corbyn's political judgment on this has been spectacularly poor for an MP and would-be PM. As the-then Labour Chief Whip said of Corbyn inviting two convicted IRA terrorists to Parliament two weeks after the 1984 Brighton hotel bombing:

I think that, unless you are very very careful, any contact with people of this sort gives credence to their cause, and unless you are very careful that can lead to people thinking you are actually indifferent to the outrage, the suffering, the killing and the maiming which is the direct consequence of the actions of people who are terrorists.

Corbyn once supported Blood Libel proponent Raed Salah, for example. Corbyn has denied being aware that such individuals have made antisemitic remarks but their remarks and affiliations have been a matter of public record - he could have looked into the people he was to support or share a platform with. So at best he was utterly careless about who he supported. Here is a timeline of some of his behaviour, some of which beggars belief.

  • Is there a more specific date than "2020" for the EHRC report? The link says the deadline for evidence submission was July 2019, but I can't find any estimate for the report publication. – Jontia Nov 27 '19 at 9:26
  • 1
    as far as i can make out there are two substantive allegations here. one is about who corbyn has associated with (hamas etc). this is a purely partisan point -- one could equally well criticize a politician for associating with far right israeli polticians/activists. the other is about the harddrive. the linked article is behind a paywall. the paragraph you quote is visible, though with no supporting detail or evidence. is there any more information/details about this incredible claim that labour members who posted "heil hitler" etc. on social media were not expelled? – Tim kinsella Nov 27 '19 at 18:56
  • 1
    @Timkinsella "one is about who corbyn has associated with (hamas etc). this is a purely partisan point" - I don't understand. It is a matter of fact that Corbyn has shared platforms with, referred to as "friends" and "honoured citizens" etc, some people so anti-semitic they promote the blood libel and are members of organisations have called for Jews to be killed. I don't think Corbyn is himself anti-semitic but his "friends" are dodgy. "one could equally well criticize a politician for associating with far right israeli polticians/activists" - and I may do so in a topic about that. – Lag Nov 27 '19 at 21:14
  • 1
    @Timkinsella regarding the person not expelled for writing "Heil Hitler" facebook.com/GnasherJew/photos/a.180239216089364/… and others theguardian.com/politics/2019/apr/07/… twitter.com/GnasherJew/status/1151105418283880448 – Lag Nov 27 '19 at 21:17
  • 1
    @Timkinsella I take Corbyn at his word that he was attempting to aid the peace process - necessarily that involves talking with people. Unfortunately - and he has stated his regret about this - he chose to use what he calls "inclusive language", e.g. referring to people in Hamas and Hezbollah (not merely "constitutionally racist", btw) as "friends". On Iranian state TV he praised the release of some 1000 Hamas terrorists and called them "brothers". etc etc. That language was not necessary and - as we see now - it affronted many people and provided opportunities to his critics and opponents. – Lag Nov 28 '19 at 12:17
-1

What's clear from Corbyn's response to https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-2019-50564965, in his own words "[we] don't want anyone to feel insecure in our society and our government will protect every community...", that he believes one specific form of racism or prejudice is not something we should focus on. As he continues: "against the abuse they receive on the streets, on the trains or in any other..." before he is again interrupted. In the same interview, where he was cut off repeatedly he said he believes that racism is a poison.

  • 1
    Thanks for this; it doesn’t really answer my question though. Really I’m looking for an evaluation of actual steps that have been taken by the party to quell this behaviour in particular and a description of the involvement of the leadership in these steps, rather than just what Corbyn thinks we should choose to scrutinize him on. – CDJB Nov 26 '19 at 22:42
  • Does this answer your question? The evidence the anti-seminism allegations have been instigated by agents of Israel has been systematically surpressed by UK media: see aljazeera.com/investigations/thelobby for basically undeniable evidence – What's in a Google Search Nov 27 '19 at 21:35
  • I’m afraid that I don’t see Al Jazeera as an incredibly reliable source, especially on this subject. Al Jazeera is of course owned by the government of Qatar and has itself been the subject of allegations of anti-Semitism. Do you have another source that has covered this? – CDJB Nov 27 '19 at 21:39
  • Did you actually watch the documentary? Clearly you haven't had enough time to. It's very, very hard to deny. And no, I don't have a UK media source that covered this. Obviously. Because the UK media chose not to cover this, despite how important the footage is. – What's in a Google Search Nov 27 '19 at 21:39
  • I’ll make sure to check it out later; I’m on a data connection right now. I’m not asking for a UK source specifically, but perhaps one from a non state-owned media company that wouldn’t have a vested interest in undermining claims of anti-Semitism? – CDJB Nov 27 '19 at 21:45

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .