CFI has strongly welcomed the publication of the Home Affairs Select Committee’s report into anti-Semitism in the UK, which condemned the Labour Party for its “incompetence” over its handling of high-profile allegations of anti-Semitism within the party.
CFI’s Parliamentary Chairman Rt. Hon. Sir Eric Pickles MP, CFI Honorary President Lord Polak CBE and CFI Executive Director James Gurd said:
“CFI strongly welcomes the Home Affairs Select Committee’s report into anti-Semitism.
“The Committee deserves applause for not pulling any punches in confronting the problem of anti-Semitism in Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party and Baroness Chakrabarti’s worthless report.
“Anti-Semitism is a cancer in our society and the cross-party endorsement of this timely report highlights the national unity that will be needed to stamp it out”.
Conservative MP Tim Loughton, the Committee’s acting Chairman, said: “History shows that anti-Semitism is a virus that is too easily spread, through subtly pernicious discourse, ignorance and collusion.
“We call on all leaders of political parties to lead by example to tackle the growing prevalence of this insidious form of hate, opposing racism and religious hate in all its forms and working harder to promote inclusion and understanding among party members and the wider public, as befits the UK’s status as a multicultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious society”.
The damning report, which was published today, warned: “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”.
Regarding Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s handling of anti-Semitism allegations within the party, the report stated: “while the Labour Leader has a proud record of campaigning against many types of racism, based on the evidence we have received, we are not persuaded that he fully appreciates the distinct nature of post-Second World War anti-Semitism”.
The report said that Jewish Labour MPs have been subject to “appalling” levels of abuse, including death threats from individuals claiming to be supporters of Mr Corbyn.
It states: “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 anti-Semitism 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 anti-Semitism, 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”.
Regarding the Labour Party’s own inquiry into anti-Semitism, the HASC report welcomed the inquiry set up by Mr Corbyn, but they expressed doubts about its independence after its chairwoman, former Liberty director Baroness Chakrabarti, joined Labour and accepted a peerage. The MPs said the Chakrabarti report was “clearly lacking in many areas”.
The HASC report states: “The fact that the report describes occurrences of anti-Semitism 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”.
The report said Lady Chakrabarti had not been “sufficiently open” about when she was offered the peerage and did not foresee that the timing of her elevation to the Lords alongside a report “absolving” Mr Corbyn of responsibility for anti-Semitism “would completely undermine her efforts to address the issue”. The report adds: “It is equally concerning that Mr Corbyn did not consider the damaging impression likely to be created by this sequence of events”.
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has responded by suggesting that the report was biased against Labour, described the criticism of Lady Chakrabarti as “unfair” and said the committee “violated natural justice” by refusing her request to appear before it.
The report also criticised Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron over his handling of allegations within his own party, particularly involving former MP David Ward: “We were disappointed by the manner in which their Leader, Tim Farron, referred to disciplinary processes rather than explicitly condemning anti-Semitic remarks made by members of his party, and we were surprised to learn that Cllr David Ward remains an elected representative of the Liberal Democrats, despite his repeated anti-Semitic comments”.
The Committee report endorses the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA)’s working definition of anti-Semitism, stating that it “should be formally adopted by the UK Government, law enforcement agencies and all political parties, to assist them in determining whether or not an incident or discourse can be regarded as antisemitic”.
The IHRA definition, which UK Special Envoy on Post-Holocaust Issues Rt. Hon. Sir Eric Pickles MP played a leading role in drafting, is widely accepted by many Jewish groups. It includes contemporary examples such as “accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations; denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor; applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation; using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis; drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis; holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel”.
The HASC report also places emphasis on anti-Semitism online, calling on Twitter to “devote more resources and employ more staff to enable it to identify hateful and abusive users in a proactive manner,” and demanding that “it must introduce more rigorous tools for detecting and filtering abuse”.