Labour members found questioning the Holocaust should be “kicked out on their ear” under new party rules, the Jewish Labour Movement has said.
Mike Katz said the group backs proposals from Labour’s ruling governing body, the National Executive Committee, which seek to change the conditions of membership to explicitly state, among other things, that “prejudicial” conduct includes anti-Semitism.
It follows calls for change from the JLM and others, with the debate emerging against the backdrop of a row over allegations of anti-Semitism at Labour’s conference after a speaker at a fringe event was reported to have said people should be allowed to question if the Holocaust had happened.
Mr Katz told delegates in Brighton: “The purpose of our rule change was to close off a loophole, a cop-out clause which says holding a sincerely held belief makes hate speech okay.
“Come on conference, is it really okay for a member to say they’ve got a sincerely held belief that women are inferior to men, or that the Holocaust didn’t happen? No, of course not.
“We want to see anybody saying that kicked out on their ear.
“Following Jeremy (Corbyn’s) clear leadership, this rule change is something the whole party, like the NEC, can unite behind, showing we have, from the very top of the party down, zero-tolerance for anti-Semitism, for Islamophobia, for racism, for homophobia, misogyny, for any hate.”
Mr Katz narrowly lost to the Conservatives in Hendon, a constituency he described as the “second most Jewish seat in the country”, at this year’s general election.
He said: “I know many of the 24,000 or so people who voted Labour in Hendon were Jewish. But I’d be lying if I said my team and I didn’t have plenty of difficult conversations on the doorstep with concerned Jewish voters who’d always backed Labour in the past but weren’t sure now.
“We need to win seats like Hendon, Finchley and Golders Green, Chipping Barnet, Harrow East and seats across north London and around the country if we’re to rid this country of the awful Tory Government.
“So repairing the once-strong relationship between our party and the Jewish community, where we share so many shared values, is a political imperative as well as a moral one.
“This rule change is about so much more than just anti-Semitism. It’ll give us the power to put a stop to the misogyny, the homophobia, the racism that can creep into our party.
“Speaking up against bullying and bigotry – that is our tradition, those are our values, and I want to be able to show the country that those values endure and they’re important today as they ever were.
“That is why Jeremy Corbyn supports it.”
Mr Katz addressed claims that there were attempts to “weaponise anti-Semitism” and stop criticism of Israel.
To applause, he said: “There is nothing wrong about legitimate criticism of the Israeli government or illegal settlements.
“JLM members do it all the time, often in strident debate – because as we say, when you have Jews you have at least three opinions.
“But you don’t need to use anti-Semitic language and stereotypes to engage in that debate and that’s what we need to deal with.”
He urged members to pass the rule change to ensure Labour can “put our house in order” and send a clear message about bullying and bigotry.