Labour members who make “disgusting” anti-Semitic remarks should be expelled and the party should adopt a “zero tolerance” approach to the problem, a shadow cabinet minister has said.
Jonathan Ashworth spoke as Labour again found itself at the centre of a row over allegations of anti-Semitism, which threatened to overshadow the party’s agenda at its conference in Brighton, as reported by Jewish News.
On Monday, Israeli-American author Miko Peled told a fringe event: “This is about free speech, the freedom to criticise and to discuss every issue, whether it’s the Holocaust: yes or no, Palestine, the liberation, the whole spectrum. There should be no limits on the discussion.”
The Daily Mail reported he said: “It’s about the limits of tolerance: we don’t invite the Nazis and give them an hour to explain why they are right; we do not invite apartheid South Africa racists to explain why apartheid was good for the blacks, and in the same way we do not invite Zionists – it’s a very similar kind of thing.”
Mr Ashworth condemned the remarks and said the Jewish Labour Movement’s “very important” motion for tougher rules on anti-Semitism was coming before the conference on Tuesday morning with the support of the party’s ruling body.
On ITV’s Good Morning Britain, the shadow health secretary went on: “That motion has got my complete and full support and I hope the conference votes for that motion because we should have absolute zero tolerance when it comes to the quite disgusting and pitiful anti-Semitism that sadly we’re sometimes seeing on social media these days, and indeed, as I believe if you look at the newspapers, I wasn’t there … was at an event in Brighton last night.”
Asked whether the remarks had given those at the top of the party a lot of concern, he replied: “Yes, yes it has.
“And I think party members who make anti-Semitic remarks, who make some of these disgusting Holocaust denial statements, they shouldn’t be in the party, they should be expelled.”
He added: “If any of those people who are named, are making these statements, they shouldn’t be in the Labour Party.”
He added: “The Jewish Labour Movement has long been involved in the party for donkey’s years and they should remain in the party for years to come as well.”
Labour sources said the party was not responsible for the content of fringe events staged by groups that had no affiliation to the party.
A party spokesman said: “Labour condemns anti-Semitism in the strongest possible terms and our National Executive Committee unanimously passed tough new rule changes last week. All groupings in the party should treat one another with respect. We will not tolerate anti-Semitism or Holocaust denial.”
Mr Ashworth said Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has faced criticism from some for allegedly not doing enough about anti-Semitism in the party, supported his calls to expel members.
The shadow health secretary told BBC Radio 5 Live: “It’s a separate issue from having legitimate criticism about the policy stances of the nation of Israel, and lots of people can criticise Israel for the way it treats, the way it interacts with the West Bank and the Palestinians, and it’s a very controversial issue, I understand.
“But that never justifies, never justifies anti-Semitism, never justifies Holocaust denial, and as I say, if there are people in the Labour Party making those comments at events then they should be expelled, if they are sending tweets along those lines they should be expelled, and I know that is the position of Jeremy Corbyn as well.”