Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has launched a scathing attack on the Labour Party’s leadership in the wake of last night’s Panorama expose, accusing it of “direct complicity” in the antisemitism crisis.
Britain’s most senior Jewish religious figure, who typically avoids commenting on national politics, spoke out in harsh terms after a BBC Panorama documentary showed Labour insiders alleging “political interference”.
He said: “For more than three years, the Jewish community and anti-racist campaigners of all backgrounds have implored the leadership of the Labour Party to adopt a zero-tolerance approach to antisemitism. During that time, much has been said, but little has been achieved.
“Hearing the revelations from eight brave individuals in tonight’s BBC Panorama, about the contempt with which the Labour Party leadership regards the problem of antisemitism, must be a watershed moment in this agonising saga.”
He added: “This is no longer a question of the leadership’s inability to deal with the scourge of antisemitism, but of its direct complicity in it. The cloud of hatred and acrimony that this creates must be lifted from our politics and from our society.
Quite simply: we cannot go on like this.”
Mirvis’s criticism was echoed by Holocaust educators and communal leaders, as well as from Jewish Labour supporters. “After seeing tonight’s programme, no one can doubt that Labour is institutionally racist against Jews,” said Mike Katz of the Jewish Labour Movement.
“The revelations are a vindication of our decision to refer the Labour Party to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission… Panorama has laid bare the corruption and political interference in Labour’s process, and the toxic culture which allows Jew-haters to prosper in the Party.”
Katz said he wanted to see “sackings, suspensions and Constituency Labour Parties put in special measures,” while Board of Deputies president Marie van der Zyl referred to Corbyn’s inner circle as his “henchmen”.
She said the documentary added weight to the suspicion that “the issue of antisemitism has been treated with disdain by the Labour leader and as a joke by [communications chief] Seumas Milne, and that [general secretary] Jennie Formby and her appointments have repeatedly obstructed justice in disciplinary cases”.
Karen Pollock of the Holocaust Educational Trust described the programme as “shocking” and “devastating,” adding: “We know from history only too well that the past is littered with bystanders who do nothing when prejudice rears its head.”
A spokeswoman for the Jewish Leadership Council said the programme was “extremely distressing,” adding: “The multiple testimonies prove that the Labour Party has been lying about the scale and the impact antisemitism has had. Those responsible need to be held to account.”
Non-Jewish organisations echoed the sentiment. Nick Lowles, chief executive of the anti-racist group Hope Not Hate, said the programme “showed interference in what is supposed to be an independent process,” the “downplaying of serious allegations” and “an appalling lack of understanding of the hurt and fear felt by Jewish party members and the Jewish community”.
He added that it “seems incredible that only 15 people have been expelled in the three years this crisis has swirled around Labour,” saying the party had not been “ruthless in finding and expelling members who have been racist” against Jews.